Water protests disrupt Khayelitsha

City says it met residents and addressed their concerns the night before the unrest

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Photo of protesters
Water protesters set burning barricades on Spine Road. Photo: Vincent Lali

Residents barricaded roads with burning tyres and tree branches in Ilitha Park, Khayelitsha, on Thursday. They are demanding free water from the the City of Cape Town.

Police dispersed the protesters with tear gas, but they regrouped and set the tyres alight on Spine Road. Youngsters sang struggle songs and charged the police.

Jessica Shelver, spokesperson for Western Cape Education Department said the department had shut down 21 schools in the Lwandle, Nomzamo and Khayelitsha areas due to the protests. “A further eight schools are either being monitored for closure or have been disrupted significantly,” she said. “Learners are currently completing a number of assessments and exams.”

Ilitha Park resident Phindiwe Nyebedu, who is 71 and has six grandchildren, said residents wanted 365 litres of free water per day.

“The City says it gives us free water, but we don’t see it,” she said. “We only get water from 4am until noon. In the evenings, we battle to get water as our taps don’t produce water.”

She said she owes the City about R15,000 for water.

“I’m a pensioner, so I can’t afford to pay for water. I want the City to exempt me from paying for water,” she said. “We want the City to wipe off our water debts because it had overcharged us.”

Nomini Mase, who is 78, wakes up at 4am to fill buckets. “If I oversleep, I go without water for the whole day.” She said she owes the City more than R20,000 for water. “I want the City to reduce the amount of money I’m required to pay for water because I’m an unemployed pensioner.”

Nomathemba Zondo, who lives with seven grandchildren, said the City cut off her water supply in November 2018. “In order to get water, I must send my grandchildren to collect it with trolleys and water containers from communal taps in Tsepetsepe informal settlement [an hour walk away],” she said.

Her grandchild Lusindiso Zondo said: “We complained to the City officials about the water bill many times, but they don’t help us.”

Mandisa Dyalivana said her water bill had gone up from R2,900 in October 2018 to R10,000 in April this year. She said this was because there had been a leak. “When I asked the officials who would pay for the leaking water, they said the City would pay,” she said.

But last month the City cut her water to only give her access from 4am and 7am, she said.

The mayor’s office said different mayco members and Mayor Dan Plato had engaged with the Khayelithsa community a number of times.

“Just last night, Mayco Member for Water Xanthea Limberg met residents in the area, and officials were on hand to address the concerns raised. A further follow up meeting is scheduled for next week.

“The City provides 10.5kl water (per month) to approximately 268,000 households in the metro at no cost. When residents receive sudden high water bills, this is almost always due to leaks on the property’s plumbing which are not noticed until the bill is received, so residents must check their property. The City offers rebates to residents who experience leaks for the first time. The City can scrap all leak-related debt for those who are registered as indigent.”

According to Limberg the City provides a social package that provides water at no cost to approximately 40% of households in Cape Town.

“Residents have been advised that they must query their account should the bill for water seem to be incorrect. Each complaint will be investigated on its own merits.”

“For residents registered as indigent the City will fix all leaks on the property on their behalf and scrap all their debt. At this time the resident is also educated about their responsibilities in terms of ensuring their plumbing does not leak. Please note that the City can only grant this rebate once for each account holder. If residents run up debt due to leaks again they will have to pay for that water.

“For residents who do not qualify as indigent, the City has a one-time rebate available where the City shares the cost of the leaked water with the resident. Please note, however, that underground leaks rebates can only be granted for three months’ worth of water lost through a leak, as it is considered reasonable that residents would notice their billing increase within three months, and should have taken action to have the leak fixed by then.

“Protests of this nature have been held previously in this area and the City has made a concerted effort to assist the residents,” said Limberg.

Western Cape Police spokesperson Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana said police are monitoring the situation and no arrests have been made.

TOPICS:  Water

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