By Owethu Nokhangela
Residents of Vergenoeg in Makhanda have suffered the cruelest ordeal of not having water for five consecutive weeks, making it more than one month filled with nothing but poor hygiene and health hazards.
Residents in Vergenoeg’s Valley Road interviewed by Grocott’s Mail said their water supply stopped after municipal workers dug open holes, which led to pipes bursting. Ever since, the municipality had ignored their complaints and pleas for assistance, the residents said.
“Water trucks do come to give us water, but we are not sure when they come as they have no consistent timetable”, senior resident Prince Fred said. According to him, even elderly residents have to carry buckets to get water from the trucks, which is difficult for him.
Maureen Brown (84) says she has difficulties in getting water from both the trucks and a fire hydrant, which is about 200 metres from her house. “The kids go to school so I have to collect water for myself. If not, I must wait for someone to help me as I am old and cannot carry heavy buckets alone”, she said. Brown explained that, as a solution to her problem, she keeps many buckets and five-litre bottles under her table so that she has enough water to last her until the trucks come back.
“They bring dirty water for us to drink. It’s not clean enough for human consumption”, Henry Michaels complained. “I, myself, told them that we are going to close the hydrant because the trucks come, fill up with water at the corner and then take that water to the farms and Alicedale, and in return bring us dirty water”, he said. Michaels added that the allegedly unclean water brought by the water trucks led to his three-year-old being hospitalised, after he had stomach trouble and was unable to eat for two weeks.
He also said that residents now collect rainwater in buckets outside their houses to help them flush their toilets and wash their laundry. “When it is not raining, it’s hard as we have toilets in the house,” Michaels said.
Resident Ronnie Scheepers pointed out the fire hydrant on Valley Road, explaining that several trucks visit the hydrant almost every day to fill up with water. As he is explaining, a municipal water truck arrives and begins filling up from the hydrant. An angry Scheepers said he went once with buckets to the hydrant to try to get just 25 litres of water to flush his toilets, but the water truck drivers called the police. He was nearly arrested for wanting water, but was lucky enough to be let off.
Right outside the homes of Michaels and Brown are huge, muddy holes filled with water due to the leaking pipes. Hundreds of litres of fresh water flood out, flowing down Valley Road and being wasted. Residents say they have reported the issue several times and the council is well aware of their plight, yet continues to do nothing to assist them. The Vergenoeg residents watch water running out of leaking pipes, and flooding the streets, but have none in their houses.