Residents of Port Elizabeth and surrounding areas could face a water crisis if their municipality does not get a R365 million bailout from National Treasury to complete a critical water pipeline.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality encompasses Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and Despatch and urgently needs the money to complete the Nooitgedacht Low Level Scheme, or it will be forced to implement water restrictions in two monthsâ€™ time.
If implemented, the restrictions could affect more than 1 million residents who fall under the metro.
But the local ratepayersâ€™ association is threatening to interdict the municipality from implementing water restrictions.
This week, city manager Mpilo Mbambisa pleaded with MPs who visited the metro for oversight work to help convince Treasury to grant it the bailout.
He said there was a serious shortfall of funds to complete the treatment capacity of the scheme.
Litho Suka, chairperson of the select committee on economic development and small business, who was part of the delegation, confirmed that the municipality had asked for their help in securing the money.
â€œWe told them they needed to come up with a strong case as to why this R365 million was needed.
â€œWe want a comprehensive report and for them to come and present it to Parliament. We are willing to help, but things have to be done properly,â€? said Suka.
He said the water crisis needed to be addressed urgently, as residents could not be expected to live without water.
Treasury spokesperson Phumza Macanda said the metro had not made a formal request for the money.
Mbambisa and Mayor Ben Fihla could not be reached for comment, as their phones went to voicemail.
The ratepayersâ€™ association and opposition parties have blamed politics and corruption in the city for the water crisis.
Kobus Gerber, chairperson of the Nelson Mandela Bay Ratepayersâ€™ Association, said it would approach the courts to stop the metro from implementing the water restrictions.
Gerber, who is also the vice-president of AfriForum in Port Elizabeth, said he did not have any confidence that all the money the metro was asking for would go towards the project.
â€œI know they need millions to finish the scheme, but half of that money will go into the pockets of corrupt politicians.
â€œNational Treasury should not even give that metro R10 until they get their house in order and get rid of the corrupt leadership,â€? he said.
Gerber said that, on President Jacob Zumaâ€™s visit to the city in April last year, the president promised the money would be made available. This was echoed by the DA caucus leader in the metro, Retief Odendaal, who also said Zuma and a high-level delegation of ministers had promised the metro would get the R300 million bailout.
He said the water crisis had been a long time coming and the metro had failed to prioritise it.
He added that his party was also prepared to go to court to halt the mooted restrictions.
President Zumaâ€™s spokesperson, Mac Maharaj, could not be reached for comment.
Roland Williams, spokesperson for the metro, did not respond to a detailed list of questions sent to him. He later issued a statement saying: â€œWhile, as the [municipality], we are going ahead with Nooitgedacht, we have emphasised its importance and the consequent request for national government to supplement the municipalityâ€™s funding thereof.â€?
The water crisis is reflected in the metroâ€™s midterm budget and performance report of 2014/15.
The report shows that, on average, about 40% of water was lost between July and November last year due to leakages