E Cape Town community without water for almost half a decade …


A Butterworth resident collects water. It has been four years since the last tap ran dry in Ward 28 of the local municipality of Mnquma. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase)

Four years after the last tap ran dry, a number of Eastern Cape villages that fall under the local municipality of Mnquma and get their water from the Amathole District Municipality have turned to the courts for legal aid. help after their attempts to access water hit a “wall of silence”.

It has been four years since the last tap ran dry in Ward 28 of the local municipality of Mnquma. For the moment, none of the inhabitants has access to drinking water.

Now, with the help of the Masifundise Development Trust, villagers, including a group of community leaders who were arrested during the harsh shutdown in April last year for organizing an emergency meeting on water, desperately turn to the courts.

“There is currently no chance that we will ever receive water,” said community leader Lulamile Daveyton Khetshemiya.

The village lawyers will argue that the current situation undermines the inhabitants’ right of access to water, dignity and the right to a healthy environment.

With the help of the Masifundise Development Trust, the villagers now take charge of the municipalities, the Department of Water and Sanitation and Rand Water, the body designated for the deployment of water reservoirs within the framework of the regulations. disaster management.

Khetshemiya said in court documents that the attempt to obtain a court order for emergency water supply within 15 days – and judicial oversight of the implementation of a sustainable water supply solution for the region – comes after years of repeated but unsuccessful attempts to get help.

“[W]We have made many attempts to resolve the problem without a dispute. These attempts were unsuccessful, ”Khetshemiya said.

He said when water tanks were deployed in the Eastern Cape as part of the emergency water supply program to improve sanitation at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, they received only one tank which has only been filled once.

“We are unable to take the preventive measures that could make the difference between life and death in our communities,” he said.

Ward 28 of the local municipality of Mnquma is home to 8,180 residents and some of the poorest communities in the country.

Khetshemiya said he lived in his village with his wife, three children and two grandchildren. Their only source of income is the five child allowances they receive – a total of R 2,300 per month. He added that they mainly eat the vegetables that they grow themselves.

He said his house had no running water and only a pit toilet.

The nearest water source is the Kobonqaba River, a 90-minute walk away. The nearest borehole is at the clinic, 20 km away.

“Every day the children and I walk to the river to get water. It is a long and arduous walk, especially when the weather is hot. Children carry water in five to 10 liter cans, ”Khetshemiya said.

It is the water that the family uses for drinking, cooking, bathing and growing their vegetables.

“We are generally able to collect 20 to 30 liters per day,” he added.

Khetshemiya said many elderly, frail or sick villagers cannot make the trip and their neighbors are trying to help them.

“The quality of the water is bad. There are often animal carcasses in the river. We have to boil the water before using it otherwise we get sick. However, we are never sure and can get sick even after the water has been boiled. “

Desperate villages sometimes pool their money, he said, to hire a tractor that costs between R 750 and R 1,000 to bring 2,500 liters of water to the village.

He said that in 2008 the municipality installed 22 taps in the village – they were all dry and some have since been vandalized.

Khetshemiya added that when President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a state of disaster in the country, coupled with a strict lockdown, he and a few other members of the community held a meeting to discuss the water crisis.

They were arrested for breaking lockdown rules.

Among the high-profile tankers sent to the Eastern Cape, Khetshemiya said he saw only one. “In May 2020, a tank was brought to the village of Nombanjana. It was filled once. The water didn’t last a day. The tanker never came back, ”he said.

He said the villagers and many organizations that tried to help them have been in “extended engagements” with the local municipality of Mnquma and the municipality of Amathole district since March 2020.

“Many promises have been made regarding the delivery of water tanks in terms of Covid-19 regulations and an investigation into the hydraulic infrastructure of Ward 28,” he said. “Despite these promises, there has been little change.”

No new tank has arrived. The taps are still dry. Five tanks which were donated by the Al-Imdaad Foundation on condition that the municipality refill them regularly and build cement bases for them are still in the warehouses where they were delivered and were never collected.

Khetshemiya said that at a community meeting, neighborhood councilors promised residents that the tanks would be collected, installed and filled – this never happened.

“Then we found out that the Amathole District Municipality had been placed under administration,” Khetshemiya added.

He said the community had also not received any help from the Eastern Cape provincial government or the Minister of Water and Sanitation, although they could have intervened. SM / MC


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