Township carwash business could be affected by level 5 water restrictions

Two of the three employees from Bongo Sonjica's carwash business operation at Site B in Khayelitsha clean up some of their clients' vehicles along Jafta K Masemola Road in Khayelitsha. Photo by Mandla Mnyakama

The City of Cape Town has warned carwash business operators that the washing of vehicles with municipal drinking water is illegal. The stern warning follows the recent launch of Level 5 water restrictions.

Khayelitsha, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

The City of Cape Town has warned carwash business operators that the washing of vehicles with municipal drinking water is illegal.

The municipality has advised carwash operators to start using waterless products in their car washing businesses instead. The stern warning follows the recent launch of Level 5 water restrictions.

The new directive requires Capetonians to keep their water consumption to 20 kilolitres a month with a limit of 87 litres per person and the overall target of 500-million litres per day of collective consumption still remaining in place

The municipality has maintained that residents should prevent excessive water usage in their homes, with severe restrictions placed on private businesses. A heavy fine of between R5,000 and R10,000 will be levied for those who continue to disobey the restriction.

Water dam levels are currently just over 30%.

“Car washing with municipal drinking water remains prohibited. The City supports waterless products to carry on with the business of car washing. We have had exhibitions across the city in public-friendly malls to showcase these products and Executive Mayor Patricia de Lille personally invited informal car washers where she rolled up her sleeves [to show them] how these products work,” said Councillor Xanthea Limberg, the City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee Member for Informal Settlements, Water, Waste Services and Energy.

“It is important to note that if we run out of water, because people are not listening, we will all suffer,” cautioned Limberg. She added that despite the challenges they experienced, they still continued to engage operators in this type of business sector, “asking for all to show their commitment to help in this serious situation.”

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During level 4 restrictions, some informal car wash business operators in Khayelitsha expressed serious concern about the municipality’s blitz to enforce the water restrictions in the area recently.

The budding business operators ended up begging the authorities to be lenient on them in this regard.

A few of the car wash operators complained that the confiscation of their car washing equipment by the law enforcement officers during the crack downs was a heavy blow.

Bongo Sonjica (26), who has run his business adjacent to BM Section in Site B  with three partners for nine months, demanded that the authorities provide them with new jobs if they stopped their businesses.

“We found these by-laws to be very harsh to us. We prefer that they should rather deal with the big construction companies that really waste water excessively in their own work.

“I have been left heartbroken because the law enforcement officers confiscated my own expensive power pressure car washing machine and a hosepipe during another blitz four months ago. They demanded that I should instead use 25-litre bucket containers, not a hosepipe or a machine, when I wash vehicles.

“The owner of another neighbouring carwash business had to stop his operations because he was unable to purchase other new tools after the same officers confiscated his equipment,” said Sonjica.

He claimed that he had now been compelled to use plastic buckets containers but that had left his regular clients complaining that their vehicles were not properly washed.

His sentiments were also shared by Mongezi Mnyanda (28), who runs a car wash business in Site C.

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“We fear that these cruel by-laws will eventually culminate with violent repercussions if the authorities still function without our own co-operation.” said Mongezi Mnyanda (28).

Mnyanda, who says his business has been a project to rehabilitate him from crime since last year, complained that he lost two hosepipes after law enforcement officers confiscated them from his business last month. Police confiscated two previous hosepipes from his business in July.

“The government should be considerate towards us, jobs are scarce and here we try to make ends meet. This type of business has also reformed several other impoverished young men who previously survived on crime,” he said.

Alice Boanh (50) is seen busy with a client at her hair salon at Site B in Khayelitsha. Photo Mandla Mnyakama

Philipp Mliswa (36), a carwash owner from Green Point in Khayelitsha appealed to the government to provide them with developmental support so that they can turn their mini businesses into fully-fledged operations to boost the local economy with more job opportunities.

Elitsha has learnt that the City will subject excessive water users who fail to comply with the current warnings to an admission of guilt fine or (in accordance with Section 36(4) of the City’s water by-laws) the installation of a water management device, with the device’s costs billed to the account holder.

These devices will be installed to limit the supply of water to users who are consuming more than 350 litres a day.

The municipality have been installing these water restriction devices since July already.

Limberg maintained that the restrictions would apply to shops and offices and other types of business establishments as well.


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