Khayelitsha resident Sheila Maqwentshu cleaning sewage in front of the Educare centre she had to close because of sewer blockages in the area. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane /African News Agency (ANA)
Khayelitsha resident Sheila Maqwentshu cleaning sewage in front of the Educare centre she had to close because of sewer blockages in the area. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane /African News Agency (ANA)

Sewage and drainage issues remain hot topics in the race for Cape Town's mayorship

By Mwangi Githahu, Mthuthuzeli Ntseku Time of article published Oct 21, 2021

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Cape Town - Who wins the Cape Metro Council could also depend on who has the solution to the city’s ongoing problems, with sewage spills and overflowing drains that have caused a stench and health problems in several townships and suburbs.

The spills have also put a halt to the recreational use of water bodies and several natural vleis such as Rietvlei, Zeekoevlei and Princess Vlei.

With local government elections in two weeks, the DA-led council’s water and sanitation failures remain a dark cloud hanging above its head, with the department having received heavy criticism from concerned ratepayers.

Greater Table View Action Group planning and biodiversity head David Ayres said the City’s water and sanitation infrastructure was in a state of collapse.

“The City has totally lost control of the current infrastructure and doesn’t have a credible plan to upgrade it in such a away that it renders adequate services to ratepayers and protects the valuable biodiversity and environment.

“The City’s major failing is that it has embarked on a densification programme with an inadequate infrastructure and the personnel to make this happen. Currently, the plans in place to upgrade the infrastructure are inadequate and outdated,” he said.

Ayres said the crisis needed political will at the highest level to first admit that there was a problem.

UCT Environmental Humanities South research centre director Lesley Green said the City’s focus on billable water, with a business mindset, was problematic.

She said there was no value placed on care for open water that was not billable because it did not generate major income. She said the City has reduced their idea of water to commercial water.

“That’s not acceptable politics – it will never lead to well-being, nor can it advance habitability or environmental justice,” she said.

Table View Ratepayers and Residents Association chairperson Mandy Da Matta said they were angry with the DA mayco member Xanthea Limberg who, she said, had allowed the situation to deteriorate. She said this would be felt at the polls.

These issues have seen the DA’s mayoral candidate, Geordin Hill-Lewis, conceding the City could do better.

Hill-Lewis said: “Part of why I ran is because I think sometimes the City doesn’t live up to the high standards the DA sets for itself. I’ve committed that everyone in Cape Town should see and feel the DA difference.

“The most pressing issue is the pressure our infrastructure is under. We are ramping up investment, with R3.5 billion to be spent in the next few years just on sewerage. But we can do even more.”

EFF provincial deputy chairperson Nosipho Makamba-Botya said proper infrastructure was vital and that the lack of an adequate water supply and proper sanitation system were issues mostly experienced by poor people in townships and rural areas.

“Proper services are only reserved for whites and the rich who reside in leafy suburbs, while residents in informal settlements such as Dunoon, Kraaifontein, Khayelitsha, Mfuleni, Nyanga, to list a few, are neglected.”

Good party mayoral candidate Brett Herron said: “If we become a city of failing sewers, we are doomed to disinvestment and massive social and health issues.

“We have already seen the City indicate that it will no longer approve building or development plans for 144 areas because the bulk sewer system does not have capacity.

“This is a massive setback for the construction sector. And a massive setback for job creation since the construction sector creates a lot of jobs.”

If elected into the government on November 1, Good would first ensure that there were sufficient engineering and technical skills inside the City administration.

“There has been a significant exodus of these skills over the past few years and we are too reliant on external consultants,” he said.

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Cape Argus

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