South Africa: Durban Community Without Running Water for Four Years

DA calls for Human Rights Commission to investigate ongoing water crisis in eThekwini

  • The DA in KwaZulu-Natal has called for the Human Rights Commission to urgently investigate the ongoing water crisis in several communities under the eThekwini municipality.
  • We recently visited the rural community of Ngonyameni near Umlazi where communal taps have been dry for over four years.
  • Residents say they are forced to fetch underground water from a nearby makeshift well with their plastic containers because they say the municipality’s tankers don’t come often.
  • The eThekwini municipality says the uMkhomazi Water Project is expected to supply bulk water to this and other communities.

Ngonyameni near Umlazi, Durban, has been without running water for five years. Most residents there have to make an uphill journey to fill their water containers at a nearby water well because they say the municipal water tankers are inconsistent.

However the community’s water woes are not isolated. Several other suburbs under the eThekwini Municipality have had water crises for years.

On Tuesday, the DA’s KwaZulu-Natal leader, Francois Rodgers, asked the Human Rights Commission to urgently hold public hearings in the north of eThekwini and to investigate the ongoing water crisis in several communities.

“It is unthinkable that the community of Bester in KwaMashu has not had water for 14 years and Tongaat has not had water for 90 days. Phoenix continues to have daily water outages without explanation,” Rogers said.

The statement accuses the eThekwini Municipality of committing human rights violations for its failure to provide water to the affected communities. “DA Councillors have even gone as far as trying to organise their own water tankers because they are only allocated one or two tankers per ward to service 20,000 people.

Ngonyameni’s residents say they have to fetch underground water from the well which is about 300 metres away with their containers. They say the communal taps in the area have been dry late since 2019.

When we visited the area, we saw dozens of large buckets and plastic containers outside the gates of many homes while other homes have water tanks to collect rainwater.

Phiwe Nzimande complained that the municipality’s water tankers only come twice a month. “We protested twice last year with the hope that our ward 100 Councillor would try to resolve the problem, but it seems as if he is not bothered by our problem. We have a Constitutional right to have clean water provided by the Municipality,” said Nzimande.

Another resident Thobile Khumalo said she is forced to drive with her six 25-litre buckets to fetch water about four kilometres away.

“We decided not to fix our rusty and broken taps. During Covid, I was worried because we were told that we must … wash our hands regularly, but we didn’t have water in the taps,” said Khumalo.

The eThekwini municipality spokesperson Mandla Nsele said they are working on a long-term intervention. This lies with uMkhomazi Water Project which includes the construction of a dam. This dam is expected to supply bulk water to this and other communities in eThekwini.

Nsele said the Project is being implemented by the National Department of Water and Sanitation. “Processes have begun to get the project underway which is due to be in completed in 2032.

“Ngonyameni area is among many informal areas with a fast growing population. Water tankers are not a waste as it provides emergency relief. EThekwini municipality has more than 100 water tankers,” said Nsele.

The Human Rights Commission did not respond to our requests for comment by the time of publication.

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