Nkanyezi Kubheka, the principal of Ukukhanyakwezwe Secondary School who fought a lone fight against the uThukela district municipality in KwaZulu-Natal over its failure to supply residents and schools with water, is keenly awaiting the results of the municipal probe into the alleged fraudulent use of water tankers.
Worrying that walking long punishing distances to get water was taking a toll on pupils, while trips to contaminated streams had put their lives in danger, has prompted Kubheka to write to the office of the public protector requesting their intervention.
“My biggest worry was that matriculants were losing out on learning time. We also had to send learners to fetch water in nearby streams. But we stopped because female learners were at great risk because those who practised ukuthwala [kidnapping of a girl or a young woman with the intention of compelling her or her family to endorse marriage negotiations] were now camping near the streams and abducting them.”
He said the owners of contracted water tankers were selling water at exorbitant prices to schools and residents.
“Most residents in uThukela are impoverished. They rather sacrifice the little they have to purchase food. The municipality had its own water tankers, which would have ensured that free water was supplied. Instead, politicians hired private trucks owned by themselves and their friends [and are selling the water to residents].”
Another community activist, Mvuseni Mazibuko, said the community wants those involved in the corruption to be arrested.
“The previous political administration was so cruel that they were working with a syndicate sabotaging water infrastructure so that the municipality could rely on private water tankers. We hope the investigation will be able to recommend that criminal charges be instituted against politicians,” said Mazibuko.
During last year’s local government elections, the IFP snatched the municipality from the ANC. Mayor Inkosi Ntandoyenkosi Shabalala announced the municipality had launched an investigation into the leasing of water tankers for which the council had to fork out R150 000 a month, despite having their own water tankers.
“It’s just a pity that the municipal manager decided to resign while we were in the middle of the investigation. Other key officials such as the director of the infrastructure also resigned. Findings of the investigation will be released soon,” said Shabalala.
The Sunday World understands some municipal-owned water tankers were deliberately sent for repairs and kept off the road for years despite having minor mechanical faults.
It’s not the first time that the municipality has come under fire for dodgy water contracts.
In 2012, a forensic report revealed that contracts worth more than R29-million had been fraudulently awarded to companies owned by council employees and politicians.
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