South Africa: Daily Struggle to Get Water in Pietermaritzburg Location

Water trucks no longer deliver, and a project to install taps has stopped in Umkhambathini

Residents in Umkhambathini, Maqongqo location, in Pietermaritzburg have to fetch water from an old tank located in the bush. Some travel 7km to reach it. Residents were getting water from water tankers, but these are no longer supplying them.

They say the tank, fed by a spring, belonged to the Department of Agriculture and dates back to the 1980s. Families with livestock also use it as a watering hole for their animals.

"Those who were lucky would have water from the water tankers. The water tankers were selective with their water supply. We don't know why that was happening," said resident Zodwa Khoza.

"Seeing that a lot of us were suffering, we [women] cleaned the tank. Most of the community is using that water now. It is not clean ... The tank is open. It is not covered on the top. Whatever gets in cannot be prevented. We have no control over animals who drink from the tank," said Khoza.

She said residents also dirtied the water with the buckets they used.

Nomazwi Mbatha, who is 65, said, "The water is contaminated but we drink it anyway. My house is far from the tank but I have to walk everyday. I'm sometimes helped by the young ones."

Sakhile Mntungwa said, "We had hope when we saw a contractor busy installing pipes to our homes. In some houses they have put up taps. Last month the company left ... We are appealing that they provide us with water tankers in the meantime. The water we are drinking is not healthy."

"Water is a problem but we are not folding our hands about the issue," said Councillor Nhlanhla Zondo when asked about the company stopping work. "There were a few things left for the project to finish ... I have asked the municipality to come and explain to the residents why the project has stopped. I don't have all the answers."

Umgungundlovu District Municipality spokesperson Brian Zuma said there were problems between the contractor and subcontractors over payments. "The company has an obligation to complete the current scope of work as per contract ... There is absolutely no problem with the funding," he said. "There are discussions going on to resolve the problem so that they go back on site to complete the work."

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