Residents can expect water to be running in their taps again today, just in time as the outage threatens schools ability to stay open after an already delayed start.
As Makhanda schools celebrated the town’s record matric pass on Tuesday 23 February, many were also having to cut short teaching time as days five and six with no water took their toll. Water is expected to be running in the town’s taps today and on Friday. But in an already delayed first week of the school year, no water for toilets or drinking or cooking school meals means some have been forced to send children home early. Making matters worse for the schools is that desperate residents neighbouring several schools have broken in and deplete their backup supplies.
The pumps at Makhanda’s crucial main water treatment works are up and running and filling the town’s supply reservoirs. Water is expected to be restored to all areas today, but will be shut off again on Thursday. Meanwhile, the municipality has continued water deliveries to townships in east Makhanda alongside the Gift of the Givers. By yesterday Gift of the Givers had erected two of four water tanks in areas hardest hit and connected the borehole they drilled at Waainek two years ago to the adjacent water treatment works.
Residents in Extension 6 queued with buckets and bottles in the hot sun for more than five hours on Tuesday 23 February, as the five water trucks deployed by Gift of the Givers and Makana Municipality battled to meet the overwhelming need as more than 50 000 of the town’s residents faced their sixth day with no supply.
Opposite Nobebe Tavern, residents were beyond frustrated.
“We saw the truck at the Indoor Sport Centre just now,” said one resident, queueing with four large buckets in a wheelbarrow. “They said they were coming, but that was two hours ago.”
A few streets away, outside JD Dlepu stadium, a water truck was dispensing water to residents in that area.
“We are getting calls non-stop,” the driver told GMDirect. “We will get there as soon as we can.”
Residents neighbouring at least two schools have broken in to take water from their precious backup water tanks. Most Makhanda schools put in water tanks after the previous prolonged outages, either donated by businesses or through their own fundraising. These have made it possible for schools to continue despite frequent water outages.
However, desperate community members have in the past week broken into at least two schools to take water from this precious backup supply.
Samuel Ntsiko Primary School, which sits between Hlalani and Xolani, has battled water theft for two years since their tanks were installed.
“The frustrating thing is that it’s the parents of the very children who need the school to stay open,” Principal Nombulelo Koliti told GMDirect two years ago. This week she said the same theft was threatening the school’s operations.
“We haven’t had to close, but we’ve had to break early for the day, at 12,” Koliti said today.
Makana Primary ‘s water tank backup supply has been empty since Monday.
“Our councillor promised that a truck would come to fill our tanks but that hasn’t happened yet,” said principal Nkhosi Williams.
Tantyi Primary Principal Priscilla Glover last week expressed concern that if they didn’t get their tanks topped up soon, they would have to seriously contemplate the possibility of closing.
This morning (Wednesday) she confirmed the water supply had been restored to the school, however.
Up and running
The supply is expected to continue throughout today, but will be shut off again tomorrow and reopened on alternate days until Sunday.
A message from Makana Municipality on Tuesday read as follows:
“Please note that water supply will be restored [Wednesday] morning through the whole day. Unfortunately this will only be for tomorrow and water will again be available on Friday. This is because we are currently working at 50% capacity. We will proceed like this until Sunday as we anticipate to be operating at 100% capacity by then.
“We would like to apologise for the inconvenience caused. We also urge resident to use water sparingly as our dam levels are still low,” the municipality said in its statement.
This information was confirmed by Makana councillor Brian Fargher, who visited the plant with colleague Brian Jackson on Tuesday.
The oversight visit established that the pumps were up and running and that reservoirs on the east side of the town were being filled.
“There’s reason to believe residents will receive water tomorrow [Wednesday] Fargher told GMDirect.”
Last week a group of Scotts Farm residents broke into Kuyasa school to take water. This week another group of residents from the area barricaded the north end of Albany Road with burning tyres after a water truck that had been dispensing water in the area left.
Yesterday [Tuesday] grateful residents flocked to a 5000-litre tank installed by the Gift of the Givers in Scotts Farm.
Also yesterday, the Gift of the Givers connected the boreholes drilled by the organisation at the height of the previous water crisis two years ago. In the video below are Makana councillor and Infrastructure portfolio head Ramie Xonxa and Gift of the Givers’ Hendrik Metzinger, Mohamed Gangat and Paul Gwaza.
WATER CRISIS DAY 6: 23 FEBRUARY 2021