Residents of Knysna left fuming after taps run dry

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A water crisis in Knysna in the Western Cape has left residents fuming. For the past week, water trucks have been supplying water to residents in most areas. The Knysna Municipality says technical challenges and load shedding have led to a number of reservoirs running low. The situation was worsened after a body was found in a reservoir, leading to the shutdown of four reservoirs.

Desperate for water, residents blockaded the N2 several times this week to demand a resolution to the situation. Several municipalities have sent water and waste removal vehicles to lend a helping hand. The flushing out of the contaminated water is expected to be completed within the next week. Residents queued in the townships with their buckets and bottles, expressing frustration. They say the situation is critical.

“Most of us we can’t survive. We have these RDP houses but we can’t flush our toilets. We can’t manage. Our kids and grandkids they go to the loo, it’s stinking. Our houses are stinking. And secondly, we have old people in this area going with wheelchairs…they can’t manage to go to where the trucks stand.,” says a frustrated resident.

“I won’t lie, this water has made me sick. And then I keep on thinking about what happened in the reservoir,” says another.

“The truck stands here or it stands on top. There are people with disabilities, old people. They can’t make it to come here. Can’t they go to them and at least give them some water,” pleads another resident.

Faced with sewage, refuse and financial challenges, Provincial MEC of Local Government Anton Bredell met with municipal officials this week. In a statement, Bredell said he held a productive meeting with the Knysna Mayor and full council. He expressed concern about what he called, serious management capacity challenges which are affecting the municipality’s finances and basic service delivery.

The municipality has been given two weeks to submit a turn-around action plan.

Knysna Municipal Mayor, Ombali Sebola, “We had to decommission four reservoirs for maintenance and for cleaning. So, the four reservoirs are decommissioned and we are supplying water through water tankers. Hence the intervention from the province.”

The municipality has denied financial problems. Recently, a group of concerned residents collected funds and fixed potholes on a busy road. After being frustrated with the wait and red tape, the municipality gave them the go ahead to do the repairs.

Sebola says the municipality is not broke, “The municipality is collecting. Its budget derives from collection. So, we must be saying are you collecting or not and yes indeed we are collecting. That’s why we are able to maintain our infrastructure. We are also able to pay our third parties and salaries and bonuses.”

With Knysna being one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations, it’s hoped that the issues will be sorted out before the holidaymakers get there for the festive season.