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Tourism players struggle as one area claims no water for nine weeks


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Tourism players struggle as one area claims no water for nine weeks

Tourism players struggle as one area claims no water for nine weeks
Photo by Bloomberg

7th December 2023

By: News24Wire


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The water crisis on the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal continues unabated as the key December period sees tourism again struggling to cope with poor management of the essential resource. 

For years, the South Coast - including the once sought after holiday towns of Port Shepstone, Margate, Pennington, Scottburgh, and Southbroom - have had to survive long stints without water, with some running into months.


While the municipality says it is dealing with water concerns, community leaders, the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and even children’s homes say their calls have fallen on deaf ears.

The Ugu district, which is responsible for water supply on the South Coast, was also cited for human rights violations by the SAHRC, which criticised it for hiring water tankers rather than using the money to fix infrastructure.


The district received the most complaints during an investigation report by the SAHRC released earlier this year. 

With the busy festive period ahead, one of the biggest tourism bodies in the country says it was not expecting much improvement in water supply from the district municipality.

Brett Tungay, the head of the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (Fedhasa), said they have tried to lobby the district to resolve the water crisis for at least two years.

"Small and large tourism establishments are battling. Water provision, especially for tourism, uses a lot for laundry, kitchen cleaning, and of course is key for restaurants."

He said innovative tourist businesses that could afford it were trucking in water and putting in boreholes at exorbitant prices because of Ugu’s many failures.

"Most establishments that survived [the water crisis] have put in some kind of alternative. You’ve got an eclectic round of solutions to try to alleviate the water issue."

He added: 

But everyone is still paying their rates and taxes, which means you have double taxation.

Tungay said that when tourists, particularly those outside the borders of the province and the country, hear about a water issue, they steer clear of the area.

"The perception that also gets created is that this is not a place you want to waste money on. People are saving all year to take these holidays. They want a guarantee they will get the best service."

He added that some tourism businesses have not had water for months at a time.

"I don’t have an accurate number at the moment, but it’s really bad."

He said international tourism would flourish again if the district's water infrastructure worked.  

"It is a perception issue. If the perception is negative, people won’t travel to you. When they had water issues in Cape Town, a lot of hotels and accommodations put in alternatives to provide water to guests, but people still didn’t go because of the perception.

"You have the same with South Coast, you might have a water-independent place, but the perception of the area as a whole has shifted."

Claims of no water for nine weeks

News24 reached out to the Albersville Ratepayers Association’s spokesperson and admin manager Sal Musa, who claimed the suburb of Protea Park and a number of other areas in Port Shepstone have been dry for nine weeks.

"And they are currently still dealing with this. We have tried to speak to the municipality about the many concerns but they are still doing nothing. We have major issues," Musa said.

Musa said he had tried to engage with Ugu at all levels of management including heads of department and senior managers. He said the control centre that takes calls from the public was also appalling.

"They block my number and then I cannot call again, or they pretend they have no idea what you are talking about."

He added: "Many of the references I have sent to the municipality for water outages are replied to with saying the issue is resolved. However, that is not true. Even one I made last night says that today it's resolved. It is a complete lie."

Ugu District Municipality refuted that there was a nine-week outage.

"There is no way the municipality may block any resident from reporting a fault and obtaining a reference number. It is untrue that the entire Protea Park and Albersville has not had water for nine weeks, and is still dry," said Ugu spokesperson Zimbini Mpurwana

She encouraged citizens to escalate the issue to their ward councillor "so a quick intervention may ensue". 

She added: "To escalate any unresolved cases, [the] Ward 12 councillor is available, and he is working hand in hand with the municipality."

Most complaints received in SAHRC report from Ugu

The SAHRC report, the KwaZulu-Natal Water Inquiry, which investigated access to water, found that Ugu didn't provide feedback to the SAHRC or residents about complaints.

"The majority of the SAHRC complaints received come from Ugu, yet the plan presented does not speak to the plight of the people who have complained and the desperation of the situation in Ugu," the report stated.

The investigation panel said the Ugu delegation had not conveyed a sense of understanding of this situation.

It said:

The panel noted that some areas have no water whatsoever, such as shopping malls and old age homes, and that people inland have not had water for years.

The report said Ugu should buy tankers rather than outsource the service.

"More permanent solutions are needed, with tankers only drawn on for emergencies."

Ugu reported to the SAHRC that it used to rent 35 tankers, which is now down to 15 tankers at a cost of R2.2-million per month.

According to the report, it is trying to build up its own fleet of water tankers.

Speaking on water tanker services, Tungay said if Ugu spent more money on infrastructure than water tankers, the South Coast would prosper.

"If you take the money Ugu spends on trucks, if they used that money for fixing bulk water supply, you won’t need the trucks."

He said it was untenable that the city didn’t own its own trucks. He added that on the South Coast there isn’t a water issue in terms of bulk supply.

"There are good rivers and dams but getting that water to businesses or homes is the issue."

If the water crisis was resolved, the negative perceptions of the area would change also, Tungay said.

Municipality's response

Mpurwana referred News24 to the South Coast Economic Development & Tourism Agency website, for questions regarding tourism, which she said reflected "the true barometer of what we offer and how much pride we take in the tourism of our region".

She said the municipality also developed a "peak season plan to better serve our visitors during this period".

"We share daily information [water and service delivery] updates almost in all the wards, in particular the ones with the highest number of visitors during this time."

She said the acting municipal manager was meeting with various ratepayers' associations and interest groups across the district on service delivery.

"These consultative sessions are one of the ways to strengthen relations and deal with service delivery issues affecting residents. I wish to reiterate that the municipality appreciates the voice of the citizens, as represented or as individuals."


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