Virus threat for squatters

Island informal settlement in Makhaza, Khayelitsha.

When one enters Island informal settlement in Makhaza, Khayelitsha, there is no sight of communal taps until one drives further down into the area – about a kilometre or so.

With the daily rise of the number of Covid-19 cases, residents in this area fear for their health. The area has about 10 communal taps which service an estimated population of close to 10 000 people.

One of the key directives issued by government to keep residents safe from the coronavirus pandemic, is to wash their hands frequently.

However, Island Development Forum secretary, Nonceba Ndlebe, said their community has communal taps that run dry more frequently now. After 7am, she said , their taps no longer have water for the entire day and it would be only around 8pm that the taps would have water again.

Some residents had been forced to fetch water before sleeping so that they do not have to wake up in the wee hours to get water.

But said Ms Jebe, this sometimes has the consequence of the taps not having water in the morning, leaving residents without water for nearly the entire day.

With the current pandemic spreading like wildfire, she said their health was at risk; making them vulnerable to be infected with the virus.

Ms Jebe said they had been forced to wake up early hours to get water so that by the time the taps run dry their buckets had been filled. “I fear for our children; I fear for those who are sick and senior citizens. This simply means if one of us in this area is found positive that person would infect almost the entire community. Looking at our challenge, no efforts have been made to provide us with water and yet the government is preaching all these messages of hygiene and we have no water.

“Since the outbreak of the coronavirus no officials from the City, provincial or national government visited the community,” she said.

Ms Jebe said they have engaged with their ward councillor to at least provide boreholes or JoJo tanks in the meantime but that suggestion has been ignored. Talking about their communal taps, she said the residents opted to put together monies to buy the necessary material to install the taps while connecting water from nearby areas. And she said they were also grateful that a local farm in the area provides them with water and yet it was still not enough.

Talking about the establishment of the area, she said the area was established in 2017 and during that time they had made their own means of getting water. But she said even though they had been forced to live in the area, the City should provide them with water, especially with this crisis facing the country.

Ms Jebe has also grabbed the opportunity to urge local businesses to donate sanitisers and other required hygiene measures as most of the residents in the area are unemployed.

Resident, Nokuthula Yawa, said she fears for her two children and wished that the government could provide them with water.

Ms Yawa said she has to wake up early so that she can get water. She carries two 20-litre buckets of water so that it can at least last the entire day.

On weekends, she said it becomes a nightmare as everyone is at home and it is also a time when everyone does their laundry. This, she said puts a massive pressure on the limited water supply. “We are doomed. We will be the first to die here,” she said, before walking away.

Ward councillor, Danile Khatshwa, said the key issue is that there are illegal water connections and therefore it affects the volume of water supply.

Mr Khatshwa said on weekends there is no water in the area and it’s because the water compression is too low as the residents had connected water pipes from nearby areas.

He said there was a process which had begun of finding ways of installing water in the area but due to this outbreak that process had been put on hold.

Answering the question of JoJo tanks, he said that was not an easy matter because the question remains where will the water come from to fill the tanks. He said according to his understanding JoJo tanks are used to contain water.