WATCH: What is being done about eThekwini’s sewage crisis?



Published Sep 29, 2022


Durban - Residents across eThekwini Municipality have been complaining about overflowing sewage from manholes and drains.

Some complain about having to drive through wastewater to get into and out of their property while others have to keep windows closed as the warmer months approach because of flies and rodents infesting communities.

Residents living in Overport’s Sheringham Road have had to live with a foul stench emanating from a leaking sewage pipe for the past two years. They say they cannot leave their doors or windows open and are constantly battling with flies in their homes.

Ward councillor, Remona Mckenzie, said that for the past six months residents had complained about having to drive through the sewage, which then ended up on their cars and property. Some have even had sewage flowing into their homes. Others complained they could not walk on the pavements alongside the road because they could get filth splashed on them by a passing car.

Sewage flowing in Sheringham Road in Overport. Picture: Se-Anne Rall

In Glenwood, residents living in Cato Road drive through sewage every day.

Cato Street residents have complained for months about an overflow of sewage. Picture: Se-Anne Rall

For years, motorists travelling through Cato Manor, have to navigate through flowing wastewater.

A truck driving through waste water in Cato Manor. Picture: Se-Anne Rall

Recently, the DA’s spokesperson on the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), Martin Meyer, called on the KwaZulu-Natal Premier to invoke Section 139 of the Constitution.

Section 139 of the Constitution states; When a municipality cannot or does not fulfil an executive obligation in terms of the Constitution or legislation, the relevant provincial executive may intervene by taking any appropriate steps to ensure fulfilment of that obligation.

“It is clear that eThekwini municipality cannot fulfil its obligation to provide its almost four million residents with clean water while providing them with a safe and clean environment,” Meyer said.

His comments come on the back of the conclusion of the DA’s inspections to sewage leakage hotspots in eThekwini.

“We have seen how the municipality’s failure to upkeep sewage infrastructure has affected lives and livelihoods. It is bound to get worse if the municipality as well as the national and provincial government does not treat this with the urgency that it deserves,“ said DA chairperson in KZN, Dean Macpherson.

Meyer called on Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube to act.

“She cannot sit by idly and allow the failures of eThekwini to define her term. The people of our province are looking to her and her government for help,” he added.

Cogta spokesperson, Senzo Mzila, said there is no scientific reason that has been brought to the MEC suggesting that eThekwini has reached the point of failing to fulfil its executive obligations.

“It must be noted that eThekwini Municipality has been the victim of three catastrophic incidents; Covid-19, July looting and flood disaster. The municipality requires urgent financial support from its own residents who have to pay their monthly bills, especially those who can afford, avoid tampering with municipal services and declare their indigent status,” Mzila said.

So, what happens next?

City spokesperson, Msawakhe Mayisela, said the City is doing everything in its power to attend to the sanitation infrastructure that was damaged by floods, and also to the ones that malfunctioned because of vandalism.

“We appeal to members of the public to continue to bring to our attention spillages and or any other shortcomings in our sanitation infrastructure that they may observe.

“We do acknowledge that the City like any other metro does have service delivery challenges and our woes have been compounded by the floods which everyone is fully aware of but that does not mean that Section 139 should be invoked,” he said.

Mayisela added that the recently purchased 127 new vehicles to enhance the roads and stormwater management fleet, is already out on the roads, helping us accelerate the repair work.

Earlier this week, Mayisela said the municipality is working to fast-track the replacement and repairs of flood damaged infrastructure and will optimise maintenance of existing infrastructure that is currently causing pollution to the environment and rivers and oceans.

In a report tabled in this week’s Executive Committee meeting, the City’s Water and Sanitation Unit has been given the green light to reprioritise R93.62 million of their 2022/23 capital budget to assist with related projects to optimise spend in the coming financial year.

“The floods in April and the heavy rains in May affected various water and sanitation infrastructure. Various sanitation pump stations and treatment works were left in a very poor state due to storm damage and are non-functional. This led to the environment being polluted,” Mayisela said.

Chairperson of Exco eThekwini Mayor, Mxolisi Kaunda, said the much-needed repairs to damaged infrastructure, especially the sewerage system, is imperative to ensure the contamination of rivers and beaches is stopped.

“It is important to ensure beaches are opened and safe in the run-up to the festive season and school holidays,” Kaunda said.

Meanwhile, the City has announced the closure of southern beaches:

  • Isipingo
  • Ansteys
  • Amanzimtoti Main
  • Warner
  • Gavies
  • Baggies
  • Reunion
  • Winklespruit

“The latest round of water testing for beaches has shown improvement for some of the beaches, but a deterioration for others. Water quality in central beaches has significantly improved but they remain closed pending further monitoring,” Mayisela said.