Hammanskraal: Forced to drink tap water despite cholera risk

For years, residents of Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria, have complained about poor quality water and an unreliable water supply. For years, nothing has been done.

This week, amidst a cholera outbreak that’s claimed the lives of 22 people, the Department of Water and Sanitation announced that it would investigate the cause of the water issues in Hammanskraal. The City of Tswane has urged residents not to drink the water. It says it provides potable (drinking) water through 52 water tankers to informal settlements three times a week, and 40 water trucks to formal areas daily in Region 2.

Our reporter, Lilita Gcwabe, visited the area, where she was told by residents that the provision of safe water from tankers is unreliable. Despite the risk of cholera and death, they feel they have no choice but to continue using water from the taps, as they can’t afford to buy bottled water.

Desperate for water. On Wednesday thousands of Temba residents queued in a snaking line to receive 5 litres of bottled water and a hygiene pack from Gift of the Givers.

Residents of Temba say that the water tanks that are supposed to deliver water are not consistent and sometimes only come once or twice a week. When the tanks don’t arrive, residents who can’t afford to buy water don’t have other options and have to use the tap water that’s been declared unsafe.

Gloria Mlambo, 53, has lived in Temba for 20 years. She says the water has always been dirty and the situation has only gotten worse. Her son was hospitalised just three weeks ago after drinking tap water and experiencing dizziness and diarrhoea. 

In 2018, Njabulo Mahlangu, 15, was hospitalised for five days after she drank tap water and experienced severe diarrhoea. Her mother, who is currently unemployed, can only afford to buy water once or twice every month. On most days, she is still forced to drink water from the tap.

Raising a five year old child as a single father has been difficult for Sabelo Mncono, 36. He moved to the area in 2016 from Vryheid in KwaZulu Natal, and was warned by neighbours not to drink the water. To ensure the safety of his child, Mncono spends R200 to R300 per month on bottled water.

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