ELDERLY residents and school children in Santa are forced to hang precariously onto a fence to negotiate dams of raw sewage that have resulted in the flooding of at least three roads in the area.
According to the residents of Zone 2, the situation has become so bad that they need a boat to cross the roads to leave their yards.
The residents say they have lost hope in the government, pointing out that their pleas to the premier, as well as to the executive mayor of the Sol Plaatje Municipality and even their ward councillor, have fallen on deaf ears.
At least three streets are completely covered in raw sewage that is bubbling up from two manholes that have been overflowing for more than two weeks.
It is believed that one of the two problematic manholes was left open, with the community and the municipality pointing fingers at each other.
Earlier this week, the situation became so bad that some community members ripped out the fence separating the Barkly Road Shopping Complex and the RDP houses in their frustration at the pools of sewage blocking access to the shopping complex.
This was after elderly residents were seen hanging onto the fence in an attempt to pass the massive dams of sewage.
On Thursday, the sewage was seen flowing down the streets and into the premises of the shopping complex, causing an unbearable stench.
Security guards stationed at the complex later re-erected the fence following concern that criminals would have easy access into the complex by jumping over the low wall.
A local business owner, Johannes November, the owner of a fruit and vegetable shop situated next to the dam of sewage, was forced to put down broken recycled roof tiles in an attempt to prevent the sewage from flowing into his shop.
He added that he was trying to minimise the risk of his children playing in the sewage like many other local children.
November said he moved into Santa in 1990 and the sewage had been an ongoing problem since then, with the municipality failing to find a permanent solution.
Another resident, Richard de Koker, said that their inhumane living conditions had become so serious that they had escalated it to the provincial government.
De Koker said the residents had heard so many empty promises about the Santa drainage system being on the municipality’s Integrated Development Plan priority list since 2017.
“Nothing has happened to date, however, and no permanent solution has been found.
“We were even assured that engineers would be sent to the site before the Covid-19 pandemic, but this also never happened.
“This area has had problems with sewage even before the Shoprite Complex was built.
“We are in a pandemic and we are encouraged to practise cleanliness but no one even gives us a second glance in this regard.
“Ward councillors came and went … IDP budgets were approved and disappeared but the sewage remains a problem.
“Even the mayor has not come to address us like he has in other wards.
“This shopping complex has so many food outlets but what about the health risk to customers?”
The Sol Plaatje Municipality has, meanwhile, blamed the residents for removing the manhole cover and throwing foreign objects inside, which, they say, causes massive blockages in the area.
Municipal spokesperson Thoko Riet said that municipal workers were in Santa on Sunday to unblock the drain.
“Municipal workers open and clean that manhole once a week but it defeats the purpose when things like big rocks, mops and nappies are thrown in, blocking the system,” said Riet.
“Residents need to assist us by working with us to restore our infrastructure.”
The residents, however, have dismissed the municipality’s accusations, stating that the problem is caused by poor infrastructure planning.
A resident living in one of the affected streets said that one of the manholes was left open by a TLB (tractor loader backhoe) sent to clean the area during a clean-up campaign earlier this year.
The management of Barkly Road Complex stated meanwhile that it had been a “nightmare” to get the municipality to find a permanent solution to the poor drainage.
The centre manager, Marcelle du Plessis, said they had spent almost half a million rand on installing two new pumps in an attempt to prevent sewage water damming up at the centre.
“It has been a nightmare because whenever the drain is blocked, which is every month, it pushes our drainage system back up.
“We have to pay a private contractor to unblock our drains time and time again because the municipality does not come to the party. In June alone we had to call the service provider four times to come and unblock the drains as it affected the tenants negatively,” said Du Plessis.
“The sad part is that we cannot just sit and watch as the community suffers because most of our employees are from Santa.
“I have been calling the municipality’s call centre for the past week and only managed to get through on Tuesday this week but nothing has been done thus far.
“It’s impossible to get through to the call centre.”
She added that the walls separating the complex from the community had been extended to avoid the sewage from entering the complex but it did not help.
“The sewage now pushes through the walls and flows into the complex, causing frustration among the tenants and shoppers.
“The walls also remain moist just like the walls and fences of the residents.
“It is frustrating for everyone and the municipality needs to acknowledge that we are ratepayers and they have services to render.
“Who will want to buy food in a complex smelling of sewage or park their car in pools of sewage?”
Other residents have meanwhile pointed out that the big rocks found lying near and inside the manhole could not have been moved by residents.
“It is possible that rocks and dirt have fallen in because the municipality failed to cover the manhole after working there.
“The municipality must stop using excuses. We are aware that the complex arranged for the sewage to be sucked by a honey-sucker truck earlier this week but the truck driver just stopped, assessed the situation, and said it was too risky to drive into such a river.”
Another resident pointed out that the sewage dam had become a problem when people had to go to and from work.
“It is not only a health hazard, but also a safety concern as schools have reopen,” he added.
“Some residents have opened their gates to allow their trapped neighbours to get through but the criminals also use that opportunity for burglaries.
“Even ambulances, police vehicles, undertakers and refuse removal vehicles cannot gain access to the area because they are concerned that they will get stuck.”
He said that a shack burned down last month because the fire engine was unable to access the area.
“We tried to allow the fire fighters access through nearby yards but their pipes were not long enough to access the fire.”
He suggested that the municipality close the manhole with a concrete lid and provide soil to lift the ground, especially in the areas affected most.