Members of the Vans community have accused the Chris Hani District Municipality (CHDM) of treating them like second-class residents, for allegedly prioritising the town areas when it came to water provision in Komani.
The Vans community comprises Victoria Park, Aloevale, New Vale, New Rest and the Sabatha Dalindyebo areas which have been battling to get regular access to water for months on end. Other areas struggling with access to the resource are Ezibeleni and Unathi Mkefa.
A delegation of residents from the Vans area stormed the CHDM headquarters on Wednesday, demanding to speak to the municipal manager, Gcobani Mashiyi, who could not meet with them due to other commitments.
Vans community chairperson Cliff Pringle said there had not been water in the areas for three days and families with babies and sickly people had struggled most.
“There was a recording doing the rounds, allegedly from an employee of the CHDM, stating the institution ran out of chemicals to clean water and therefore water would not be available in Komani. However, why is it only our areas without water and the rest of the town have it? It is our right to get the basic services we actually pay for. We try to get reasons directly from the municipality, but we do not get answers. I spoke to a CHDM employee who assured me that there was a shortage of chemicals, but we will wait for the municipality to communicate with us directly.”
Pringle said every time he tried to ask questions of the relevant people in the CHDM they responded that they had escalated the issue and it would be looked into.
“Residents are upset and rightfully so. Previously, water would be cut off in the evening and would be available again at 4am which is not happening anymore. We are lucky if we get water for one hour a day, but it is usually muddy and cannot be consumed. When they do allow water through for less than an hour it is always at awkward hours – either in the wee hours of the morning or during the day when people are at work.”
The chairperson said if there were problems with the pipes the municipality must communicate that with them and not treat them like “stepchildren”.
“We are being treated like secondary residents by the CHDM and yet we pay our accounts. The municipality is not doing enough to mitigate whatever issue there is, because our area and Ezibeleni have had water issues for years and all they kept saying was that we are in low-lying areas. They have had years to find a permanent solution to the problem, but they just do not care, they only care about the residents in the suburbs and prioritise water provision for them only.”
The residents appealed to the CHDM to install water tanks and a communal borehole to temporarily mitigate the situation while looking for a permanent solution.
An Unathi Mkefa resident who did not want to be named due to having been threatened by a ward councillor for previously speaking to the media about community issues said between last Friday and Thursday this week, they only had water on Monday after they complained to the municipality.
“They are treating us like stupid people by providing water for one day to shut us up. We have toilets inside our homes and cannot flush due the water problems. There are families with frail, elderly people who require good hygiene standards. What is being done to us without any communication is not fair. We struggle to regularly wash our hands as required by the provisions of the covid-19 regulations, but we are unable to do that because we do not even have water to drink.”
A statement sent by CHDM and attributed to the municipal manager refuted the claims of chemical shortages, saying the recording was misleading and caused unnecessary panic among residents.
Reacting to questions from The Rep, CHDM spokesperson Thobeka Mqamelo said the municipality experienced unforeseen technical challenges at the water plant, and that water interruptions were not anticipated, hence messages were issued upon realising the problem.
“Water carts were dispatched to ferry water to strategically placed water tanks in Ezibeleni and Mlungisi. CHDM has prioritised Komani Waste Water Treatment Works and Komani Water
Treatment works for repairs and refurbishment to ensure uninterrupted service provision as a result of old infrastructure. The Komani plant requires urgent repairs and refurbishment as the plant components in their current state cannot withstand the required water demand.”