Residents say their water is dirty. Tshwane says it isn't. Who's right?
In the meanwhile, people have to buy bottled water even though they can't afford it
Tshilidzi Nengovhela, 36, often has to make a difficult decision about her last R20: Should she buy food for her three children, or should she buy clean, bottled water?
“As I am speaking to you now, my husband is in hospital. He has diarrhoea, and it’s because of this water,” the Hammanskraal resident told Times Select last week.
The Human Rights Commission is in the process of probing allegations that the water in Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria, is contaminated, but the City of Tshwane has denied claims of dirty tap water.
Nengovhela said sometimes her family had no choice but to drink the tap water, even though they do not believe it is safe for consumption.
“Sometimes you have the last R20 and have to choose between buying bread for the kids to eat or buy water. For a big family like ours, buying water is a serious expense, and now in summer it will be even more expensive because we will need more water.”
Nengovhela said her family had been spending about R200 a month on bottled water, but it was still not enough.
“Sometimes we try to boil it, but this water is not good at all. It is pure dirt. Even after boiling it, you’ll see foam remaining on top of the boiled water.”
The problem is not only limited to the quality of water – supply is also a challenge.
“Sometimes we go for almost two days without having water.”
Dr Louis van Zyl, who has been practising in the area since 1992, said he had seen an increase in the number of diarrhoea cases in recent months.
“The problem here is one cannot specifically pinpoint that the diarrhoea is caused by drinking contaminated water,” Van Zyl said.
Another local doctor agrees. Dr Oupa Temane said there was definitely an increase in the number of diarrhoea patients, but he added: “Most of my patients tell me they don’t drink water from taps.”
Residents insist one can see with the naked eye how dirty the water is.
“You can just see that this water is not good for drinking,” said Cynthia Sebola, 61. “It’s a serious inconvenience to our finances. On hot days like today, a five-litre bottle is not enough for just drinking.”
Thato Mnehi, 28, added: “The water stinks! You can see the dirt through your eyes. We don’t drink that water anymore.”
Herman van Beek, 56, said the situation was unfair. “We pay for our municipal services, but we are actually receiving no service from the municipality. Water is a basic human right and they are depriving us of that right.
“If they can just make sure that they purify the water properly, our lives will be better.”
Local councillor Adam Mashapa expressed frustration with the situation.
“The problem here is that we are fed sewage water from Rooiwal that is not treated. The water has a very bad smell.”
He said the City of Tshwane sent four water trucks to his ward every day but these are not enough.
“My ward is very big. Four trucks are not enough to deliver water to more than 40,000 people in my ward. This is a very big ward.”
Member of the mayoral committee (MMC) for utility services in the City of Tshwane Darryl Moss said he was aware of some “hiccups in the past”.
“We did have hiccups in the past, but the issue is resolved now. As far as I know, the quality of water in those areas has improved. Tests were run on the water and the results showed that the quality of water meets the required standard. A copy of the results was given to the Hammanskraal Residents Association,” said Moss.
“I myself drink the water from taps when I’m in Hammanskraal because the tests show that there is nothing wrong with the water.”
He said the city was in the process of commissioning a new purification plant in Temba, which would solve the water problems in the area.
“By the end of October, the plant will be giving us 30 million more litres of water daily. The quality will definitely be good and water supply will also improve in high-lying areas,” said Moss.