Picture: 123 RF / BORGOGNIELS
Picture: 123 RF / BORGOGNIELS

Ugu district municipality in KwaZulu-Natal has opened seven cases of sabotage after striking workers tampered with the water system, resulting in tourism ventures, local businesses and residents going for days without water.

Areas affected by the water cuts include coastal tourist havens of Port Shepstone, Ramsgate, Uvongo Beach, Hibberdene, Margate and Port Edward.

The current strike is supported by the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu), whose members are unhappy with deductions to their salaries for not coming to work during an illegal work stoppage late in 2017. Samwu is also demanding that suspended shop stewards be brought back to work.

On Tuesday, Ugu district municipality manager Dhanpalan Naidoo said the sabotage to its water installation and infrastructure was linked to the wildcat strike.

"We are doing all we can to fix the valves that were stolen in our reservoir. We have opened seven cases of sabotage with the police because we believe that what the striking workers have done is not only illegal but also dangerous.

"We will be putting cameras in some of these installations so that we can be able to identify those who continue to tamper with our water systems so that they can be arrested and prosecuted," Naidoo said.

However, this is cold comfort to many of the affected local residents and businesses. Wayne van Zyl, a local BnB owner, said the situation was unacceptable.

"We have been without water for the past two weeks. How can we run our businesses under these conditions? There are many tourists who were already here but they have since cancelled and returned home."

Zinhle Ndovela, a resident of Gamalakhe township outside Port Shepstone, said the water cuts had become a regular occurence.

Even the opposition parties have tried to help find a solution. George Henderson, the DA leader in Ugu municipality, said: "Hundreds of homes and businesses have been affected. We have been told that in some areas, it’s been two days, four days without water. Totally without water. Business cannot survive like this without water. They are all without water."

Ugu municipality spokesperson France Zama said discussions were ongoing to end the strike and that a solution would found "as soon as possible".