By Craig Kotze
A long-term solution to destructive water blockades could be hammered out behind the scenes as the leadership of two feuding authorities – Emfuleni Local Municipality (ELM) and Rand Water – come face to face with each other at a water summit in Vanderbijlpark this week.
Executive Mayor Jacob Khawe and Rand Water CEO Percival Sechemane are both expected to speak at the Water Services Summit held at Quest Conference Centre on today (Tuesday 24 April) and tomorrowa, according to the official event programme.
A key focus area of the summit is water security and security of supply in Gauteng’s most water-rich, but economically depressed and impoverished region.
According to the programme, exploring underground water resources would also feature prominently.
Although Rand Water’s first water blockade of Emfuleni earlier this year and the bulk utility’s threatened 20% reduction in supply scheduled for 24 April were not formally on the agenda, it was expected that the summit would be used to address the matter between Khawe and Sechemane personally at some point.
Rand Water said last week in a media statement that they had begun the “process”of reducing water supply over outstanding ELM debt of about R420 million but it was unclear at the time of going to press this week if the threatened reduction had actually been implemented.
Khawe indicated earlier to Ster/Vaalweekblad he would seek a long-term solution to the issue of water blockades which were destructive to the regional economy but also severely damaged ELM’s ageing infrastructure through fluctuating pressure.
Khawe is the host and organiser of the water summit. He did not respond to requests for confirmation of whether he expected to announce a resolution to the Rand Water supply crisis at the summit or thereafter.
A scheduled meeting to discuss the crisis between Rand Water and business was postponed from April 25 to another date, according to Klippies Kritzinger, CEO of the Golden Triangle Chamber of Commerce, further fuelling speculation that a resolution to the supply crisis would be left to Khawe at the summit.
Key focus areas of the summit were expected to include water availability, ageing water infrastructure, facilitating economic growth through infrastructure investment, funding infrastructure projects and collaboration between ELM and the private sector on innovating basic services.
By Craig Kotze