Residents of Tongaat, north of Durban, say they support the findings of the South African Human Rights Commission that municipalities fail to provide water to the community.
The commission conducted an investigation after receiving hundreds of complaints about the failure of the municipalities in the province to provide clean water to the communities.
Since 2020, it has received more than 600 complaints in this regard.
The commission finds that in KwaZulu-Natal, the municipalities in general and water services authorities in particular, have violated residents rights to have access to clean drinking water as provided for international, constitutional an statutory provisions.
This violation of rights is aggravated by the pervasive sense of neglect, disregard and in some instances contempt for people’s suffering and their attempt to engage with some of the municipality through officials and elected representatives.
South African Human Rights Commissioner in KwaZulu-Natal, Philile Ntuli, presents the findings of this report in Durban.
The Ugu, Harry Gwala, Zululand and Umkhanyakude districts are among the municipalities singled out for failing to provide water to communities.
Last year, Tongaat was left without water for months. Local NGOs and humanitarian organisations intervened with boreholes and water for the community.
The problems persist with burst water pipes and leaks.
Resident Surie Singh shares her frustration. “From the floods, over eight months we didn’t have water and the infrastructure here is not in good condition, its not a one place that is the water giving up here. Behind me you can see that its not the first time that this is happening there. We don’t know what is going on and if you around here we have old age people and these people are suffering and they can’t carry water because they don’t have an assistance.”
Similarly, residents Shantal Nair and Gugu Ncube say the findings point to the challenges they are facing.
Nair says, “The municipality is failing because there is no municipality tankers that have been provided to us and after the floods the water has been restored but we can’t say the water is safe to be used, and is why we boil water and drink.”
Ncube says, “When the SAHRC says that the water is not clean enough, I think this is the truth because the municipality told us not to drink water the time they provided it for the first day, which means there is a problem with water that we are drinking.”
The Commission’s Philile Ntuli says the failure of municipalities to replace the ageing infrastructure and poor planning from the municipal officials, are among the main challenges for a lack of water delivery.
“The inheritance of ageing an dilapidated infrastructure and overwhelming demand for water far exceeding supply. Nonetheless, the commission finds that these challenges outlined by municipalities and water services authorities reflect poor planning and management of resources particularly in relation to non-revenue water and maintenance of infrastructure and reluctance to deal with corruption.”
The Commission has also found that the water tanker system is being manipulated and commercialised.
Tongaat Civic Association chairperson, Don Perumal, who was called by the commission to testify, says he fully supports the findings of the commission.
“I 100% concur with the report and I was one of the people that were called to testify and water is life. We are clearly in violation of our constitutional rights and I am glad that the human rights council has found the municipality to be lacking in terms of providing the necessary resources. I understand the ageing infrastructure and we are almost 30 years into out democracy we should be putting a plan to repair. We need a hands on approach and we need a kingmaker from the municipality. Come to us and look at the issue, don’t come to us and say you will revert to the senior and you will come back to us.”
The commission has urged the provincial government to ensure that its recommendations are implemented. – Reporting by Khalesakhe Mbhense