With little to no water to drink or to bathe, frustrated Joburg south residents gathered on Wednesday outside the Johannesburg Water Southdale Depot, demanding answers about the lack of water in their areas.
They were the face of South Africa’s water crisis … and such demonstrations could become more frequent in future as people take out their frustrations on those paid to run water distribution networks.
Neither Rand Water nor Johannesburg Water were willing to comment, each saying the other was responsible.
Johannesburg Water spokesperson Nolwazi Dlamini said The Citizen should contact Rand Water, or someone from the Robertsham community group who was part of the meeting.
‘Little to no alternative’
Rand Water spokesperson Nhlanhla Skosana sent The Citizen to another Rand Water spokesperson, Makenosi Maroo, who said we should speak to Joburg Water because “Rand Water is pumping and supplying water. Please speak to Puleng Mopeli: spokesperson for Joburg Water”.
Robertsham Action Group interim convenor Moe Alli said the engagement did not yield results.
“The buck is being passed to Rand Water. We, as residents, are now left with little to no alternative. The water which does come is not even enough to sustain people,” Alli said.
“And the residents do not have any access to reach out to Rand Water because we are not their client. We just find ourselves in limbo.”
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Johannesburg Water told Alli they would be meeting Rand Water tomorrow.
“Let’s hope we actually do get answers,” he said. After days without running water, at least 50 aggravated residents held a peaceful protest outside the depot. They came from Robertsham, Crown Gardens and Turffontein, among other areas.
As residents chanted “we want water!” and held placards saying “Water is a human right”, many complained that Johannesburg Water and Rand Water could not say what the problem was, nor when water would be fully restored.
Watch the video below:
‘Basic human right’
Robertsham resident Mohammed Khadir said since 15 March, he had not had a single drop of water.
Since last October, residents had been experiencing water shortages and problems related to valves being closed at night.
“We have been demanding from the councillors and Joburg Water to provide answers but there has been nothing to the effect of them trying to resolve our problems,” he said.
“We are now here to try and get answers as to why a basic human right like water is not available to the residents, yet we have to pay every single month for a service that is not being delivered.”
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Khadir said residents were told tankers would be deployed but that was an issue on its own.
“We have a lot of elderly people in the community and they cannot get to the tankers. It is very difficult for them to be moving water… It is just not fair,” he said.
United Independent Movement councillor Fatima Abdool said Robertsham had been experiencing water problems for the past two years, since the introduction of the new Crown Gardens water tower, and the issue had become more serious in recent months.
Kajee said residents wanted solutions.
“We have been patient enough. No-one is taking accountability, that is the problem,” she said.
‘Water is leaking’
Even as the people protested, what looked like clean water started spraying suddenly from a burst pipe.
Residents, even more frustrated by this, yelled, “water is leaking and being wasted” and “we have no water but look at that”, while others sarcastically rejoiced at the opportunity of finally having “some” access to water.
Following a meeting between Johannesburg Water, the Robertsham Action Group and ward councillors Rashieda Landis and Stuart Marais, the later blamed the supply from Rand Water.
“Once the system runs dry and starts filling up the pipes, the water does not come through strong enough to go into those established streets. By the time the water reaches there the demand is high. So they have closed the reservoir,” he said.
“[Johannesburg Water] are not saying they are in trouble, they are saying they are not getting enough supply. It is a problem people are without water.”
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