City visit: a step towards filling the info gap

Persistent lobbying over many months by the MDGA paid off this week when a high-level delegation of key decision-makers from the City of Cape Town (CoCT) met with members of the MDGA ExCom in the Marina to map the way out of our continuing water crisis.

Lead by Cllr Zahid Badroodien, the newly elected Mayoral Committee member for Water and Sanitation, the 11-strong delegation also included the heads of Reticulation, Pump Stations and Cape Nature.

While emphasising that the MDGA had called the meeting in the spirit of constructive engagement, Richard Midgley, the MDGA ExCom’s Chairman, was forthright in expressing residents’ concerns: “The algae is out of control, our waterways have now been closed for over seven months and we are in a worse position than we were a year ago.”

Point made: Pierre Maritz (left) discusses pump station maintenance with Cllr Zahid Badroodien (centre) and Richard Midgley

“We are not talking here about a public access issue,” continued Richard. “This is a real problem for residents around Zandlvei, particularly in the Marina. The waterways crisis impacts on our members’ lifestyles; makes them question their reasons for choosing to buy and live here; and, worst of all, the situation dramatically affects the value of their properties.”

While acknowledging the wider service delivery challenges facing the CoCT, Richard also pointed out that the MDGA is virtually powerless when it comes to keeping the Marina’s 1,352 households fully informed about what is happening on Zandvlei. “On our members’ behalf, we have a single purpose for calling this meeting: to understand the causes underlying the sewerage spills and to learn how the CoCT plans to remedy the situation so that our waterways can be reopened and kept clean and safe. A lack of information simply exacerbates residents’ frustrations.”

In the same co-operative spirit, members of the CoCT delegation took turns to outline the measures that their departments are currently taking to reinforce and maintain Cape Town’s water and sanitation infrastructure – and stop sewerage from entering Zandlveli.  

Among other positives, all sewerage lines in Muizenberg, Constantia, Bergvliet, Meadowridge and Tokai have now been relined and the CoCT is currently assessing quotes from contractors to finish cleaning lines in Lavender Hill and Seawinds. Relining has been instrumental in eliminating sand from the sewerage system, preventing pump station failures and damage. All CoCT’s pump stations are also being retrofitted with grids to prevent damage while manholes are being fitted with covers to prevent illegal dumping. Issues with pump station telemetrics have also been resolved. In addition, Pierre Maritz, Manager, Reticulation, committed to forwarding service/maintenance records for all 10 pump stations in the Marina to the MDGA office. Overall, the CoCT has committed a significant capital budget to pump station upgrades and pipe replacements for this financial year and most of this budget has been allocated to Zandvlei.

Potentially, the most important action arising from the meeting was a commitment to setting up a dedicated technical sub-committee to address the ongoing sewerage spills into Zandvlei and the extremely high nutrient load that is feeding the current algae blooms. Not a silver bullet or magic wand, perhaps, But certainly a step in the right direction.

Commenting on this advance, Richard Midgley said: “Regular meetings with the City’s most technically skilled decision-makers will go a long way to applying pressure on the authorities to deal decisively with the problems that we currently face.

“We fervently hope that the spirit of partnership we took away from the meeting will lead to effective long-term solutions for Marina residents, our neighbouring communities and the precious environment that we share.”

“Meanwhile,” added Richard, “on behalf of Marina residents, I would like to extend our sincere thanks to all members of the CoCT delegation for taking the time to hear our concerns and commit to finding solutions.”

The MDGA will continue to persist in its efforts towards ongoing constructive and productive engagements with CoCT on behalf of all Marina residents.

CoCT delegation in full

Cllr Zahid Badroodien, Mayoral Committee Member for Water and Sanitation; Abdulla Parker, Manager, Stormwater and Sustainability; Pierre Maritz, Manager, Reticulation; Abongile Duna, Manager, Pump Stations; Sigqibo Nogaya, Head, Reticulation Wastewater Conveyancing; Andrew Taylor, Sewer Engineer, Water and Sanitation Department; Alistair Lee, Engineering Hydrologist, Project Manager; Dalton Gibbs, Regional Manager South, Nature Conservation; Kyran Wright, Manager, Zandvleie Estuary Nature Reserve; Elethu Zembe, Catchment Planner; and City of Cape Town’s Odwa Ndesi.