Umzinto: 'We need to see change’



Published May 25, 2024


Continuous water cuts, potholes likened to craters, unkempt verges, overgrown bushes, and uncollected refuse are just some of the service delivery issues the residents of Umzinto face on a daily basis.

Umzinto, which comprises wards 12 and 13, include various areas such as the CBD, Roshan Heights, Gandhinagar, Hazelwood and Riverside Park among others.

The town, situated on the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal, also has about seven informal settlements.

Haneshen Moodley, a community activist, said among the issues that the community faced included poor road infrastructure and frequent water cuts which topped the list.

“One of our basic human rights is to have continuous access to clean, running water. But for the residents of Umzinto it is not the case as there are water cuts, sometimes for up to six days. There is somewhat of a timetable whereby water will be shut off in one of the wards and opened for the other and vice versa. But the community is never informed about these times.

“When we enquire about the water cuts, we don’t receive any valid explanations. However, we believe the main reason is due to supply and demand. Households have grown over the years, so have the informal settlements but the supply to the area has remained the same.

“Furthermore, when we request water tankers, we are lucky if we get one. This poses a great inconvenience for residents who have to rely on stockpiling, investing in JoJo tanks and purchasing bottled water for drinking. It is also taking a toll on their physical and mental well-being,” he said.

Moodley said motorists were also financially strained by poor road conditions.

“A small pothole quickly turns into the size of a crater. In some areas, there are not even proper roads as they have been eroded. We are supposed to drive on the left-hand side of the road, but here you have to drive on what is left of the road. At night it is worse, especially if the street lights are not working, which is often the case.

“Some of the potholes are unavoidable. Many residents have had to fork out hundreds or thousands of rand due to their vehicle’s suspensions, tyres or rims being damaged. We are also lucky if our claims from the municipality are approved.

“While the municipality does have road rehabilitation programmes, the quality of the work done is questionable. We have community members and organisations that try to do their bit by filling the potholes with grit as a temporary measure, but with the rain and motorists driving over them they get worse,” he said.

Bags of uncollected refuse torn open by dogs and vagrants are a serious health hazard and an eye-sore.

Moodley said refuse was also not being collected on time.

“This is also a huge problem, especially when municipal workers down tools. We will put out the refuse on the days that it is meant to be collected. Some people go to work, and when they return, they find the bags have been torn either by the dogs or vagrants. There is an absolute mess outside their homes and on the roads.

“There are also areas without functional street lights, which poses a safety concern. We have had incidents of residents waking up to their copper pipes and other items being stolen from their yards or their cars have been broken into. We report these constantly, and at times there are contractors that will come out but the street lights are rarely fixed,” he lamented.

Moodley said budgets to address service delivery concerns, which should be allocated to the area, were often used to uplift other “disadvantaged” areas.

“The Integrated Development Plan (IDP) pitched to us during one of the recent municipal roadshows didn't mention any sort of plans or budget for upliftment to our area, but mainly for areas considered disadvantaged.

“We are not against this as the areas need to be developed, but then what happens to the areas with ratepayers? People are being made to pay rates but with no service delivery in return. How is that fair? This is why communities often want to boycott paying rates.

“How can we boast that we are a country that is democratically free for 30 years, yet we have people crying for water which is a basic human right, unsafe roads or have people living in cardboard or tin homes along river banks, when the government has an abundance of land which can be used for proper housing.

“What exactly is our government doing to improve the lives of people? Why is it only during election times that promises are made to address service delivery, load shedding, unemployment, housing and poverty? Instead of empty promises, the government must put its words into action. I can only hope and pray that we will see the change needed after these elections,” he said.

The Umdoni and Ugu District municipalities did not comment at the time of going to print.