Protest after Joburg suburb without tap water for over 50 days

Frustrated South Hills residents blocked main roads and burnt tyres

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South Hills residents took to the streets in protest over a water outage that has lasted nearly eight weeks with no end in sight. Photos: Silver Sibiya

  • In South Hills taps have been dry for 53 days according to the councillor, as parts of Johannesburg continue to suffer water outages.
  • Residents took to the streets in protest, blocking busy roads with bricks and burning tyres.
  • The City did not say when water will be restored.

South Hills residents took to the streets on Wednesday, demanding water be restored to the suburb where taps have been dry in some sections for nearly eight weeks.

They blocked busy entrance roads – Nephin, South Rand, Swinburne and Golden Tea – with bricks and burning tyres. Some residents said they had taken off work to join the protest.

The Johannesburg Metro Police and SAPS were at the scene.

The fed up residents demanded to see Ward 57 Councillor Faeeza Chame (DA), who eventually came to speak to the crowd.

“Nobody should stay without water for 53 days, that is not right,” she said.

Chame said the problem was caused by the Meyersdal reservoir which has not been operational. “We did not know that until a couple of weeks ago,” she said. She said Joburg water only brought it to their attention weeks after the outage.

She said the water tower had to be at least 30% full to reach all of South Hills.

Chame called Joburg Water South Dale depot manager, Mothosi Tholo, to explain the situation. He arrived at noon and gave a garbled technical explanation about valves. The dissatisfied protesters insisted he show them exactly what he was talking about. Residents then accompanied him.

“We haven’t had water for three months,” Thobeka Gqokole told GroundUp as she was filling her bucket at a water truck. She said it is a struggle raising six children without piped water. She works as a cleaner for the City.

Sonto Mbatha said life was better back on the farm where she came from in Balfour, Mpumalanaga. She has access to a water tank, but carrying buckets of water every day is taking its toll on her body, she said.

South Hills is not the only Johannesburg suburb suffering extended water outages. In Brixton residents told us they have been without tap water for six weeks, others for two months.

Johannesburg Water spokesperson Nombuso Shabalala said, “There are currently water interruptions in some of our systems which include the Brixton reservoir, South Hills tower and pump station, Crown Gardens, Midrand System, Alexander Park and Naturena.”

“There is inconsistent supply from our bulk supplier, Rand Water, coupled with high demand. Consumption and demand are outstripping supply, particular during the warmer/hot weather,” she said.

“To mitigate these challenges, Johannesburg Water throttles supply (reducing flow and pressure) to 50% from 9pm to 4am everyday, in order to build capacity to the strained reservoirs and towers.”

She said Johannesburg Water had deployed 50 roaming water trucks and 56 water tanks to the affected areas.

“While this may not replace potable water, this is how the entity is ensuring residents have regular water supply until the system stabilises and recovers to acceptable levels,” she said.

Last month, Rand Water announced “water shifting” as a way to mitigate outages by spreading the available water more equitably.

City Spokesperson Mlimandlela Ndamase did not respond to our questions.

Thobeka Gqokole, fetching water from a water truck, for her family of six children.

TOPICS:  Water

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