Message of support by the Chairperson of the Board of Umgeni Water at the Official Opening of the Mhlabatshane Dam
17th March 2012, Phungashe, Umzumbe

The Honourable Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molewa
The Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Zweli Mkhize
Members of the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature
Her Worship the Mayor of Ugu District Municipality, Councillor NH Gumede
Councillors of the Ugu District Municipality
Councillors of Umzumbe Local Municipality
Councillors of the Hibiscus Coast Local Municipality
Representatives of the KwaZulu-Natal House of Traditional Leaders
The Umzumbe Traditional Leadership
The media
Other distinguished guests

All Protocols Observed

Good Afternoon

I stand here before you today proud of the road we have travelled to reach this stage of the Mhlabatshane Regional Bulk Water Supply Scheme. The opening of the Mhlabatshane Dam marks a major milestone towards the realisation and achievement of national, regional and local imperatives for water service delivery to rural communities in the District of Ugu.

As we mark today’s important occasion, we should not lose sight of the fact that this project has been made possible through close collaboration among the Department of Water Affairs, the Ugu District Municipality and Umgeni Water. Indeed, in realising the completion of this dam, all three stakeholders mentioned worked closely together to painstaking ensure that every aspect of the project was meticulously and safely implemented, and during the construction of the dam no major incidents or accidents were reported. The completion of the Mhlabatshane Dam is a good example of collaboration at the three different levels of Government, namely National, Local and State-owned entity. And, importantly, it was built within the allocated time and budget.

This project has, to some extent, demonstrated that collective efforts through close partnerships and co-operation can make a difference and turn some of our visions into a reality. Collaboration among the Department of Water Affairs, Ugu District Municipality and Umgeni Water will continue well into the future as the other components of the Mhlabatshane Bulk Water Supply Plan are rolled out before finally reaching their completion at a future date.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as we celebrate the excellent rapport and co-operation that has been established in this project, we must also reflect, for a brief moment, on one of the most important reasons why we are here today. This day marks the beginning towards the creation of a life-changing experience for the community of Phungashe. The lives of communities living here are presently characterised by a struggle to obtain safe drinking water. The sources of this water are, at present, small package plants, standpipes, rivers and streams. Unfortunately, the present sources have proved to be unreliable, which means that for days some households and communities are left without water due to interruptions in supply to, or inadequate volumes of water for, consumers.

It is a sad reality in our country today that many thousands of people, like the communities of Phungashe, still do not have easy access to a reliable supply of safe drinking water, though the right to water is entrenched in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. Everyone has the right to an equitable supply of water, even those who can easily be forgotten because they live in remote rural areas outside of the major economic hubs and urban centres. With the massive technical and financial challenges that are encountered when implementing sustainable water supply systems and services to our rural communities, especially for those living in isolated and remote areas with difficult terrain, it stands to reason that close collaboration of all key stakeholders is essential for success.

When phase one of the Mhlabatshane Bulk Water Supply Scheme is completed by year’s end, the hardship and struggles of some 30 000 people will be reduced significantly. Phase one in its entirety will comprise this dam, a water treatment works, command reservoirs, pump stations and pipelines. Ultimately, when the other components of the Mhlabatshane Bulk Water Supply Scheme have been completed, a total of 100 000 people – or 15 000 households - in 10 tribal authorities and 49 wards in the Umzumbe and Hibiscus Coast local municipalities will benefit from the project through Ugu District Municipality’s reticulation of a safe and reliable supply of drinking water. In line with the concept of moving vulnerable communities up the water ladder, the Mhlabatshane Bulk Water Supply Scheme, when completed in its entirety, will eventually provide 60 litres per person per day and contribute to a significant – and tangible – reduction in water backlogs in the Umzumbe area.

Just last month our President, in his State of Nation Address, spoke of a massive infrastructure programme roll out to strengthen the economy of our country, enhance service delivery and improve the quality of life through increased access to basic services. The Mhlabatshane Bulk Water Supply Scheme is firmly aligned to these objectives of our Government and, as Umgeni Water, we are pleased to be in a position to enable and add value to our customers’ service delivery strategies.

Honoured guests, the Mhlabatshane Regional Bulk Water Supply Scheme will surpass the test of being one of the most strategically important rural development projects on the Lower South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal. In this regard, let us see where and how it began. Conceptualised in the District’s Bulk Water Services Development Plans and Integrated Development Plan, Ugu District Municipality, in a co-operative partnership with Umgeni Water, committed to implementing a bulk water scheme to meaningfully reduce water backlogs in this region. The Mhlabatshane Bulk Water Supply Scheme project was conceived, and is being undertaken by the Department of Water Affairs, Umgeni Water and the Ugu District Municipality as part of a sub-regional system that will dovetail into long-term bulk water development projects within the region and the Province of KwaZulu-Natal. The project is being funded by three different sources:

  • Ugu – through Municipal Infrastructure Grant funding
  • Department of Water Affairs – through grant funding, and
  • Umgeni Water – off balance sheet and the Regional Bulk Infrastructure Grant.

The Ugu District Municipality must be commended for driving and accelerating its rural water supply plans and programmes to reduce the current backlogs. One of Umgeni Water’s roles is to ensure effective regional collaboration in the planning and provision of effective bulk water supply solutions and, therefore, as a regional Water Service Provider, it is particularly proud of its partnership with Ugu District Municipality, in projects already implemented, projects that are being implemented and projects that are to be implemented in the Ugu District. For its part, Umgeni Water will continue to collaborate and work with Ugu District Municipality in rolling out bulk regional water supply programmes and plans that ensure effective and sustainable water service delivery levels are achieved for the entire region.

Co-operation within and between catchments will continue to be very important to ensure sustainable water resources are developed and supply areas and water transfers are linked with demands. This collaboration will be imperative for planning on a larger scale to allow for assurance of supply in the future and provide greater long-term sustainability. Besides leading to an improved level of service, the benefits of regional schemes, such as Mhlabatshane, would include the rationalisation and pooling of resources and infrastructure to provide greater economies of scale and a reduction in long-term operating and maintenance costs.

We are convinced that when completed, the Mhlabatshane Bulk Water Supply Scheme will become a flagship project on the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal, illustrating its importance as a legacy and reminder of the sheer will of our Government and its agencies to work together and in tandem to uplift the quality of life of rural communities. The Mhlabatshane Bulk Water Supply Scheme is a good illustration of how basic services can be delivered effectively and at an affordable cost to consumers through collaboration and a collective effort at the different levels of Government.

I thank you, and in keeping with the theme of National Water Week, I wish to reiterate what our Minister has already said: “Water is Life, Conserve it, Enjoy it and Never Waste It.“

Enjoy the rest of the programme.