Flood of concerns over water crisis

Wilhelmina McDonald, 76, of Tafelsig wants to know how people are going to get to the water collection points in the event of Day Zero. Pictured on the right is Sulyman Stellenboom from the Tafelsig Activists Forum.

With Day Zero inching closer and Level 6B water restrictions taking effect from tomorrow, Thursday February 1, residents of Tafelsig voiced their concerns and questions over the water crisis at a public meeting called by the Tafelsig Activists Forum on Saturday January 27.

The meeting also touched on the water management devices, the roll-out of water collection points in the event of Day Zero, earmarked now as Monday April 16, incorrect billing and the Draft Water Amendment By-law.

The crowd who had gathered on the open field bordered by Grey Crescent and the New Apostolic Church, Tafelsig, was made up mostly of elderly residents. One of these residents Wilhelmina McDonald, 76, asked the question that was uppermost in many people’s minds: “How are we, the elderly, going to collect water in Maitland? Hoe kom ons daar uit? Ons kom klaar nie uit met die All Pay wat ons nou kry nie.”

Maitland and Bergvliet High School have been identified as possible water collection points should the water crisis reach levels where taps will have to be turned off and residents will have to queue for their daily ration of water. The City said there will be a total of 200 water collection points, all of which still have to be revealed.

Sulyman Stellenboom from the Tafelsig Activists Forum, which is affiliated to the Western Cape Water Crisis Coalition, said water is not the problem but rather the people who are in charge of managing the water issue.

“I live in a RDP house, yet I had a water bill of R40 000. No swimming pool, no garden, one tap in my house. Nou hoe de hel? After complaining on the mayor’s Facebook page about this, the bill was reduced to R22 000. I refuse to pay this. Now they want to target households in ‘arrears’ with these water management devices.

“What do we think is going to happen with this water situation and water collection points – it’s going to turn into a fight,” he said.

Another pensioner from Lost City asked whether residents are obligated to pay water bills based on estimated readings. The 68-year-old woman, who did not want to be named, said they have been without a water meter since June last year.

Explaining her family’s dilemma, she said: “Our water meter was faulty and we reported this to the City of Cape Town. This was in the second week of Ramadaan. They came to collect the meter but never replaced it. All that we are left with is a metal pipe where the meter used to be. Since June last year, someone from the City would come every month, take a picture of this pipe and send it to his supervisor. Yet this pipe has no readings whatsoever. Our bill is now over R4 000. We are a household of six adults and two children. I’m the only one at home during the day, so how can it be?”

She added: “Last month I took my whole pension to pay off this amount but I cannot cope. This situation is worrying me immensely. I have been to the City’s office at the Promenade so many times, the last being on January 22, yet they can’t sort this out.”

Ernest Theron, a proportional representative (PR) councillor for the ANC, who was also one of the speakers at the meeting, has undertaken to look into this matter for the pensioner.

Mr Theron warned residents that the City is also going to cut funding from quite a few development projects to pay for the desalination plant projects under way.

Among these, he said, were R9 million from the Beacon valley housing project,
R4.9 million cut from the water supply of the Khayelitsha Water Treatment Park, off Baden Powell Drive, R1 million from an informal settlement sanitation installation project, R10 million from the Harare housing infill project, R 7.5 million from the Langa CRU upgrade,
R2 million from the Kanonkop housing project in Atlantis and
R2 million from the Fisantekraal Phase 2 Garden City/City of Cape Town project, among others.

The Plainsman asked the City of Cape Town if this information is correct and if it is,what it would mean for these projects and the beneficiaries in terms of completion deadlines, whether beneficiaries, particularly those of housing projects, have been informed and whether this shortfall would be made up eventually, and if yes, how?

We did not get a response at the time of publishing.

Furthermore, Mr Theron said the agricultural sector uses 59% of water, households 12% and contrary to popular belief, informal settlements only uses2%.

A check of the City’s online water dashboard yesterday, Tuesday January 30, showed that it was last updated on Monday January 22. It showed that the Strandfontein desalination plant is 52% behind schedule, the Monwabisi plant is 58% behind schedule and the V&A Waterfront plant is 33% on schedule.

The Tafelsig Actvists Forum can be contacted on 078 333 3072.