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Soweto residents scrounge for water amid continuing City of Joburg crisis

Soweto residents scrounge for water amid continuing City of Joburg crisis
(Photo: Gallo Images / Lefty Shivambu)

The City of Johannesburg’s water catastrophe has dragged on for almost three weeks, and Soweto residents say the situation is dire.

On Monday, Johannesburg Water said reservoir levels in the city had declined and water towers were running empty. It blamed a high demand caused by hot weather.

The water utility said reservoirs serving Soweto, including the Meadowlands, Diepkloof, Braamfischer and Doornkop reservoirs, had no water or low water pressure, and many parts of the township were without water.

Daily Maverick spoke to residents in Protea, Soweto.

Read more in Daily Maverick: As Rand Water warns of wider system collapse, Soweto and Johannesburg taps still dry

Tshifu Chauke said, “We have become used to being without water daily until 9pm. So, we normally stay up until 9pm to get water. If we are already asleep at 9pm, we have to get up because we do not have any water. We get water from the JoJo tank near our home. The problem is that there is no one to fill the tank when it runs empty.”

Rebecca Seale, who has been living in the area for 12 years, does not have a tap in her yard. She relies on a nearby JoJo tank. Before the crisis, she got water from her neighbours’ taps.

“The JoJo tank is filled every two days, but there are times when they fill the tanks daily,” said Seale.

“Oh, it is tough,” Seale said of not having a water source in her shack.

A Protea South community leader, who did not want to be named, said, “We took action and contacted Joburg Water. One of the community members even has reference numbers. Water is a huge problem here now. Joburg Water has not responded because they do not care.”

Resident Takalani Mukosi said, “We do not have water in the yard; the taps [have] run dry. We are getting water from the closest communal taps. If that runs out too, we will have to go across the road to the businesses there. The owners allow the community to fetch unrestricted amounts of water. This water scarcity is not new here.”

Mukosi and the community fetch water from a cluster of businesses, including a grocery store, butchery and other stores.

Calendo Marcelo, a Mozambican visiting relatives in Soweto, zig-zagged around a cluster of shacks to get to a communal tap.

He said his cousin had a hairdressing salon and needed water to wash her customers’ hair.

“I often help her as she has only one employee and cannot afford to hire extra hands to help with water which is required throughout the day.”


On Tuesday, Johannesburg Mayor Kabelo Gwamanda told residents that the Eikenhof Pump Station had on Monday night been affected by a lightning strike on the Eldorado substation.

Gwamanda said this led to several water systems being affected, including the Waterval Tower, Linden 1 Tower, Orlando East Reservoir, Honeydew Reservoir, Honeydew Tower, Brixton Reservoir, Hursthill 1 Reservoir and Hursthill 2 Reservoir.

The city blamed a lightning strike at the Eikenhof Pump Station at the beginning of March for weeks of water outages across large parts of Johannesburg.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Unfolding water crisis in Johannesburg deepens as officials scramble for answers

On Tuesday, Johannesburg Water said it had arranged for alternative water supplies to affected areas where low pressure to no water was expected.

In an interview with Daily Maverick on Tuesday, Gwamanda’s spokesperson, Mlimandlela Ndamase, denied there was a water crisis in Johannesburg.

“The mayor defines a crisis as a water supply system under total collapse with no mitigation or alternative supply options or [a]… humanitarian crisis where the general population has ‘zero’ access to water.

“While he doesn’t define the current outage as a crisis, he doesn’t attach any less significance to the frustration and disruption caused by the absence of water from normal operations. It remains challenging and urgent, and he severely empathises with residents,” Ndamase said. DM


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