Photo Essay

Water disaster: Lenasia South residents face another year of daily cuts to their water supply

By Shiraaz Mohamed 22 November 2020

67 year old Saras Naidoo carries bottles filled with water. The pensioner fills water into various sized containers every morning and stores them for the evening. Photo / Shiraaz Mohamed

Residents of Lenasia South have spent years without water during the evenings. Their water gets turned off every afternoon and it’s become routine for people to fill containers during the day so that they may have water at night. They blame land-grabbers for their situation.

Illegal water connections to informal settlements in Lenasia South have resulted in daily water cuts to established homes in the area. The cuts last for hours at a time.

Joburg Water’s Isaac Dhludhlu says because of the illegal connections, supply is cut off from 9pm to 4am every day to maintain sufficient reservoir capacity. Saras Naidoo, a 67-year-old pensioner who lives on her own, dismissed the claim that the water gets cut off at a set time. 

A mechanical engineer and his team (not in image) conducting tests in the pump house of the Hospital Hills reservoir in Lenasia South. The centrifugal pumps are responsible for transferring water from one reservoir to another. Photo / Shiraaz Mohamed

“It goes off at different times every day. It starts from 12pm, then 5pm, then 6pm or 9pm. I am so tired of this water situation. It aggravates you. This is not normal. 

“I mean if you go to any other place, their water doesn’t get cut off every day. It’s almost two years that we are battling like this. I can’t bath at night. 

“If I want to bath at night then I have to save a lot of water. I also need to heat the water up or it would mean taking a bath with cold water.”

Pensioner Saras Naidoo, 67, finds it difficult to carry containers filled with water and uses an old washing machine outlet pipe that she connects to her bathroom tap to fill water to help ease her burden. Photo / Shiraaz Mohamed

Naidoo fills containers with water every morning and stores them for the evening. She complained that because of her age she struggles to carry them in from outside. She also makes use of an old washing machine outlet pipe that she connects to her bathroom tap to fill a 20l container.

Caithram Rathiram, 62, who lives with his 55-year-old wife Eshara Rathiram and their 32-year-old son and 30-year-old daughter, has also been having water issues for years. They say the situation got worse when lockdown was enforced, with supply being cut off as early as 11am. 

“This is a challenge for us. My son comes home from work and needs to bath. A rule of the house is that because of Covid-19, family members are required to take a bath after returning from work or if we have left the house for more than a few hours. 

Caithram Rathiram fills bottles with water and stores them in his garage. The water lasts a few days before he needs to refill them again.
Photo / Shiraaz Mohamed

“The challenge we are faced with is heating the water up. Heating up water on the stove every day means that our electricity bill has shot up,” said Rathiram.

Some residents have resorted to installing JoJo tanks on their properties. Daily Maverick spoke to one resident who asked to remain anonymous.

“I installed the JoJo tank about a month ago because of the water shortage. Every single day the water goes off, without fail. This has been happening for the past three years and has gotten worse. 

“I had to buy the tank and a pump to run the tank. The council water gets fed into the tank and supplies my house. When there is no council water, the tank supplies the house. 

“It is a 2,400 litre tank and the system cost about R10,000. Now the water is fine. I have no hassles.”

Not all residents are able to afford a JoJo tank and they have no option but to use containers to stockpile water. Diveashan Naidoo relocated to Lenasia South six months ago and regrets the move. 

“We don’t know why there is no water every single night. We want to drink water, we want to give our dogs water, we want to use our bathroom, but we can’t. We have to fill water drums. 

Diveashan Naidoo (L) and his mother Ramani Naidoo (R) relocated to Lenasia South 6 months ago. He now regrets the move. Photo / Shiraaz Mohamed

“This is what we have come to. We have to fill drums just so that we can flush our toilets and wash our hands after supper. Every night after supper the dishes stand. 

“I come home from work and cannot take a shower because there is no water. I have to wake up at 3am to remove all the air from the geyser so it can fill up and get hot. 

I do this by opening the hot water taps and wait for the air to rush out followed by water. I close the tap and switch on the geyser and wait for it to heat the water. If you just keep your geyser on while there is air inside it won’t get hot. 

“This is what I have been doing for the past six months. We phoned Joburg Water and they told us the usual story –  that the reservoir is low.”

Ganda Parbhoo standing at his kitchen tap. He finds himself fortunate because his area is not as badly effected as others. While his toilet cistern is still able to fill up at night there is not sufficient water for him to take a shower. Photo / Shiraaz Mohamed

In a statement Joburg Water said a new reservoir was being built. The City of Joburg was also working to stop land invasions in the area as they posed a bigger threat to the water and sanitation system, the statement read. The new reservoir is expected to be completed by the end of September 2021. The regular shutting down of the water supply in Lenasia South will remain in place until then

DA councillor for ward 120, David Dewes, said a new reservoir was not a solution unless the issue of land-grabs was addressed. The City provides water for all the illegal land occupiers via water tankers and JoJo tanks, and Dewes suggested the use of boreholes to help ease the demand.  

“Yes, the (borehole) water is not going to be potable, but it will be more than sufficient to use for washing and bathing and will thus reduce the demand on potable water and will also save the expense of having hundreds of tankers bringing water. 

Residents took to the streets of Lenasia South earlier this year in a water-related protest. Photo / Shiraaz Mohamed

“But they (the City) said to me they have a policy to supply potable water. 

“I am really worried that even once the new reservoir is completed, demand will still outstrip supply. 

“There are no plans in place to provide a steady water supply to rate-paying citizens. It is completely unacceptable.”

Peterson Mokoena who has been living in Phumla Mqashi Informal Settlement, bordering the eastern side of Lenasia South for just over year said: “It is not a good thing that people of Lenasia South are blaming us. They have a right to complain if they are running short of water but we also need water. There needs to be a solution whereby all of us will be satisfied. 

“We are all human beings. All places started off like this (referring to the informal settlement), we also deserve a chance, we need to be given a chance. Like our nation and our flag says, we all deserve a chance. Let them cut the water at night if they need to so that we can also have water daily because water is life.”

A drone image taken from the western side of Lenasia South shows one of the informal settlements that surrounds Lenasia South. Land grabbing poses a threat not only to Lenasia South but also to the region. Photo / Shiraaz Mohamed

Another resident, Karabo Manganye said: “We all need water, whether it is on their property that they paid money for (Lenasia South residents) or if it is here in the squatter camp, we all need water. 

“I think it is up to their leadership and our leadership to make sure that we get water. We cannot live without water. We are going to starve if we don’t have water. We have gardens that we get our food from, if we don’t have water, the gardens will die. Everyone has a right to water.” DM

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