[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Durban schools can flush in spite of arrears
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Thu Feb 14 07:03:23 GMT 2008
(With the huge African Sanitation conference at the ICC next week, and a
civil society prepcom this weekend, it's a bad time for Neil Macleod to
have reports of Durban's broken sewer pipes - thanks to his neglect of
the maintenance department - splashed across local/national press. I
hope it is a genuinely new public policy - and not the AfriSan
conjuncture - that explains the story below containing no reference to
cutting the kids' water supplies. Three and a half years ago Macleod was
happy to cut kids' water if it increased revenues, to hell with the
social dimensions. It looks like a bit of progress, not insignificant
when you correlate water disconnections to disease.)
Schools owe water department R5m
13 February 2008, 12:11
At least 284 schools in the greater Durban region owe the eThekwini
Water department over R5-million for their unpaid water and electricity
eThekwini water and sanitation head, Neil Macleod on Wednesday said none
of the schools in question had their water or electricity supply
disconnected because of the arrears.
He confirmed that 284 schools had been in arrears for the accounts but
said the provincial education department was working with them to attend
to the debts.
He acknowledged that this was not the first time schools in the
eThekwini region had run up their water accounts.
In 2005, 262 schools faced having their water supply cut off as their
water debt totalled more than R10-million.
More than 60 schools in the Msunduzi municipality, covering the
Pietermaritzburg area, had a similar problem during the same year.
At the time, the provincial education department confirmed that it had
paid R5,2-million to the Msunduzi municipality to cover its water debt.
Macleod said that in the past - before no-fee schools received subsidies
- the water department had problems with receiving money due to it from
"There was a problem in the past where money was paid to the school and
it wasn't used for the purposes intended for, such as paying the
municipal account... But that seems to have changed now with the
provincial department getting involved in attending to the debt."
Firoz Patel, the Education department's deputy director-general for
system planning and monitoring said: "If a school is a no fee school
then the provincial education department is responsible for managing all
the expenses of the school and should put in place mechanisms to ensure
that they remain within budget."
He said if the school was a section 21 school - where the functions of
paying for services is devolved to the school - the department needed to
ensure that the conditions attached to the functions and the allocations
made to the school clearly stipulate the areas of responsibility and
"If the school does not have the function allocated then it is entirely
the responsibility of the provincial department to monitor and control
expenditure as well as risks," said Patel.
Provincial department spokesperson Christi Naude was not available for
comment. - Sapa
School faces water crisis
October 17, 2004
By Nadene Parsons
As if being physically disabled and preparing for final exams are not
enough, pupils at an Umlazi school have the added challenge of having to
cope with their water supply being cut off.
Since last Thursday, the Mason Lincoln Special School for Physically
Challenged Learners in Umlazi V-Section has had no water. The hostel on
the school's premises caters for its 80 pupils, who come from around
KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.
According to a letter received by the school from the eThekwini
Municipality's Water Credit Control department, the non-payment of their
account led to a restrictor being installed on the water meter; and a
site investigation "confirmed that you have tampered with the water
supply resulting in a higher flow of water".
The letter cautioned that further tampering would result in the water
connection being removed.
The school's principal, Happy Shoba, however, insists they have not
tampered with the water meter or restrictor.
"The problem is that squatters around the school have tapped into the
water supply. We have had this battle for years," she said. Their water
and electricity bill from the municipality is R600 000. Shoba added that
the municipality and the Education Department were aware of the crisis,
yet it persisted.
Shoba said about 30 families were illegally occupying vacant school
buildings. "I came to the school in 1996 and they were there - and they
haven't moved to this day," the principal said.
"Last Tuesday a representative from the mayor's office came to the
school to discuss the issue. Two days later, they disconnected our
water," she said.
Mason Lincoln Special School has four matriculants. Gugu Hlongwane, the
secondary school head of department is concerned.
"Our teachers are feeling bad about the situation, because some learners
are embarrassed to come to class wearing dirty uniforms. We can't work
according to our plans."
Shoba and Hlongwane said they had reached an agreement with the
municipality about the R600 000 utility bill.
"We pay the current consumption, which is usually R5 500 to R6 000 a
month. Even Dr Michael Sutcliffe (city manager) is aware of the problem.
When we made the agreement, he was there," Hlgongwane added.
The school's property is divided into two sections: The front is
grassland and a vegetable garden through which a gravel driveway runs
that leads to another gate and fence that surrounds the school and
hostel buildings. A security guard patrols this gate.
The water supply comes from pipes that run underground from the front
gate, where there is no security.
Shoba and Hlongwane believe that the squatters have made a connection
from the pipe at that point.
For Shoba, the irony is that although the school's water has been
disconnected, the squatters still enjoy a free supply. The school's
water meter and restrictor are behind the boys' hostel and it's at this
point the connection was stopped.
"Durban Metro should have cut off the whole connection to the property,"
Since the water was disconnected, the pupils have had to change their
timetables. The norm is to wake up around 6am to get ready for school.
But, because many have to wheel themselves to the water tanks and back
to the bathrooms, this week they have been getting up at 4am to be ready
"Some are still not ready by 7.45am when we start," Hlongwane said,
adding that they could fetch their water the night before, but it was
always a toss-up between doing this and studying for their exams.
Even the cooks have to walk behind the dormitories to the tanks for
"We don't know what we're going to do when the water in the tanks runs
out," Hlongwane said.
According to the head of water at the municipality, Neil McCleod, the
problem began in 2000.
"They seemingly have tenants who appear to be nurses, teachers and
police and they don't pay the school (for the use of the utilities)."
McCleod said they had been trying to sort the problem out since 2000. He
said the money the school paid every month was just keeping the bill
around the R600 000 level.
Whether the problem is solved or not, in a few days the water tanks will
empty and the pupils will be in the midst of the all-important final
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