Nelson Mandela Bay residents threaten to shut down metro due to water crisis

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Members of the Nelson Mandela Bay Water Crisis Committee met with residents over the weekend to discuss the impending zero day on the Underground. They agreed to file a formal complaint with the Human Rights Commission, but warned they would shut down the city if the municipality continued to ignore them. Photo: Joseph Chirumé

  • Residents and members of the Nelson Mandela Bay Water Crisis Committee blame the municipality for the subway’s impending day zero.
  • They also warned that they were ready to close the metro if the municipality continued to ignore their demands.
  • They say city officials have failed to replace aging water infrastructure and fix frequent leaks.
  • The group contacted the South African Human Rights Commission to investigate allegations of corruption and mismanagement.
  • The municipality told GroundUp that it will increase tanker trucks, self-driving pipes and water tanks for communities.

The Nelson Mandela Bay Water Crisis Committee is demanding that the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) investigate allegations of corruption and mismanagement against the municipality. They also warned that they were ready to close the metro if the municipality continued to ignore their demands.

In a recent statement, the municipality warned residents that if “the current demand for drinking water continues at 280 million liters per day, 40% of the city will not have water by the end of June 2022” .

Municipal spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki told GroundUp last week that the municipality was “in the process” of increasing water tankers, self-driving pipes and water tanks for communities.

At a meeting attended by more than 120 people at Nelson Mandela University’s Missionvale Campus over the weekend, committee members said they would compile relevant documents for submission to the SAHRC this week. The committee blames the impending day zero on city officials for their failure to replace aging water infrastructure or fix frequent leaks.

Siya Mama, a member of the Water Crisis Committee, said the water crisis in the metro disproportionately affects the poor, who cannot afford to buy water.

The water crisis committee issued a list of 15 demands to the municipality in a May 9 press release. These include: stopping all water bills; application of the indigent policy; advance notification of water cuts; compensation for people who have suffered illnesses linked to contaminated water; proof that the water is drinkable; construction of a dam at Bersheba; seal all water leaks; provide each household with a Jojo reservoir; daily water supply trucks; the end of estimated water bills; and water tanks in all schools.

Leon Jack is a member of the Treatment Action Campaign and a resident of Soweto on Sea. He said households go days without water. “We find that clinics are closed early or their doors are locked because they have no water. We have seen an increase in the number of people not taking their treatment. Why doesn’t our municipality drill more boreholes? They don’t even supply tankers,” Jack said.

Resident Funeka Vellem said residents of Chris Hani, KwaNobuhle, have not had a constant water supply for three months. “People are getting sick because there is no clean water to drink and wash their hands. The tankers arrive after a long time and they don’t bring enough water. Most of the locals are poor and cannot afford bottled water. People are queuing outside a few houses that have water and their water bills are high,” she said.

Pensioner Patrick Yayi of Chris Hani told the group his water bill was R13,000 because he allowed desperate neighbors to draw water from his house. “I have no choice but to let people fetch water from my house. They would have vandalized my house if I had refused. I hope the municipality will clear the amount because this water was not wasted,” Yayi said.

Thembakazi Lindile from Motherwell said the intermittent water supply is affecting learning in schools as children are sent home earlier than usual each day. “School children are behind in their studies because they are sent away early when there is no water at school. This makes it difficult to plan their progression to subsequent classes,” Lindile said.

Loyiso Mpondo, Senior Liaison Officer at the SAHRC, told the committee in an email that: “Our office is investigating the issue of water quality in the NMBM. We met with the mayor and other senior officials, including the city manager. We await their written response.

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