Living everyday like it is the last

Ayesha Johnston, 50, turns her tap but no water comes out.

While Day Zero is now projected to be on Monday July 9, Mitchell Heights families are already living Day Zero.
While some residents wake up at about 5am for fajr (early morning Muslim prayers) and cannot perform ablution because nothing comes out of their taps, others leave home for work at this hour, without water.
They collect bottles of water from their family members, some who do not even live in Mitchell’s Plain, or they visit these family members to have a shower.
More than 15 Tafelsig families in Stella Street have had their water off for episodes of up to 48 hours at a time between June and December last year.
The reason appeared to be the reduction of water pressure during the drought and the implementation of Level 5 water restrictions (“Tafelsig residents upset with water cuts,” Plainsman Wednesday September 13).
At the time residents were fed-up with the inconvenience of not having water.

On Thursday February 22 Councillor Washiela Harris, DA Proportional Representative (PR) councillor, raised their plight during Mitchell’s Plain Sub-council 12’s monthly meeting at the Lentegeur administration office. Mitchell Heights residents are without water every other day, sometimes three to four days a week.

Mitchell Heights forms part of Ward 99 (Tafelsig – east of Waboomberg Close, Baviaanskloof Street, Bokkeveld Avenue, Olifantshoek Street, Waaihoek Street, Tafelberg Street, Voëlvlei Street, Langeberg Avenue, Piketberg Street, Keeromberg Street, Benfica Road, Bavern Munich Road, Huguenot Avenue; Khayelitsha, Good Hope, Endlovini informal settlement, Wolfgat Nature Reserve, Monwabisi and Kuyasa), which is in Sub-council 10 in Khayelitsha, where Ms Harris and her colleague Thulani Dasa, also a DA PR councillor, play an oversight role. “This problem is ongoing. I’d like to know the way forward. I am at my wits’ end. I don’t know who to complain to anymore,” Ms Harris said.

Ms Harris said with Level 6B water restrictions the pressure would drop even lower and residents will not have access to water.

The Plainsman visited Ayesha Johnston, 50, and her family, which includes her husband, their three sons, aged 25, 16 and 11, and their grandfather.

When she opened her tap at about 4pm nothing came out. “My husband leaves home to go to work and he does not have water,” she said.

They had water for January but the problem arose again earlier this month. “I can’t take a shower. There is never enough water for a shower,” she said.

Ms Johnston said during the day it flows well but when they need water it is off.

Umar, 16, said he wakes up at 5am but there is no water.

The Johnston family, who has an up to date water bill, said they use to pay less than R50 a month for water but last month they had a bill of more than R600.

“This can’t be because we didn’t even have water,” Ms Johnston said.

Similarly pensioner Jamiela Taliep, 60, who lives with her husband, her children and grandchildren, saw their water bill increase from R41.97 to R867.99, within a month.

When scrutinised it showed that R320.03 was for sewerage and while they used 6 kilolitres of water between November 22 and December 20, they apparently used 26kL of water for 37 days last month, which cost her R285.82.

Another resident Shariefa Moosa said she has bottles of water everywhere in her house.

In a drastic attempt to access water, she spoiled a load of washing by using sea water.

Ms Moosa said there was an instance when she was sick and needed to shower but could not because there was no water.

Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services; and energy, said the City of Cape Town will investigate these accounts or properties to see how they can help.

“Residents were billed according to water consumption as recorded by their water meter. In exceptional cases, for instance where the City cannot access or read the meter during a particular month, an estimated account will be given based on historic water consumption at the property,” she said.

Residents who are registered as indigent will receive an allocation of 10.5kl free water per month.

Ms Limberg said estimated bills are currently based on consumption for the same period in the previous year.

For example, a meter estimate for January 2018 is based on the actual usage of January 2017. This method is used to account for seasonal variation in water consumption.

The City is, however, working to adapt the estimation method to account for changing consumption patterns due to the current water shortage.

From Thursday March 1, estimated accounts will be based on average consumption at the property for the previous three months.

Where residents receive estimated bills, the City recommends that they settle the account as they would normally.

If the estimate is higher than the actual usage then their account will be adjusted appropriately the next time the actual meter reading is captured.

In cases where estimated consumption far exceeds actual consumption, and residents are unable to afford the bill, they can approach the City’s call centre on 0860 103 089, or send an email to accounts@capetown.gov.za to report issues. Residents can also report problems via WhatsApp on 063 407 3699.