A group of Khayelitsha residents picketed outside the Khayelitsha Training Centre last Tuesday, demanding that the City of Cape Town stop cutting off their water supply.
The residents argued that the City targeted people who were not able to pay for their services even though they were unemployed and struggling to put food on the table.
With the current Covid-19 outbreak facing the country, residents wanted to know how they were they going to wash their hands regularly if their water supply had been cut off.
Community activists, Qaba Mbola, said his is one of the many whose water supply had been cut off and for the past two weeks or so he had been fighting with the City to reconnect his supply.
He said despite Cape Town being in the province with one of the highest number of recorded cases of Covid-19, residents’ water supply was being cut off, putting them at further risk of being infected.
He accused the City of double standards and claims that they do not cut water supply in white areas and it was only in the townships where water had been cut off.
Mr Mbola said he had been forced to beg for water from his neighbours. He said he hopes that the City will allow them to have water just like everyone else.
He said in his area he knows a lot of people whose water had been cut off and do not have the slightest idea of what to do.
“The City at some point told me that if I can buy food, surely I can pay the water. I told them I live from piecemeal (odd) jobs and that every cent that I get is to buy food so that we can at least have something to eat.
“We can’t survive without water that is for sure. The City said it would suspend cutting water supply but now it has just done the opposite. I hope that our pleas won’t fall on deaf ears. I mean there would be lockdown and how are we going to get water if we are expected to be at home all the time? We can’t go to the neighbours to ask for water.I hope that we could get water and that is my only prayer,” he said.
Another resident, Ndileka Mabusela, said the situation was frustrating and she fears for her health.
She said for the past two weeks her water supply had been cut off and that is why she has joined the picket protest. She said the disconnection of the water supply does not make sense in light of the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Clifford Sitonga, the manager of Sub-council 10, said he had received the memorandum of grievances and he has handed it to the relevant department. He said the City did promise that it will suspend its intention of cutting water supply so that people could get water.
He said he hopes that this matter can be resolved quickly so that people can have water and follow the strict instructions given by the president during the national 21-day lockdown announced from midnight today, Thursday March 26 until midnight April 16.
In a media statement released on Friday March 20, the City said as a health precaution in light of Covid-19, they would temporarily suspend new water restrictions for those who were in arrears with their municipal accounts and facing debt management actions.
However, other debt management mechanisms such as those performed via electricity disconnections or deductions from electricity prepayments will continue.
While the City urges customers in the statement to accept this temporary action in good faith and to continue to use water sparingly and only for health and hygiene purposes, it said customers must continue to pay for services to ensure the City remains financially healthy and is able to provide the necessary services especially during a time of crisis.
“A careful balance is needed as it can be reasonably expected the City’s finances could become strained as measures are implemented to help manage the crisis. Customers should also remain mindful of water consumption during Cape Town’s drought conditions and continued rainfall unpredictability while ensuring appropriate personal hygiene measures are adhered to. The City will communicate further as more interventions and decisions are taken,” the statement reads.