Protesters close down municipal offices, demanding water

Matatiele households have been battling water problems for years

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After a meeting with residents, the Alfred Nzo municipality sent a water truck around, but only for three days. Then it stopped coming. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

  • The municipal water and sanitation offices in Matatiele have been locked by residents complaining about constant water problems.
  • They say their taps run dry most of the day and the Alfred Nzo District Municipality has failed to solve water problems for years.
  • After a meeting with the residents of Harry Gwala and Mountain View, the municipality sent a water truck around but it stopped coming after three days.

Protesters have closed down the municipal water and sanitation offices in Matatiele in the Eastern Cape demanding that the Alfred Nzo District Municipality fix broken pipes.

For the past three months, families in Harry Gwala and Mountain View in Matatiele have been experiencing water cuts. They say they were told the problem is caused by broken pipes and an electricity fault. Both areas get water from the Belfort Dam. There is water in the early morning for an hour or so and during the day taps are dry. There is no water on Sundays.

Two weeks ago there was no water for four days.

Resident David Manyathela said at a meeting with municipality officials last week, the municipality promised to send a water tanker. The tanker was sent last Monday but only delivered water to families near the main road. The next day the protesters marched on the offices and closed the gates with a chain and padlock. The offices have been closed since then.

Manyathela said closing the offices was an attempt to force municipal staff to fix the broken pipes instead of sitting in the office.

Another resident, Nyameko Khathali, said the water problems had started in 2019. He said matters had improved in 2020 during the pandemic, but in June 2021 problems arose again.

“All these years we have been complaining about the same thing to the district municipality with no solution. They keep on telling us about old broken pipes but they are not changing them.

“Harry Gwala and Mountain View are close to Matatiele but the town has water. We are also ratepayers and we demand to have water,” he said.

Some residents of Harry Gwala have bought water tanks but the tanks have been dry due to lack of rain.

Thembisa Hlomela said she has not had running water since December. “To be honest I don’t know how they pump this water because we don’t get it.”

At a public meeting last Wednesday in the Harry Gwala community hall, Deputy Mayor Nomasomi Mshuqwana admitted that the municipality had failed the community. She said they were working on the problem. Residents started shouting, saying they have been waiting for years.

Biggy Zenzele from Mountain View, supported by several other residents, told Mshuqwana that qualified electricians and plumbers among the residents were willing to help the district municipality fix the water problem. Mshuqwana promised to take the suggestion to Mayor Vukile Mhlelembana.

After the meeting, the water truck was sent round for three days. Then it stopped coming.

Questions sent by GroundUp to Alfred Nzo District Municipality spokesperson Lixolile Petela last week Wednesday have not been answered in spite of several follow-ups last week.

TOPICS:  Water

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