Rise of the water bandits
Cape crisis spawns new threat and demand for security rises alongside reports of theft
Cricket pitches have been vacated, swimming pools shut down and tennis courts abandoned due to the drought in Cape Town.
But the one thing schools cannot afford to cut out is security. In fact, as dam levels drop teachers have been warned to step up measures to protect their water resources.
Already authorities are receiving reports that people are jumping over walls to filch water from neighbours and that some are even stealing from fire hydrants.
This week, the Progressive Principals’ Association wrote to Western Cape Premier Helen Zille to request additional information about water-saving plans, including security.
Last week she promised representatives from 1,000 schools that lessons would not stop come Day Zero. She assured them water would be trucked to schools but asked that they improve security due to water theft.
“We are already having a big problem in our institutions of theft of water. At one of our institutions people arrived in bakkies at night and filled up tanks … from our hospital supplies,’’ said Zille.
“I don’t know why people are doing this. Maybe they are putting it in plastic bottles to sell.”She has asked private security companies to assist, especially if water is trucked to schools. “They are working on a system to be deployed to schools,’’ she said, adding that schools would be kept informed about the discussions.
Gavin Elliott, spokesman for the Progressive Principals’ Association, welcomed the help. The association has more than 1,000 members, most of whom are at the helm of “poorer public schools’’ which cannot afford additional security.
Elliott confirmed that summer sports programmes had been halted at many schools to conserve water. The association has entered into an agreement with corporates for schools to buy hand-sanitiser at discounted rates, children are encouraged to use water sparingly and many bring their own drinking water in bottles.
Jessica Shelver, spokesman for Education MEC Debbie Schäfer, said they had not received reports of water theft. But City of Cape Town law enforcement spokesman Wayne Dyason said in the Constantia there had even been reports of streams being diverted to private property.
“Similar cases have surfaced in the Noordhoek area. There have also been cases of theft of water from fire hydrants in the Paarden Eiland area,” said Dyason.
“People with outside taps on their property that can easily be accessed are advised to secure or remove them as there are even cases where neighbours are jumping over walls and stealing water from each other.”
In Milnerton, bakkies with 1,000 litre tanks and pumps had illegally extracted water from the vlei, he said.