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Mopani and Vhembe slapped with R600m water bill

MOGAU PHALA

TWO Limpopo municipalities face the possibility of having their water cut for failing to settle their accounts with the national department of water to the tune of R6 million.

Mopani and Vhembe district municipality owe the national department of water and sanitation more than R600 million in unpaid water bills for 2016\17 financial year.

Vhembe district municipality is sitting with a debt of R497. 364 million, up from R258 665 million the previous year, while Mopani district is sitting at a debt of R223 million this year from R171 million last year.

Department spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said the debt accumulated by the municipalities has resulted in a crisis for the department which threatens its ability to deliver bulk water infrastructure.

“We are currently facing a situation on municipalities owing the department water service bill. At the end of 2016\17 financial year, we discovered that the two municipalities owed the department lot of money and their debts has increased drastically compared to the last financial year,” he said.

WATER CRISIS: A man pushes a wheelbarrow at a village outside Polokwane. Photo: Lebogang Makwela/Visual Buzz SA.

Ratau has dismissed reports that the department will cut the water services if the municipalities fail to settle their accounts.

He further stated that they would engage in talks with various stakeholders to reach an agreement on the debt will be settled.

“We cannot just stand and talk to them about how they are going to pay the debt. We have to follow the procedure which involves engaging in meetings with Coghsta, both national and provincial treasury and SALGA for us to meet an agreement like we did with OR Tambo district municipality in the Eastern Cape,” said Ratau.

He further added that “water is crucial, unlike electricity. If we cut water services people will suffer more than they already are. We are already facing a major challenge of lack of water in some parts of the country, if we cut the water services, what will happen to the people”.

Meanwhile, Vhembe district spokesperson Madodzi Ralushai said the municipality is currently busy identifying areas which could have caused the increase in the water bill.

“As soon as we have identified those areas, the municipality will be able to come up with ways on how it will pay back the money. The amount has drastically increased and it time we come up with a strategy to avoid another increase next financial year,” said Ralushai. “This is due to continued nonpayment of services by the communities, and this has adversely affected the municipality’s ability to provide basic services further to the communities. If they don’t pay, the municipality will obviously suffer.”

Mopani district spokesperson Neil Shikwambana denied that the municipality is facing debts stating that it is a historical debt. “We have a working agreement with the Lepelle Northern water on how we will pay the money. It is nothing new.

We have been paying that amount bit by bit per our agreement. What we know of is the long outstanding agreement of the Phalaborwa water bill debt that driven to millions of rand. We don’t know anything about this debt,” he said.

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