Jericho residents urge govt, SAHRC to intervene in community’s 26-year water battle

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Residents of Jericho near Brits in the North West say there is not much to rejoice about as the country celebrates Human Rights long weekend. They’ve been struggling to access water since 1995.

Residents have resorted to buying water from those with boreholes. They say the water supplied by municipal tankers is not sufficient to cater for the entire community.

The multi-million rand project that the government launched back in 2015 to address their water shortages has since collapsed.

Jimmy Baloyi, who is blind, says their struggle with water supply flies in the face of human rights. He is calling on the government and the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to intervene.

“Jericho is a big and old village where by the Department of Water and Sanitation sent the contractor to give the people Jericho the water. That 2015 contact was worth R30mln, but even now, we don’t have water. So, we want to know where’s the taxpayers money and we, the government, to investigate in that regard,” says Baloyi.

Another resident, Zakaria Thipe, a local brick maker says the shortage of water is killing his business.

“Water is a big, big problem here in Jericho and it’s been for years. We buy water and is R50 a thousand liters and R30 a barrel. It’s killing us and our business and also our elders, they’re spending their grants on buying water instead of food. There’s no solution and it’s years. Without water there’s no business.”

Local councillor, Ben Motswai, is blaming the Madibeng municipal authorities for failing the residents. He says for now residents can only rely on the limited water supply through municipal water tankers.

Even though the SABC News crew did not notice any water tankers around the village, Motswai insists they are there.

“There’s water in tanks even though I haven’t been all over the village. But what I’m sure of some tanks have water. And it is not true that all people do not have water. But I do agree that they can supply everyone. But as soon as Eskom connects power to the borehole, I’m sure there will be water.”

Magalies Water, which was appointed as an implementing agency, allegedly quit the project over disagreements, resulting in the exposure of the expensive infrastructure to vandalism and theft.

The water utility’s spokesperson, Kelebogile Mogamisi, says: “The scope of the project was to augment underground water which entailed boreholes. The first phase which is Phase 2 was done by Marais & Dickson contractors. The second phase was done Umkhonto contractors. They both completed the projects that they were appointed for. And that was 60% from the initial 10% water supply. And the second phase took the supply to 85%. So at the end, Jericho was supplied by 85%.”

Madibeng Mayor, Jostinah Mothibe, refused to comment. She said the municipality is under administration and for that reason, she’s not at liberty to say anything.

Minister of Water and Sanitation, Lindiwe Sisulu, has also refused to comment on the issue.