Residents without water plead for re-connection

The group picketing outside Khayelitsha Training Centre against water cutoffs on Tuesday. Photo by Lilita Gcwabe

A group of residents and activists picketed outside Khayelitsha Training Centre on Tuesday demanding that the City of Cape Town re-connects their water so that they maintain best hygiene practice as it is one of the means to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Despite the City of Cape Town issuing a statement that it will temporarily suspend new restrictions for water debt as part of coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency measures, residents of Khayelitsha on the first day of the nationwide lockdown, and who were picketing outside Khayelitsha Training Centre earlier this week, said they are still disconnected.

Ndileka Mabusela was one of the residents protesting on Tuesday against the disconnection of water supply. Her water was disconnected on the 18th of March and now she fetches water from a nearby dam as neighbours are no longer willing to help her. “The water to my house was disconnected last week Wednesday and I got water from the neighbours for a few days but I now fetch water from a nearby dam. I use the water for laundry, bathing and for drinking. I do boil the water though,” said the 47-year-old mother.

The picketers were urging the City of Cape Town to prevent the spread of the virus given the fact that access to clean sanitation in the township, and in the informal settlements especially, is bad. “We do not throw water away after washing our hands; we keep it in a bucket to use it for the same purpose. All we want is for the City of Cape Town to reconnect us,” Mabusela said.

Another resident whose water has been cut off said that research shows between 60-100 households have had their water disconnected in Khayelitsha in the past few weeks. “As we know that this coronavirus thrives in high density areas like our townships, all we want is for the City of Cape Town to open our taps,” said Harare resident, Qaba Mbola. “By doing this the City has sentenced us to death,” he said.

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According to its statement suspending new water restrictions, “[[t]he City urges customers to accept this temporary action in good faith and to continue to use water sparingly and only for health and hygiene purposes. At the same time, 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.”

Alderman Ian Neilson, the City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee Member for Finance, said that the temporary payment arrangement will be valid until the end of June 2020.

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