24 February 2023
SAMWU outraged by Mayor of JB Marks’ reckless remarks that municipal workers have deliberately sabotaged water services.
The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) in the North West Province has noted with anger and agitation remarks made by the JB Marks Mayor, Cllr Gaba Qhele during what appears to be a meeting with aggrieved community members. While addressing residents who were frustrated by the failure of the municipality to ensure constant water supply and water security for residents, the Mayor made reckless and irresponsible claims that municipal workers are to blame for the municipality’s failures.
Arrogantly responding to genuine concerns and grievances that had been raised by residents who for a long time had not seen a single drop of water from their taps, Cllr Qhele alleges that municipal workers, especially those who were suspended late last year, have been responsible for sabotaging service delivery within the municipality.
According to Cllr Qhele, municipal workers deliberately closed water valves resulting in the areas affected not receiving water, the same workers are also accused by the Mayor of having have neglected to refuel diesel required by generators to pump water to the affected areas. In a bizarre twist and contradiction of his claims, Cllr Qhele further claims that as a result of loadshedding, the municipality is unable to pump water to the dam that feeds the affected area. This contradiction is to us, an indication of a Mayor that is out of touch with the realities of the residents which he is supposed to be serving.
To us, the comments by Cllr Qhele are a deliberate attempt to shift blame from the municipality for ensuring that there is constant water supply to all residents. To make matters worse, these irresponsible and dangerous comments by the Mayor have the potential to pit workers against residents whom they live within their communities. These reckless remarks have the potential to lead to a situation wherein residents may physically attack municipal workers, should such happen, we will hold this reckless and populist Mayor responsible and accountable for such. We do not need to remind Cllr Qhele that as the Executive head of the municipality, he has a responsibility in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act to ensure a safe and healthy working environment for all employees within the municipality.
Before we are workers, we are community members and as such, we would never engage in any activity which denies residents of service delivery, especially an essential service such as water. As workers, we have a vested interest in seeing municipalities being able to deliver services to residents without fail.
To us, it is clear that Cllr Qhele is aloof on the water crisis in the municipality which he is leading. In the main, residents have raised concerns that the municipality has been pleading poverty when issues of service delivery are raised, yet the very same poor municipality has gone ahead and outsourced the delivery of water through water tankers at an exorbitant cost to the institution.
As SAMWU, we share the same concerns and sentiments with the residents of the municipality, the municipality should be directing its scares resources to ensure constant supply of water to residents through investments in infrastructure. We further support the demand by residents for a permanent solution, not a stopgap approach that is littered with corruption and does not in any way address water security for residents. We are aware of Councilors and Senior Managers who are always frequenting municipal offices to ensure that these contractors are always priorotised for payment. One wonders the interest that these individuals have suddenly developed towards these tenders.
The JB Marks municipality and in particular, Cllr Qhele has run out of ideas on how to salvage the municipality. The manner in which Cllr Qhele addressed residents is despicable and disgusting, residents should be treated with dignity and respect, not what we have seen when he was addressing them. The people of Potchefstroom and Ventersburg deserve a better leader than this populist demagogue.
As SAMWU we are of the view that the water crisis within the JB Marks municipality can only be solved by investing in infrastructure that will ensure water security for residents. Instead of insulting workers and undermining residents, Cllr Qhele should, instead be holding engagements with Magaillies Water which is the bulk water provider in the North West Province and the Department of Water and Sanitation which recently received an allocation of R132 billion to build reservoirs closer to communities. These engagements will however not be initiated by the municipality because Cllr Qhele and his fellow Councilors are hellbent on milking the municipality to its last cent.
Issued by SAMWU North West Province
083 580 8815
Deputy Provincial Secretary
078 473 7732