Sixty-six year-old Langa crèche owner Nombulelo Dyira says parents of the children she caters for are sending their children to other crèches because her property has not had running water for a month now.
Dyira is one of thousands of township residents running their households on just 350 litres of water each day, as a result of the City of Cape Town’s installation of Water Management Devices.
These devices, which restrict the flow of water to a property, are part of a City’s project to upgrade water supply facilities initiated in 2007.
Although they prevent poor and indigent residents running into arrears on their water bills, wealthier residents can arrange to pay for a greater daily limit than the 350 litre free minimum amount.
But although the meters are supposed to reset every morning to allow the day’s allotment of 350 litres water through, Dyira said this does not always happen and she has had to go for weeks without water.
“The lack of water has devastating effects on my household and for the children that I care for in my house,” she said.
For the last month Dyira and the roughly 30 children in her care have not been able to use the flush toilet because there is no water to fill the cistern, and staff have to walk a kilometre to fetch water from her sister’s house in order to conduct domestic tasks, as her neighbours are “fed up” with being asked for water.
“Business is not normal and since this absence of water started, parents are not sending their children to the crèche,” she said.
Another Langa resident, Josephine Yoto, 58, who lives in a four-bedroom house with eight family members and backyarders, said for the past month she has been “asking for water from sympathetic neighbours” and sometimes her family “lives without washing for days”.
Yoto said her problems started at the end of May when she came home from work and found that the City had installed a water metre device in her home.
She insists that the City should have called a community meeting before the devices were installed so residents could voice their concerns.
Thembisa Magazi, 50, lives with five other people in her Langa apartment and also depends on neighbours for water.
“I called the City Council’s office, but with no luck. Whenever I phone them I’m put on hold and I’ve run out of money to call their offices. Sometimes the City Council’s officials say they’ll come and sort this out but they never do,” she said.
“How can they make us live without water?”
Residents say complaints to the city fall on deaf ears.
But Director of Water Services, Philemon Mashoko, said the call centre monitors all complaints received via email, sms or on the hotline and response teams go out as soon as they can, although sometimes found residents provided the wrong address.
Robertson said part of the reason some people did not receive their daily water allotment could be due to leaks in the piping on the property.
But the approximately 46 000 devices installed in the city so far are not just aimed at limiting water payment arrears, he said, they are being installed across the city as all new developments irrespective of the income grouping.
“It’s also very important to note that this very same meter with device is being installed across other large Metros in South Africa such as Ethekweni, Tshwane, Zululand,” he said.
A City official said out of R1,5 billion in water arrears owed to the City, R1,2 billion was from poor communities with property values under R200 000, while R700 million was owed by owners of RDP houses valued at R88 000 and less.
Source: Sandiso Phaliso and Yugendree Naidoo, West Cape News / allAfrica.com, 13 July 2010