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Residents ‘blindsided’ by water shutdown

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Despite Sol Plaatje Municipality recently rolling out its “turnaround plan” to address water shutdowns and increase water levels at the Riverton and Newton reservoirs, city residents have been left high and dry once again.

Desperate De Beers and Kimberley North residents fill their containers with water that runs into the Hull Street subway. Picture: Soraya Crowie

DESPITE Sol Plaatje Municipality recently rolling out its “turnaround plan” to address water shutdowns and increase water levels at the Riverton and Newton reservoirs, city residents have been left high and dry once again.

Statistics South Africa, during the recent handover of the 2022 Census results, said that the Northern Cape recorded the highest percentage of water interruptions in the country, at 65.8 percent.

Residents of Kimberley know about this only too well and voiced their frustrations yesterday after the municipality implemented an “emergency water shutdown”.

Many residents said that the municipality had “blindsided” them and had not given them any warning about the water shutdown.

They added that the municipality sounded like a broken record as the same problems were announced over and over again.

“We have heard this story about the outdated infrastructure for many years. Yet, even when they know about the problem, nothing has been done to find a permanent solution to the problem. Over the past years, we have been subjected to these water shutdowns that drag on for many days. This is inhumane and a crime to humanity. This is a repetitive cycle that does not seem to end,” they said.

By 10am on Wednesday morning, many residents were already searching for water points in the city.

Some residents in De Beers resorted to filling up their containers at the Hull Street subway from a stream of water that was flowing from the wall of the subway.

The residents said there had been no water tankers in their area despite promises by the municipality that water tankers would be roaming the different wards.

“There has not been a water tanker in this entire area. We now have to risk our safety … We do not have a choice as we cannot go without water. We have finished our emergency water that we usually keep for when there are nightly shutdowns. We now have no water in our homes and some of us have no transport or even the finances to go buy water in town,” they said.

Residents who made their way to the municipality to fill up their containers were greeted by empty JoJo tanks.

Many residents accused the municipality of poor planning.

“This shutdown was not planned properly. Most people are scrambling to find water and we still have so many days still to go before the water is restored. We will not survive the coming days at this rate.

“We are even greeted by empty JoJo tanks on the premises of the municipality. The water at Hancor is also depleted. This is a clear indication that the municipality has not thought about the impact of this shutdown. Had there been prior communication, we would have made the necessary arrangements and filled up our containers at home. The municipality has not warned residents timeously about this problem.”

The CEO of the Northern Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sharon Steyn, supported the claims that the shutdown was an infringement of human rights.

“This is not an emergency. The chamber had meetings with the municipality and we have extended a helping hand in trying to solve the water challenge in the city. We had engineers and even informed the municipality about some leaks we had identified. All our efforts were declined by the municipality,” said Steyn.

“Had they accepted the help we offered, they probably would have made much more progress and residents and businesses would not be in this mess. Having access to clean drinking water is a basic human right that residents in this city have been denied for years.”

Steyn said the water shutdown has irreversible implications for small business owners.

“The bigger businesses are able to cope for a few hours or a day or so during a shutdown. However, smaller businesses are not able to make a profit or even operate during this time as there was a water shutdown with no warning. This is the busiest time of the year and businesses now have to close their doors due to hygiene issues. The entire problem lies at the door of the municipality,” she said.

Cope provincial leader Pakes Dikgetsi said the water crisis is an indication of the “insensitivity, maladministration and incompetent leadership” of the municipality.

“The lack of transparency, decency and honesty about the actual water services situation over the past months and years is now haunting the corrupt municipal regime. This sadly impacts residents adversely,” said Dikgetsi.

“The leadership of Sol Plaatje should for once be honest and take ratepayers into their confidence. It is the ratepayers who pay the salaries of both politicians and administrators. The consistent less-than-candid excuses about the state of the infrastructure need to come to an end.

“Promises of fixing and maintaining the infrastructure are hollow. We are reliably informed that this is a case of sabotage to enable ‘tanker mafias’ to defraud the municipality.”

Dikgetsi added that he would write to the national minister to intervene.

“Cope will apply to the minister of Water and Sanitation, as well as the MEC for local government, to take over the functions of water and sanitation. There must be an intervention before services collapse entirely.”

De Beers and Kimberley North residents fill their containers with water that runs into the Hull Street subway. Picture: Soraya Crowie

Residents were once again forced to try and source water after being informed that there would be three-day emergency water shutdown. Picture: Soraya Crowie

A woman walks towards the Hull Street subway with an empty container in a stroller. Picture: Soraya Crowie

A young man hits an ANC poster with his empty container as he walks through West End to collect water. Picture: Soraya Crowie

Residents fill up containers with water at Hancor. Picture: Soraya Crowie

Frustrated residents stand in a long queue for water at Hancor. Picture: Soraya Crowie

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