Ramaphosa ‘satisfied’ with government response to cholera outbreak, vows to visit Hammanskraal
A government investigation is yet to find the source of contaminated water, while 23 people have lost their lives and dozens have been hospitalised.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has said he’ll soon visit Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria, where a cholera outbreak has claimed the lives of 23 people.
The Department of Health announced on Friday evening that the number of fatalities had risen, while 75 patients were being treated with diarrhoeal diseases in the Jubilee District Hospital. Fifteen of the latter were confirmed cholera cases, which Ramaphosa said was worrisome.
“The cholera outbreak is a matter of concern to me,” said Ramaphosa, while speaking to journalists on the sidelines of an ANC National Working Committee meeting in North West at the weekend.
While the number of deaths had risen, the department revealed that 27 patients with diarrhoeal disease and cholera had recovered and been discharged.
The City of Tshwane Metro has not been able to contain the spread of the bacteria due to its inability to identify the source.
Despite this, Ramaphosa said he was happy with how several ministries had been dealing with the outbreak.
He explained: “I have ministers whose job is to deal with the problem, and they are coming up with solutions. I am satisfied with the attention that they are giving; yes I will go and visit the area because we have to make sure that there is overall attention that should be given to that area and working together with the metro in terms of what needs to be done.”
The government has set up a “command centre” to try to combat the outbreak, with the City of Tshwane cooperating with the Departments of Health, Water and Sanitation, Social Development and others.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Cholera toll in SA rises amid calls for swift action and less finger-pointing
High E. coli count in water
As officials look for the source of the outbreak, Daily Maverick has seen five sets of results from the Charlotte Maxeke Infection Control Laboratory, which were analysed with the assistance of Dr Ferrial Adams, environmental justice activist of WaterCAN, an initiative of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa).
Four of the five samples tested negative of cholera and E. coli bacteria. However, one set of the results recorded the following: “Coliform count = >2419 E. coli count = >2419.
“The technology used the Colilert system which only allows for counting up to 2419 CFU/100ml,” revealed Adams
“As such, the actual count could be much higher and this poses a high risk of negative health effects on the general population (for example, gastrointestinal distress and disease).
“What this practically means is that the water should definitely not be consumed until adequate treatment has taken place. In addition, for those few samples that did not test positive for E. coli, culture tests for salmonella and cholera were conducted. But this was not done for the sample that was high in E. coli,” said Adams.
Such test results and the City of Tshwane’s failure to disclose them to residents prompted Outa to conduct independent tests. Said Adams: “We don’t trust the city.”
City’s spokesperson Selby Mokaba earlier said, “All of these tests have conclusively indicated that there are no microbiological contaminants that point to E. Coli or faecal coliforms that can be linked to the cholera outbreak.
“This means the water that is being distributed via the city’s bulk water distribution network in the area does not have cholera present in it … Various points where water tankers draw their supply have also been tested.”
Read more in Daily Maverick: Tshwane mayor points finger at ‘network of corruption’ as cholera death toll rises to 17
Dark mark on our democracy
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister Thembi Nkadimeng on Friday came under fire in the National Assembly while delivering her department’s budget for 2023/24 financial year.
Several MPs expressed concern over the government’s failure to address the long-standing water crisis, which residents have been complaining about for nearly a decade.
“What the Hammanskraal situation shows to our people is the corrupt, incompetent and lack of visionary government. Many will die unnecessary deaths because of the corruption of the ANC, and the racism of the DA, in Tshwane,” said the EFF’s Hlengiwe Mkhaliphi.
Nkadimeng described the Hammanskraal deaths as “a dark mark on our democratic dispensation” and admitted that the deaths could have been prevented.
Kanana field hospital
To deal with the increasing number of people with diarrhoeal disease symptoms, the government announced the establishment of a field hospital in Kanana, Hammanskraal.
“Six temporary tents have been set up to immediately attend to people presenting with symptoms of dehydration, as vomiting and diarrhea eliminates water from the body,” said the Department of Health.
“In this temporary hospital, patients are either given oral hydration or intravenous hydration on the spot, and the most critical patients are immediately taken to hospitals in Tshwane for further management and addimition.” DM