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Cholera death toll in Hammanskraal rises to 15 as probe yet to find source of contaminated water

Cholera death toll in Hammanskraal rises to 15 as probe yet to find source of contaminated water
Nurse Florence Kgwarere talks to Amos Mmakou, a cholera patient recovering at Jubilee District Hospital in Hammanskraal. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

The cholera outbreak in Hammanskraal has claimed 15 lives and 34 others have been admitted to the Jubilee District Hospital, where a command centre has been activated.

‘The Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment [Works], the frequent change of mayors in the City of Tshwane and ‘defaults’ on agreements are at the epicentre of the Hammanskraal water issues,” said the deputy minister of human settlements, water and sanitation, David Mahlobo, at a media briefing at Hammanskraal’s Jubilee District Hospital on Monday.

Gift of the Givers aid workers offload water from a truck at Jubilee District Hospital in Hammanskraal where the cholera death toll has risen to 15
Gift of the Givers aid workers offload water from a truck at Jubilee District Hospital in Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Mahlobo’s words follow a cholera outbreak in Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria, which has claimed 15 lives to date and has been linked to the consumption of contaminated water.

Deputy minister of human settlements, water and sanitation David Mahlobo addresses the media on the cholera outbreak
Deputy minister of human settlements, water and sanitation David Mahlobo briefs the media at Jubilee District Hospital. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Read more in Daily Maverick: Cholera outbreak in South Africa – everything you need to know

Hammanskraal’s water is supplied by the City of Tshwane, Magalies Water, Rand Water and the Temba Water purification plant. So far, according to Themba Fosi, the Tshwane MMC for utilities and operations, Magalies Water, Rand Water and the Temba Water purification plant have been found to be free of any traces of the Vibrio cholerae bacteria.

Investigations continue to track where the cholera outbreak originated.

water hammanskraal
A tanker delivers water to Hammanskraal residents. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

The government has also established a command centre — a collaboration between the departments of Water and Sanitation, Health, Social Development, the City of Tshwane and others — to coordinate efforts. 

Read in Daily Maverick: Water is life: commission of inquiry’s report reveals ‘damning’ review of water crisis inertia in Hammanskraal

“The multidisciplinary teams are established at the technical level. We will have a stream dealing with issues of health… scanning and mobility so that this matter could be contained in one environment, which the Ministry of Health leads. Another team from the social development department will give social relief to families who have lost their loved ones. Another team will be dealing with issues of water and sanitation,” said Mahlobo.

Severe stomach aches

Daily Maverick interviewed some victims of the outbreak and community members.

Samuel Sello Lekoto, recovering from cholera at Jubilee District Hospital in Hammanskraal, talks to deputy minister of health Sibongiseni Dhlomo and Gauteng health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Samuel Sello Lekoto and Abraham Mpetsheni, both residents of Kanana in Hammanskraal, were admitted to the Jubilee District Hospital after being diagnosed with cholera last Wednesday. Both men said they experienced severe stomach aches, vomiting and dehydration after they drank water transported to Hammanskraal in tankers by the City of Tshwane.

A patient recovers from cholera at the Jubilee District Hospital in Hammanskraal. The death toll is now at 15
Matron Julia Aphane attends to Abraham Mpetsheni, a patient recovering from cholera at Jubilee District Hospital in Hammanskraal. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

The drinking water in Hammanskraal was deemed “unfit for human consumption” by the South African Human Rights Commission in 2019.

“At some point, I felt like I was dying. Never in my life have I ever experienced so much pain,” said Lekoto.

“What frustrates me is the water I drank is the same water that the city gives us because we can’t drink tap water. It makes me even wonder if the water tankers are tested for quality water before they even reach us because I think if they were maybe we will not be lying in hospital fighting for our lives.” 

cholera moyambo
Stevens Moyambo, who runs a business outside the hospital, said the City of Tshwane had failed the residents of Hammanskraal. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Another Hammanskraal resident, businessman Stevens Moyambo, said: “The City of Tshwane has failed us. Contamination of water in Hammanskraal is not new, it has been going on for years but no one has cared to resolve it. Only now that our families and loved ones are dying in hospital they react. Where have they been all these years? Did people have to die for them to do the right thing?”

Quick facts about the cholera outbreak

17 people from Hammanskraal have died from cholera, more have been admitted to hospital

The outbreak was caused by water from a dysfunctional wastewater treatment plant

Regions with poor water infrastructure are at greatest risk of the disease

Health experts have been warning against a big cholera outbreak

During an outbreak in 2008 authorities recorded 12,705 cases, including 65 deaths

Read more about how to ensure your water is safe to drink

“The City of Tshwane and the coalition government have failed us,” said resident Grace Ngobeni.

“We are scared for our children and the elderly in the community… as their systems might not be [able to endure] the cholera symptoms. But above all, we don’t know if we can trust the tankers as no one knows the source of the contamination.”

cilliers brink hammanskraal

Tshwane Mayor Cilliers Brink was turned away from Jubilee District Hospital by some Hammanskraal residents. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

The City of Tshwane sends 52 water tankers to provide drinkable water to informal settlements in Hammanskraal three times a week, and 40 water trucks to formal areas daily in the region, but residents say this is never enough for their needs.

“In addition to the water we get from the trucks, we have to buy water for consumption from the stores at R1 per litre because the tanks come twice or three times a week and we use water every day,” said resident Musa Muvhari.

“Most of the people are unemployed… so if they run out of water from the tanks they have no other choice than to drink the tap water deemed unfit for drinking, simply because they can’t afford to buy bottled water. That water from the tap is smelly and often has little things swimming inside, but desperation leads people to that because no one cares about us.”

Cholera cases have been recorded in other parts of South Africa.

The deputy minister of health, Sibongiseni Dhlomo, said several cases of cholera had been reported in Limpopo and Free State, bringing the total number of cases in SA to 41.

Late on Monday, Gift of the Givers delivered 22,220 litres of water to Jubilee District Hospital in Hammanskraal after receiving a call from the Moretele Local Municipality mayor, Masango George Manyike, asking for assistance. DM

*The death toll from the cholera outbreak was 17 people at the last count. The Quick Facts have been updated to reflect this.

Absa OBP

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Listen, people, you get what you vote for. You vote for shite you get what you asked for.

  • Bee Man says:

    So heres my guess as to the source of the poisoning. Could well be that the contracted entitity to truck in water is taking shortcuts and not travelling all the way to the nearest supply of prperly purified water. A lot of diesel can be saved by filling some trucks from nearer sources, and if so they are killing people.
    Nothing can surprise me when it comes to corruption and lack of goresight and accountability in this dear land of our any longer

  • Andrew Martens says:

    The water and sanitation environment there mean that this was inevitable. Manslaughter charges should be brought against the officials responsible.

  • Niki Moore says:

    In 2014 I wrote a story, published in Daily Maverick, about a water tender that simply took polluted water downstream from a broken sewage works and delivered to the people of Biesiesvlei. 14 children died. The voters there returned the ANC to power by a large margin – not once, but twice. Yesterday we have a Hammarsdale resident blaming the DA, who took over a few weeks ago, for a decades-old problem, stating that he will still be voting for the ANC. How can we help people who are so completely determined to vote for their own destruction? I think I might not be alone in finding this completely incomprehensible.

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