Community groups protest against “water management crisis”

Protestors demand that the punitive tariffs must be scraped. Picture by Mzi Velapi

With just over 70 days to Day Zero, community groups from different communities in Cape Town marched to the Civic Centre to register their dissatisfaction with the way the City of Cape Town has and is continuing to manage the water crisis.

Unnamed Road, South Africa

A group of community activists and members concerned with the water crisis chanted and help up posters outside the civic centre in Cape Town on Sunday. Under the banner Water Crisis Coalition, the group consisting of about 64 organisations protested against the water crisis and looming Day Zero which is supposed to kick in on the 12th of April.

Day Zero is the day according to the City of Cape Town when the taps will run dry, except in the city centre, hospitals, and other places that offer essential services. The group described the current situation that is going to affect the City of Cape Town and surrounding municipalities like Stellenbosch and Drankenstein as a “management crisis” because ” the authorities knew about the measures to take” read the statement by the group.

Among the demands of the Coalition is that the City should implement “consistent reduction of water pressure at strategic times, rapidly roll out campaign to fix leaks.” The statement was read to about 400 protesters before speaker after speaker highlighted how the water crisis is already affecting their communities. Ebrahim Fourie from Housing Assembly said that the water management devices that the City has installed where people have limited access to water infringes on their quality of life. “We are saying no to privatisation of water and installation of water metre devices. In our area you have elderly people on chronic medication having to ask neighbours for water to drink the medication,” said Fourie who stays in Beacon Valley in Mitchells Plain.

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Fourie’s concern was echoed by Nomachina Renene from Abemi of South Africa, a community solidarity organisation. Renene told Elitsha that the water management devices were installed in Langa without the knowledge of ratepayers. “They also don’t tell us when they are going to cut the water or how many litres does one have. The area of Bulawayo in Langa did not have water for two days,” said Renene who is the chairperson of the organisation in Langa.

Wendy Pekeur from Elsenburg a small town outside of Stellenbosch where the Western Cape Department of Agriculture headquarters are based, said that they discovered in the early hours of the morning on the day of school opening that they did not have water and there had been none for four days. “We have elderly people in our community who when there was a burst pipe, they fixed it and they are going around fixing the leaks,” said Pekeur who is part of a water crisis committee in her community.

The Water Crisis Coalition are also demanding the protection and conservation of water springs in order to “allow access and utilization of the water resource.” One of the committee leaders, Shaheed Mahomed told Elitsha that there are more than 70 springs all over the city. The group want the City of Cape Town to submit their plan of extracting water from the aquifers as “over extraction can lead to salt water intrusion, sinkholes and damage to infrastructure.”

Eastridge resident, Gertrude April said that she owes the City of Cape Town more than R16,000. She is unemployed and does not know how she is going to pay her bill. The 56-year-old said she has never been able to pay ever since she moved into an RDP house 8 years ago.

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Gertrude April from Eastridge Mitchells Plain has been unable to pay her municipal bill because she is unemployed. Pic by Mzi Velapi

A mayoral committee member, who is also a member of the City’s drought crisis team with Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson, was ready to accept the memorandum but the protesters insisted that the mayor Patricia de Lille come to accept the memorandum. De Lille has been kicked out of the team that deals with water crisis in favour of her deputy.

Nomvula Mokonyane, the Minister of Water and Sanitation made an appearance in the late afternoon and this was after the community organisations were done and the crowd was smaller than before. Mokonyane said that the City must take responsibility for something that it was warned about and that it must not allow people with private boreholes to continue extracting water.

She had met with the committee and made some promises to them. “We want the City of Cape Town to go and switch off the boreholes,” said Mokonyane. who according to Premier Helen Zille has forced the construction of a desalination plant at the V&A Waterfront by Umngeni Water down the City’s throat.



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