Caxton Local Media, and particularly this website’s Greater Joburg North Branch, is appealing to readers to come to the rescue of thousands of people living on the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) South Coast who have been without a stable water supply for two weeks.
This website is running the water collection drive as part of the Caxton Cares initiative.
Some of the people affected by the South Coast water crisis are the poorest of the poor and they had to rely on store-bought water because of an ongoing strike by workers at the Ugu District Municipality.
Communities were being supplied by tankers, but the municipality was forced to stop the service because a ‘pressure group’ started intimidating drivers.
Working on a skeleton staff of senior people, the municipality has worked tirelessly to restore water to areas. However, the moment they get water flowing, pipes and valves are sabotaged.
A court interdict had been ignored by workers. Police and security firms are on high alert and the crisis has been elevated to the provincial government which declared it ‘a disaster’.
There was a ‘Mexican stand-off’ between management and workers who are demanding back-pay and ‘overtime’ following a previous strike over a cancelled ‘death and disability’ insurance scheme. At that stage during the previous strike, the municipality capitulated and refunded millions to the workers to get them back to work, but they also implemented a ‘no-work, no pay’ policy. Hence the latest strike.
While some South Coast residents have the luxury of drawing water from swimming pools, there are many thousands who don’t. Unemployment is high and money scarce. Yet they are now forced to buy bottled water to live.
According to a statement by UGU District Municipality, as from this morning (8 June), Ugu employees are back at work.
“This follows a nine-hour marathon meeting chaired by Premier of KwaZulu-Natal Willies Mchunu, where the Organised Labour and the UGU District Municipality reached an agreement to end their dispute which for the past two weeks had virtually stopped water supply in the district,” read the statement.
“According to the ground-breaking interim agreement which was signed at 2am this morning, workers will return to work with immediate effect and the water supply opened to the great relief of residents and businesses in the area.
“The MEC for Public Works, Ravi Pillay, had said the labour dispute had reached ‘crisis proportions’ and was threatening to cost the district dearly in job-creation, especially those linked to tourism. In the medium term, the dispute would lead to the reversal of economic growth and the flight of international investment from the district.”
The area is still in dire need of water, especially with the holiday season fast approaching. Caxton Local Media is making a general appeal to readers of its newspapers and websites to drop off bottled water to your local newspaper office (addresses below).
The water will then be trucked down to the South Coast Herald offices in Port Shepstone for distribution to the neediest communities.
Offices hours are from 7.30am till 4.30pm, Monday to Friday.