No end in sight for Vhembe’s water woes

No end in sight for Vhembe’s water woesVyeboom residents travel kilometres to neighbouring villages to get water. (File photo)

LIMPOPO – Despite the Vhembe District Municipality having reached an agreement with the Department of Water and Sanitation to settle their bulk water bill which now sits at R 300-million, the rural municipality is facing various additional problems.

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The non-existent billing system, poor management of accounts, illegal water connections, and residents not paying their water bills are some of the challenges facing the Vhembe District Municipality which owes millions to for bulk water supplied to the villages in the rural district.

With its headquarters in Thohoyandou, the Vhembe District Municipality is responsible for providing water supply to the entire district. Currently, the municipality is battling with accounting difficulties. The non-existent billing system has resulted in the municipality not knowing how much local residents owe for water consumption. Most residents have not been receiving monthly statements for the water they have used. According to the Executive Mayor, Florence Radzilani, the municipality has since paid R 40 million towards the debt, and has made an arrangement to settle the outstanding debt through monthly installments.

Radzilani said invoices for water used have not been sent out on time, and those that have detail incorrect meter readings. The current debt owing dates back to 2008 – long before Radzilani took office in 2016.

Massive challenges

Municipal spokesperson Matodzi Ralushai has since admitted that the accounts department is facing massive challenges. He said he has been receiving calls from residents asking for their monthly installments.

“We have not been billing our community for the past three months because we were still busy in the process of appointing a service provider to help us collect information,” said Ralushai.

Some of the rural villages such as Ha-Mphego, Tshilungoma, Lufule and Tshikhudini continue to use water from Nandoni Dam without being billed, despite the promises from the municipality to erect pre-paid taps. When she took over the office last year, Mayor Radzilani promised the residents that she will make water a priority to the entire district.

In an effort to achieve this, Radzilani declined the new mayoral vehicle she was entitled to, saying she would rather use the funds to help villages that do not have proper water supply. She has recently come under fire for changing her mind and buying a R1,1-million mayoral vehicle.

“I am the only mayor, and I used an old van for the entire year after I took office because many people were still without water. I decided to use the funds budgeted for a mayoral vehicle to purchase vans to help in terms of water supply. There is no problem with the mayor purchasing a new car, as long as the timing is right. I was given a budget of R1,5 million to purchase the vehicle, but we only used R1,1 million,” she said.

“We are pleading with our people to pay their water bills so that we can have money to maintain our water services. We will be forced to cut water supply to those who are not paying,” said Radzilani.