By ‘Odidi Matai-Sigudla
As Makana Municipality and Amatola Water repeatedly reassure the public that the James Kleynhans Water Treatment Works (JKWTW) project is capable of delivering water to every tap in the municipality every day, many Makhanda residents’ taps are completely dry. These residents continue to depend on scarce water truck deliveries and hold onto the withering hope of Makana’s water woes being a thing of the past by the end of the year – as promised by Makana municipality.
“The thing about the water trucks, it’s rare. It comes those times,” said Precious Nortjie, a Hooggenoeg resident. She said her area often experiences two or three water-off days, then a water-on day, and a water truck that only comes twice a month. “Sometimes those with Facebook, and WhatsApp would report that the truck is coming or the truck would come, and you wouldn’t even know. It also has to be forced to stop,” she added, referring to the reluctance sometimes of the drivers to stop for all those who need to fill buckets with water.
Another Hooggenoeg resident, Queen Kuniri, added that the municipal water truck did not always arrive at the appointed time or even on the scheduled day. “It would be said that the water truck is coming on a certain day, but then you’ll find out that it didn’t come. It went to other areas even though it said [it would be here]. And then sometimes it did come, but there’s nobody at home, the children are at school, I’m at work, so on that day it came, some people would get water and you wouldn’t,” said Kuniri.
People living in the Avenues in Hoogenoeg get into disagreements because of the lack of water delivery to their area. “For instance, if the truck stopped at 4th Avenue, we as the 7th Avenue would come, but those from 4th Avenue want the water truck to be for 4th Avenue only, not the other Avenues. We would fight by mouth and curse out because we also want this water,” Kuniri told Grocott’s Mail.
Nortjie has a water tank she bought with her own money, but Kuniri depends solely on the water truck deliveries once her taps run dry. “The water comes out dirty. I fill my 25 litre buckets, three or four of them. But the toilet stinks. When you have to use the toilet, you have to wait for the water you just used to wash and use it for the toilet. And now there’s no way that it flushes the same way. It leaves a stench. It’s worse when it’s the toilet inside the house.” Kuniri adds that even though the water is dirty, they still have to cook with it. “We don’t have a choice,” she said.
The residents of eNkanini informal settlement in Makhanda have a community tank from which they can get water. However, eNkanini resident Olvienia Mapaling complains that more than one tank is required because the water is rarely refilled. “When the water is finished, it’s finished. We have to go and get water in Extension Ten [the neighbouring community], which is also not worth [it, because] the other people don’t want to give us water.”
The small town of Alicedale is part of the Makana Municipality, situated an hour’s drive from Makhanda. It consists of three areas -the town centre, KwaNonzwakazi and Transriviere. Residents spent several months this year “surviving” on water that they collected in buckets from seven Jojo tanks situated across the communities. This was after the municipal reservoir was vandalised, cutting off the regular supply on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.
Alicedale’s Ward Councillor Vuyani Nesi, an Independent, told Grocott’s Mail this week that the three day per week water supply had now been restored, but not to every household.
“There are certain streets that the water didn’t get [to], but what we said was that at least people must assist one another. If it doesn’t get to your tap, then a neighbour or a person that is close to you to assist a particular person that doesn’t get water,” Nesi said.
A hill-like slope divides the town into two sections. On the top is KwaNonzwakazi, and at the bottom lies Transriviere, with a street between the two sections. “Those areas that are in the bottom side of the street don’t get water, and then obviously that particular person can cross the street and get water from their [neighbour],” Nesi said.
Alicedale resident Eli Konstant said it was very difficult for residents to cope when water was trucked in because Makana Municipality did not provide a schedule for people to plan their lives around. “We are not given the schedule… we do not have. People tend to just say – oh, water came today,” said Konstant.
Back in Makhanda, “the municipality really needs to jazz up their responsibility with regards to the constant outages of water,” said Rachel Elizabeth du Preez, a resident of Oatlands North. Du Preez is one of several hundred Makhanda residents who live in high-lying parts of town that can go without water for weeks at a time. “Especially us people living in the high-lying areas. I mean, it’s easy to have an excuse to say that the water can’t reach us, but they knew this [was]coming for a long time and they should make sufficient plans for us,” she said.
Du Preez said she was forced to refill her water tank at her own cost even though she pays rates and water fees to the municipality. “Because I’m not getting water, I’m starting to doubt if I should [continue]paying these rates and taxes to them because they are not giving us any services,” said Du Preez.
The Municipality defended itself against the allegations. “You can’t put in timeframes that are exact and say we will be in one place for a certain amount of time,” said Makana Municipality spokesperson Anele Mjekula, referring to complaints that the water trucks don’t follow a schedule and so it is difficult for residents to know when to collect water.
Mjekula said the municipality has “a limitation of trucks. We don’t have enough trucks to cover an area at the same time. So we can’t put a certain time, because sometimes it depends on the number of people who are in a certain venue. So it’s difficult to say because it depends on the number of people that come to fetch water at any given time,” he told Grocott’s Mail.
Mjekula added that the municipality had identified the areas that still struggle with water issues. “So [the municipality]is trying to deliver water on a daily basis to all of those areas while the problem is still being solved of us not receiving water even though there’s water,” he concluded.