SOD-turning ceremony on the Vumankala and seven water supply schemes of the Umzinyathi district municipality in Nquthu local municipality




His Worship the Mayor of Umzinyathi District Municipality, Alderman Petros Ngubane, and Members of the Executive; His Worship the Mayor of Nquthu Local Municipality, Councillor Siyabonga Kunene, and Members of the Executive; Amakhosi and Members of the Traditional Councils; Councillors of both municipalities and members of this community.

Local Government is all about getting services to the people. While Nquthu Local Municipality is responsible for services such as building regulations, roads, tourism and local economic development, it is the Umzinyathi District Municipality that is responsible for the provision of water. Umzinyathi is the Water Services Authority for Nquthu.

Accordingly, it is Umzinyathi District Municipality that drives water supply schemes like the ones we are initiating today. Today we turn the sod on the Vumankala and Seven water supply schemes. These projects will benefit 1 192 households. They will make a massive difference in many lives.

I do not need to tell you that water scarcity is a huge problem for Nquthu. There are a number of factors that contribute to this, not least a lack of funding. The estimated cost of eradicating the water supply backlog in Nquthu is almost R827 million. That kind of money just does not exist when it comes to local government. Just like many families in Nquthu, the Municipality relies on grants, and the grants that come to local government are not sufficient to meet all the needs of every citizen.

But water is a basic need. It is needed to sustain life. It is therefore essential that projects like Vumankala and Seven are designed and driven, so that water can be accessible to all who need it.

It is a pleasure for me to be here today as a citizen of KwaZulu Natal, and as someone who knows the kind of leadership provided by the team at Umzinyathi. I have been present before at sod-turning ceremonies of the Umzinyathi Municipality, and I have also been present at the handover of those projects. The Mayor and his team at Umzinyathi know how to drive a project through to completion.

Thus when they tell us that 9 months from now the Vumankala water supply scheme will be complete, and that 12 months from now the Seven water scheme will be complete, I have every confidence that this will happen. It is good news for the people of ward 5 and ward 4; and it is good news for people like me who champion development, empowerment and service delivery.

I know that water infrastructure has been built in Nquthu before, but much of it is in a poor state, leading to water loss and water scarcity. Thus, instead of just constructing new infrastructure, at a high cost, the Municipality has contracted to rehabilitate and refurbish 29 existing boreholes, as well as getting 7 new boreholes for these wards.

Vumankala water supply scheme in ward 5, covering Nqolana, Woshi, Phumubuke, Bheni and Kwetse areas, will also see the construction of reticulation pipelines and standpipes, and the construction of storage tanks. By the end of this project 3040 people will benefit. Seven water supply scheme in ward 4 includes the construction of storage tanks, pipelines and pump stations; and this will ultimately benefit 2592 people.

Together, these projects will cost more than R69 million.

From the amount of money being ploughed into this project, it should be clear that Umzinyathi is working hard to bring water to every household.

I am pleased that this is being done in partnership with Amakhosi. This land falls under the Ingonyama Trust, and Amakhosi administer the land on behalf of His Majesty the King, for the benefit of the people. When it comes to service delivery, the best formula is a partnership between government, Amakhosi and the people. That is how the IFP has always operated, and that is how we run the municipalities we administer.

I am not here to speak politics though. Water scarcity is a problem in many places throughout South Africa, and the issue of water should not be politicised. If it were easy to fix, this problem would not exist. But it is not easy. It takes resources, planning, careful management, good administration, consistent oversight, financial integrity, leadership and wisdom. It takes skill and knowledge of best practice. It takes professional partnerships with trustworthy people.

All these things have been put in place in Umzinyathi District Municipality so that our team can deliver service to you.

These water supply projects are a timely intervention, because the effects of prolonged drought in KwaZulu Natal will have increasingly dire consequences for Nquthu if we fail to act now. Water supply is absolutely essential to the future survival and development of Nquthu. This is particularly important for the many families who have little to no income beyond a social grant. Unfortunately, there is a growing number of child-headed households, and there are many households in which women struggle alone with a large number of dependents. There is also a significant number of people living with disabilities.

For all of these families, life is made harder when water is inaccessible. Walking long distances to collect water is unsustainable and should not be the lived reality of so many people, particularly in areas like this where families rely heavily on agriculture for food security.

Subsistence farming and communal vegetable gardens are lifelines in Nquthu. But the two-fold problem of soil erosion and water scarcity threaten agriculture here. This is where timely interventions are needed, including training for emerging farmers. Soil erosion can be prevented by planting the right kind of vegetation to ensure absorption of water into the soil. Land degradation can be prevented by rotating grazing areas, and rotating crops so that the soil has a chance to replenish.

Interventions to combat water scarcity are not limited to boreholes. In fact, if we rely wholly on boreholes, we will not win the war for water. It is essential that we consistently engage in water harvesting and the creation of water catchment pools, both for livestock and irrigation. We will, of course, need to be very careful, because any standing water presents a risk of children drowning. That is something we need to be aware of.

This is about a long-term adjustment in the way we think about water and the way in which we use it. For generations, drought has been cyclical and rainfalls patterns have been predictable. But that has changed. Global climate change has affected Nquthu, and things are never going to go back to the way they were. We need to be prepared for droughts and floods, and for an increased risk of lightning strikes and wildfires.

A consistent water supply is essential to our survival. It is also essential to the development of Nquthu, to the empowerment of our people and to the success of small businesses. There is a strong industry of small businesses and entrepreneurship in Nquthu, and there is tremendous potential for this to grow and become a driver of economic development.

There is a good labour supply of strong, young, willing workers. There is good road infrastructure with neighbouring areas for the transportation of goods. There is a thriving informal sector. There is commercial agricultural potential. But more importantly than any of this, there is a spirit of self-reliance.

I believe that Nquthu has the ingredients to thrive. So when we come face to face with challenges like water scarcity, we must work together to overcome them. The partnership between you, your municipal representatives and Amakhosi is a valuable weapon in the war for survival, development and growth.

As we turn the sod on these timely interventions, I want to thank you for that partnership. May it grow from strength to strength.

I thank you.