Tsomo’s mystery water tankers

Municipality says it provides a water tanker but residents say they’ve never seen one

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Photo of unused pump
Tsomo residents say their water pump has been broken for years. Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

Residents of Mjulwa in Tsomo in the Eastern Cape say there has been no water in their communal taps since 2005. The municipality says has provided a water tanker, but the residents say they’ve never seen it.

Residents say they have to fetch water from the nearby Embhobheni river, or hire a truck to fetch water in Butterworth, which costs R1,000. The river is close to a dumping site, with used nappies lying a few metres from the water. The Embhobheni is also used by animals.

When GroundUp asked the Chris Hani District Municipality about this, spokesperson Lonwabo Kowa said the area had been provided with a water tanker.

But five residents interviewed by GroundUp said they had never seen a water tanker in their area.

Ward councillor Armon Mbotshane failed to show GroundUp the water tanker when requested to do so.

Resident Sabelo Lehlakane said even old people in the area had to walk long distances to get water, carrying 20-litre buckets. “Our river is close to the road. When it rains the oil and petrol from the tar road get washed into the river,” he said.

“I was born in this area. When we grew up the water situation was not this bad. We had a water pump and when it was broken we would go back to the river. But the drought was not this bad. The river was always full and even if you found an animal drinking you could chase it away and wait a few minutes for the water to be clean again,” said Lehlakane.

He said when the municipality installed taps, the water pump was still working.

“We continued using the water pump while waiting for taps to provide water. But four years ago the water pump was broken and it was never fixed, hence people had to go back to using water from the river,” he said.

Lehlakane said the matter had been raised many times in public meetings with the ward councillor, but nothing had been done. “I feel for people who cannot afford to buy water because they are forced to drink this water no matter how dirty it is,” said ​​Lehlakane.

He said when people held funerals they had to buy water. Hiring a truck to get water in town cost R1,000 and hiring a bakkie R500, said Lehlakane.

Kowa denied allegations that the taps have not been working for years. He said Mjulwa had two water schemes. “In December one pump experienced mechanical problems and we are attending to it.”

He told GroundUp on 6 February, that Chris Hani District Municipality “uses water tankers to cart water to the side with no water, until the pump is repaired”.

But residents are still waiting for the water tankers. Lehlakane said: “Tell them to come and show us because we have never seen them”.

TOPICS:  Government Water

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