By Setumo Stone, 21 January 2014
THE African National Congress (ANC) mayor of the North West province’s Madibeng municipality has been axed following violent service delivery protests last week over a water shortage in Mothutlung township, during which four people died in clashes with police.
The seat of the municipality is Brits, a town in the country’s platinum belt, where a crippling strike by members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union looms that could affect half of global production of the metal.
Three ANC councillors left their posts on Tuesday: mayor Poppy Magongwa as well as the council speaker and the ANC’s chief whip in Madibeng.
Ms Magongwa resigned “with immediate effect”, speaker Buti Makhongela said during the opening address of a special council sitting in Brits. Soon after, he announced his own resignation.
The mayor was not present when her resignation was announced. Councillor Tshidi Mangoathe was elected acting mayor.
Last week, the water shortage in Mothutlung turned into a national crisis almost overnight as reports emerged of the deaths of protesters. Unconfirmed reports this week suggested a fifth person may have passed away in hospital on Monday.
On Sunday, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe met party councillors in Madibeng to discuss the crisis and the general collapse of services in the municipality.
His intervention is seen to have prompted Tuesday’s removal of the three ANC councillors.
Ms Magongwa last week blamed the water crisis on three broken water pumps in the area. The municipality subsequently hired contractors to supply Mothutlung and surrounding areas with water. However, community members rejected the contractors.
The South African National Defence Force was then asked to intervene and distribute water to residents.
By Tuesday, the water supply had been restored to parts of the municipality.
Councillor Douglas Maimane, who was on Sunday hit in the face with a water bottle during a funeral service for the deceased protesters, was on Tuesday appointed speaker, while Simon Klaas took the position of chief whip.
In an interview on TV station eNCA on Monday night, Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa admitted she was ultimately responsible for the collapse of the water supply in Mothutlung and alleged it was caused by sabotage.
Ms Molewa said the delivery of water services was ultimately a local government responsibility, but “there is no denying the fact that I am also responsible as I am in overall charge”.
She told the TV station that her department was investigating allegations of sabotage as a water supply pipe had been cut.
The minister said population growth and the expanded Madibeng municipal system had led to a backlog in municipal infrastructure provision.
She said the water infrastructure of the original town of Brits had been designed to provide services for it and its nearby township. However, the expanded municipality now had to provide water to a much larger area using an old system.
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The population is increasing worldwide, it’s not just here in South Africa….. yet there isn’t more water. Please conserve water; harvest your own rain and recycle water for irrigation. Water conservation is indeed our responsibility.