The Namibian (Windhoek)

9 November 2012

Namibia: Soweto and Kuvukiland in Dire Water Need

A HEALTH crisis is threatening in Tsumeb’s informal settlements of Soweto and Kuvukiland because of a lack of drinking water.

The only water available to the residents is from the public toilets, which is not safe for human consumption.

Alfeus Benjamin, the CEO of the Tsumeb municipality, has warned people against using toilet water for drinking or cooking.

During a visit to the two informal settlements The Namibian saw people fetching water from the toilets because it is the only water available.

The only communal standpipe, where the community could buy safe drinking water with their prepaid water cards, was vandalised and has not been repaired yet.

Residents of Kuvukiland, who are currently living on land owned by mining company Weatherly, have to fetch water from Soweto because their standpipes do not always have enough water.

“The situation is very bad here, we are suffering a lot in this part of the town and no one seems to care about us. There is nowhere we can get fresh running water, that is why we fetch it from the public toilets.

“To top it all, the water has been dirty for more than a month now. It is brownish and it is very risky to drink. Our children are suffering from runny tummies and this has to stop now,” said Mubasen Xamises, a longtime resident of Soweto.

She said they were still waiting for the municipality to finish the private toilets it had started building two years ago, adding that the situation could cause serious health problems.

“Only some people in Soweto have toilets at their houses and the vast majority is still using the public toilets and those are not clean because some of the people just relieve themselves at the door of the toilet.

“Also it is very dangerous, especially for women and young girls, to go to the public toilet at night because they risk being raped or assaulted,” Xamises said.

Tsumeb CEO Benjamin told The Namibian that no one is supposed to use fetch water for drinking from the public toilets in Soweto.

“The water in the public toilets is purely for flushing purposes and thus not healthy to drink at all. It is very unfair that the people blame the municipality for the woes in their areas because they break the infrastructure.

“The municipality erected a standpipe, which is an external freestanding pipe to provide running water in areas with no other water supply outside the toilets, but the residents decided to break them,” Benjamin said.

He said for almost 40 years the residents of Soweto did not pay for water and electricity but all that has to change because the municipality cannot continue to give free services to some people while others pay.

As a result, Benjamin explained, the municipality erected standpipes with prepaid water metering but some people broke the system.

“It just cannot work like that, we have to pay our suppliers of water and electricity and so must the residents also pay for the usage. This is how it works in every local authority anywhere in the world.”

So far private toilets have been installed in 154 houses in Soweto and the remaining 155 houses will be provided with toilets as part of the Oshikoto Regional Council’s sanitation programme, Benjamin said.

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