18 March 2019

South Africa: Living Beside an Open Sewer in Port Elizabeth

Old sewer pipes that cannot cope with the volume of sewage are making life hell for a number of residents of Motherwell, Port Elizabeth. Their streets and sometimes their houses are flooded by raw sewage.

Nkume Street, on the edge of NU11 and close to the Addo Road, has a trench alongside that becomes a river of sewage. It flows into an open landfill space where it forms pools of dirty water with faeces.

Ward 55 Councillor Mzuvukile Boti (ANC), whose portfolio is public health, said, "There is no way that sewage problem can be fixed without replacing the old pipes. It is not only a problem with NU11, where sewage pipes are overwhelmed, but the entire Motherwell."

"The other problem is that the pump station is being overwhelmed, because Motherwell has been experiencing an influx of new people ... We need bigger pipes and there is also the need to change the pump station. I have to appeal to the municipality to allocate a budget for that.

"I will be visiting the site soon with the head of infrastructure and engineering portfolio, [PR] Councillor Andile Lungisa (ANC), so that he can see the situation for himself."

Nombulelo Bosakwa, a resident, says sewage has been a problem since they first settled in the area in 1992. She says an underground pipe running under her house from a municipal sewage tank 100 metres from her home frequently bursts.

"Raw sewage pops out of the ground and drenches my yard. It eventually overflows into the house ... It is a shame to tell you that we are used to this," she said.

"This current problem has not been fixed since October last year. I have lost count of how many times I have visited the local councillor's office ... At one time he visited us and inspected the place," said the disappointed resident.

Spokesperson for Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Kupido Baron said residents should approach their councillors to report the problem and ensure they have a reference number.

Another resident, who did not want to give his name, said, "I am a law-abiding citizen who is paying his municipal rates. We don't deserve this type of life ... What infuriates me is that the municipality is not telling us the cause of the problem."

Phumla Fezi, also of Nkume Street, lives with her husband and two children in a house on the furthest corner of Nkume Street, close to a manhole that overflows. "We appeal to officials to come and repair the pipes so that we live a normal life like every other resident. We can't even eat well because of a pungent smell that also attracts flies and worms," she said.

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