Destitute villagers charged for water
Tanker drivers allegedly demand R1,200 to fill tanks in drought-hit areas
Desperate villagers in areas deprived of running water, including the Ngqushwa and Raymond Mhlaba municipalities, claim they are being forced to buy water from tankers meant to supply the resource for free.
The allegations are that some Amathole District Municipality (ADM) water truck drivers, as well as private service providers – contracted to cart water to areas affected by ongoing water crisis in the two municipalities – are charging residents as much as R1,200 to fill up their water tanks.
ADM, the district municipality which is a water authority to six local municipalities in its jurisdiction, including Ngqushwa and Raymond Mhlaba, on Friday confirmed they were investigating the matter.
Water and sanitation deputy minister Pam Tshwete told the Daily Dispatch on Friday that these areas were not the only two in the province where such allegations had surfaced.
Ngqushwa community leader Mzimkhulu Mzwali said “destitute, but desperate communities” in his area were sometimes forced to pay in order to get water.
He said three weeks ago he paid R1,000 to a water tanker driver to fill a 5,000l water tank at his Emazizini village home.
Mzwali claimed some ADM officials were “in cahoots” with private water tanker owners to sell water to desperate communities.
Someone there told me that their water trucks were broken down
Mzwali, speaking on behalf of 18 villages around Peddie, told the Daily Dispatch that the area had been without running water for the past three years and revealed that he first learnt about the sale of water from some officials at the ADM.
He did not get the names of the officials he spoke to.
“Just more than a month ago, with the water crisis persisting in our villages, I went to the ADM offices to ask when they would send water tankers to our villages so people could at least have drinking water.
“At the time, someone there told me that their water trucks were broken down and that there was no immediate hope for us to get the much-needed basic necessity.
“He instead told me about someone who I could phone and buy water from.”
On further inquiry, he was told that for R1,000, he could fill up his 5000l tank at home.
In nearby Ehlosini village, community leader Nomvano Nodikida said villagers there faced the same situation.
Earlier in August, hundreds of Raymond Mhlaba and Ngqushwa residents took to the streets protesting over dry taps, with claims in Ngqushwa that they had not a single drop of water from their taps for the past three years.
The Ngqushwa protesters disrupted traffic flow on the N2 between King William’s Town and Makhanda for hours, blockading the road with burning tyres and other objects.
Police used rubber bullets in a bid to disperse the hostile crowd, who at some point stoned passing vehicles.
Nodikida said when they were later addressed by their mayor, Mnikelo Siwisa, ADM mayor Zibuthe Mnqwazi and ADM administration bosses, they had raised their concerns over the selling of water.
She said in her area, people were charged R1,200 to fill up a 5,000l tank, and R600 to fill a 2,500l tank.
“Some of these unscrupulous people even gave us bank account numbers in which to deposit the cash before they would deliver water.”
Nodikida said this was reported to authorities when they visited the area amid the protest action earlier in August.
“Since we reported this I don’t think there has been anyone in my area who has been asked to pay for water,” she said.
Similar allegations have also surfaced in the drought-stricken Raymond Mhlaba municipality, with desperate residents in both Alice and Fort Beaufort claiming they were also asked to pay for water at times.
ADM spokesperson Nonceba Madikizela-Vuso confirmed that the matter had been brought to their attention, and urged communities to assist the municipality in finding the perpetrators. “They should take pictures of such people and trucks. Without evidence, we are unable to deal with this.
“We condemn the behaviour of people taking chances – they are supposed to provide water to our communities for free.”
Tshwete, who visited Ngqushwa a few months back, said she had been told of similar complaints in areas around King Sabatha Dalindyebo municipality and Clarkebury village in the Chris Hani district.
“Not only of selling water, but also of vandalism of water infrastructure, allegedly by people who then sell water to those communities whose infrastructure they destroyed,” Tshwete said.