Waterless Khayelitsha residents fear Covid-19

“I fetch water from the nearby dam each morning and evening for my household of six people,” says Ndileka Mabusela, who lives in Khayelitsha. “My children are ill and need clean water to take their medication daily.”

We boil the water before we use it for bathing, cooking and drinking,” says the  47-year-old mother of seven. 

Mabusela’s home is the Makaza region of the Khayelitsha township in Cape Town. The area  contains a high number of informal settlements, RDP houses, and informal backyard dwellers.

She is one of dozens of residents who picketed outside the Cape Town Civic Centre over a lack of water. Residents decided to take to the streets this week, before the country entered into a 21-day lockdown period.

Mabusela and around 100 other households in the area had their water cut off due to account debt. 

As the country prepares to go into lockdown, residents fear that they may be at a higher risk of contracting Covid-19. This could impede government’s attempts to flatten the curve to contain the spread of the coronavirus and avoid a health crisis. 

In a statement, the residents said: “There are high rates of poverty, unemployment and crime. We live in cramped homes without space to self-isolate or effectively practise social distancing. We already experience unsanitary conditions with drain blockages where raw sewage spills into the streets and spaces where children play.” 

The Western Cape has so far recorded the second-highest number of cases of Covid-19 in the country, with 229 out of 927 nationwide cases by Thursday. 

For Mabusela and other residents of Khayelitsha, whose water has been cut off, governments’ messages to increase hand-washing in the face of the pandemic are futile without water in their homes. 

“I am unemployed and I live in the township. Where will I get the money to make payments?” she asks. 

Last Friday, the city of Cape Town announced that it would temporarily suspend water restrictions for residents whose municipal accounts were in arrears. Mabusela,
however, says the city’s officials advised her that her water would only be switched back on once she arranges a repayment plan to settle her debt. 

Mayoral committee member for finance Ian Neilson said that it is still unclear whether residents have no water because of lack of water supply or water interruptions, if the water pressure is playing a role, or if the customers have been restricted to a running trickle-flow of water due to municipal debt.

covid-19 in sa

“In general, if water is restricted, it is done to a running trickle-flow of water, which means that one can wash hands with soap and rinse it with the trickle,” he said. 

“There is no need to protest.”

Xanthea Limberg, a mayoral committee member for water and waste, told the group of protestors that the city is looking into providing residents with water tanks as an interim measure. Limberg did not, however, indicate when the tanks would be provided. 

In the meantime the national department of water and sanitation has identified 2 000 informal settlements that require water and sanitation services during the lockdown period.  Water tankers will be distributed across communities in need.

Thando Maeko is an Adamela Trust business reporter at the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Thando Maeko
Thando Maeko is an Adamela Trust business reporter at the Mail & Guardian
Advertisting

‘Frustrated’ police resort to force

Regulation uncertainty leaves slap-happy police and soldiers to decide when people should or shouldn’t be allowed on the streets

Mail & Guardian needs your help

Our job is to help give you the information we all need to participate in building this country, while holding those in power to account. But now the power to help us keep doing that is in your hands

Press Releases

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders