According to the Democratic Alliance (DA), hundreds of farm workers in Elias Motsoaledi and Ephraim Mogale Local Municipalities are on the edge of losing their jobs, as a result of poor water supply in the farms.
The party accuses the Sekhukhune District (SDM) and Lepelle Northern Water (LNW) for neglecting water infrastructure in Groblersdal and Marble Hall farms.
Lindy Wilson, DA Constituency Head for Citrus Valley, said the party has raised the water infrastructure in both Ephraim Mogale and Elias Motsoaledi Municipalities, as well as with the Human Rights Commission on several occasions.
“Despite court orders against the Sekhukhune District Municipality to deliver water, it is clear they do not have the political will nor the expertise to ensure that the situation is rectified,” she said.
Wilson said during a stakeholders meeting with Marble Hall last week, concerned farm owners raised their consideration to relocate their factories and operations due to serious water challenges in the area.
One of the concerned farmers who attended the meeting, Granor Passi, a major juice producer and buyer of citrus in the area, is very concerned about the future of their operation as a result of inconsistent water supply. He raised that the production manager at his plant indicated that water supply, which is critical to their operation, has been erratic with days where there was no water at all, which resulted in severe backlogs and the rotting of fruits.
“Loskop Valley is a major citrus and table grape farming community. With citrus and fruit already rotting in ports as a result of the restrictions due to the Russia-Ukraine war, the extra burden of being unable to divert some fruit to the juice factory is going to severely affect the entire community,” explained Wilson.
She indicated that other key stakeholders in the town, like McCain and Tiger Brands, who can and freeze fruit and vegetables from the area, are also being affected and in some operations retrenchments are already taking place.
“These job losses are a devastating result of poor infrastructure maintenance by the SDM and LNW,” Wilson said.
She reiterated that these factories are major contributors to the sustainability of the municipality in terms of both its finances and employment.
“Should they be forced to consider moving to another area, the municipalities, which already faces bankruptcy will collapse,” she said.
Wilson said the party has now referred this matter to the DA Shadow Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Cilliers Brink MP, for urgent submission on a national level to have the water crisis in the municipality addressed.
SDM Communications Manager, Khomotso Ndlovu, said water supply to Mcain and Tiger Brands was affected by the load shedding stage 6 in the previous couple of weeks, which made water supply unstable in the municipality.
“Now that load shedding is better, water supply is sustainable in those factories. However, the district municipality does not supply water to the farms. They get water directly from the Department of Water and Sanitation,” he said.