09/01/2018 13:06 SAST | Updated 09/01/2018 13:08 SAST

Emfuleni Mayor Jacob Khawe Barricades Rand Water Gates

This follows the interruption of water supplies due to debt owed to the water board.

Jenny Dettrick via Getty Images

Frustrated Emfuleni mayor Jacob Khawe has barricaded the gates of Rand Water's Glenvista head office in Emfuleni, Vereeniging, on Tuesday morning, following the interruption of water supplies due to debt owed to the water board.

Khawe told News24 that although his municipality was financially vulnerable, there was an agreement with Rand Water to pay off the debt.

"The agreement was that [Rand Water] would open the water [on Monday night]. The agreement doesn't include a complete closing of water, but a water reduction of 40 percent, to manage the current account. Rand Water has still not given the instruction for water to be opened," he said.

Khawe, who told News24 that he was with his mayoral committee and senior management in the council, said he could not sit in his office while residents were without water.

The municipality's communications manager, Stanley Gaba, said in a statement that the areas most affected by the water reduction included Vanderbijlpark, Evaton West, Evaton, Evaton North, Lakeside, Sebokeng, Rustervaal and Roshnee.

The reduction in water over the weekend has also been attributed to electricity cable theft, which was said to have affected the pumping of water into municipal reserves.

Khawe said they were standing outside the water board to demand water supply for residents –– who have been without water since Friday through the searing Gauteng heatwave.

He said that since he took office on November 29, he has endeavoured to pay the amount with the little that was available, expressing his frustration at the alleged misinformation spread by the water board in the media.

"I kept quiet for three days while [Rand Water was] going to the media, saying we are not honouring our agreement.... I admit that Emfuleni made a commitment to pay an amount of R200-million by January 5, but today I paid R177-million to show that I am committed to paying and fostering a good relationship with Rand Water," he said.

In December alone, the municipality paid just under R150-million.

Disgruntled residents

Gauteng premier David Makhura visited Emfuleni on Monday to ensure the restoration of the water supply.

Despite an engagement with Makhura and minister of water and sanitation Nomvula Mokonyane, in which Khawe was assured that water would be restored to the affected areas on Tuesday, there was still no water.

Makhura said in a statement on Monday that a long-term solution needed to be drawn up to curb bubbling protest action.

Disgruntled residents in affected areas such as Palm Springs have already taken to the streets to voice their dissatisfaction over the interrupted water supply, despite having paid their bills.

Many residents have had to take buckets and wheelbarrows, and queue at households which have a water supply or make use of JoJo water tanks, which the municipality has supplied.

The department of water and sanitation's Sputnik Ratau told News24 that municipalities must make arrangements and stick to them, to avoid being stuck in bad situations.

"It's incumbent on [municipalities] to bring payments [up] to date, so services are not interrupted. Something like this usually affects all municipalities and the whole operation of Rand Water, therefore this is a bigger problem than it [appears]. The intervention by the premier is crucial. As a province, they'll guide the municipality in paying their debt," he said.