Durban – The protests over special increases granted to Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) veterans took a sinister turn at the weekend when the Mobeni 1 and 2 Water Reservoir collapsed, possibly due to a bomb blast – which the eThekwini Municipality had to backtrack on.
The eThekwini Municipality initially released a statement on Saturday, hours after the reservoir collapsed spilling millions of litres of water, that the reservoir had been bombed, before later retracting that statement and saying the collapse was due to structural damage.
“It was not a bombing because there is no evidence in that regard. We are currently conducting an investigation and will then communicate accordingly,” said Msawake Mayisela, the eThekwini spokesperson.
“Our engineers are working unceasingly to ensure that the damage to the reservoir does not impact negatively on the welfare of residents supplied by it,” he said.
Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo, a police spokesperson, said forensic experts have found no evidence at this stage that even suggests that the damage to the reservoir was a result of any form of criminal action. He lashed out at those spreading false news on social media calling it irresponsible behaviour.
"At this stage, preliminary investigations suggest that the structure of the reservoir may have been weakened by the recent heavy rains and flooding in the Durban and surrounding areas causing the walls to give way. The loud bang that neighbouring communities may have heard was actually a sound probably caused by the splitting of the reservoir wall caused by the pressure of water inside the reservoir," Naidoo said.
According to the municipality, 13 areas in the north-west of Durban were without water as a result.
In the retracted statement, the municipality said: “The city is calling upon law enforcement agencies to move with speed and arrest those responsible for the bombing a water reservoir.
“This illicit act is suspected to have been carried out in the early hours of the morning City manager Sipho Nzuza suspects this is part of the acts of sabotage being experienced by eThekwini following the illegal strike.”
Nzuza apologised to residents bearing the brunt of the strike and said the city was doing everything in its power to restore the provision of basic services.
The collapse came amid warnings being circulated on WhatsApp groups for community watch organisations to monitor reservoirs in the Chatsworth area for possible sabotage. Reservoirs listed as being at risk included those in Cavendish, Moorton, Westcliff and Shallcross.
While the cost of the damage is still being calculated and could run into millions, the brunt of the collapse was felt by Collin Naidoo, whose construction equipment is located below the reservoir. Naidoo said almost all of his 82 trucks were damaged.
“I can’t even explain the damage,” he said. “I got a call in the morning from a resident who stays at the back and he told me the machines were scattered all over and everything was a mess.”
When the Daily News visited the site, Naidoo was busy surveying the damage and said he was still assessing the cost.
In terms of the bomb rumours, residents who live near the reservoir said they had not heard any blasts.
Rocky Naidoo, a resident of Montclair, said he had been without water since Saturday.
“It’s very hard to move around because of the sand on the road, it’s become slippery,” he said, adding that an emergency supply of water had not been delivered to the area.
Ward 69 councillor Ganas Govender, of the Mobeni region, called it an “act of sabotage” resulting from the recent municipal workers’ strike, and placed the blame squarely at the feet of mayor Zandile Gumede.
“The result is that it’s going to cost ratepayers millions of rand to repair. Ratepayers are again getting the short end of the stick and feeling the brunt of eThekwini Municipality’s poor decision-making,” he said.
DA KZN premier candidate Zwakhele Mncwango released a statement accusing the city of downplaying the damage at the reservoir. “While the city manager hasn’t denied the bomb reports yet, Cogta (the Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Department) released a statement saying the damage had been caused by the storm.
“It seems that the one hand does not know what the other is doing,” he said.
IFP executive committee member Mdu Nkosi said the city did not want to tell people the truth.
“If it was really structural damage, the question then becomes, where is the report stating that the reservoir needed to be repaired?” he asked.
“This is very amateurish. The people running this city think that because they are the governing party they can do whatever they like.”