No water no vote: Hammanskraal still doesn’t have clean drinking water a year after cholera outbreak 

Dirty water being poured into a bucket
Hammanskraal community members refuse to vote until they get clean water

It’s been almost a year since residents of Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria were promised clean water after a deadly cholera outbreak that killed 30 people in May 2023. But residents say nothing has changed. 

Water tankers deployed by the municipality are inconsistent – sometimes they don’t show up for months. More than a thousand residents rely on the water tanker system that was put in place last year following the outbreak. 

“The tankers are not helping at all. It’s been five months since we saw them in our section,” says Zanele Nkuna (28) a resident of ward 49 Mandela village. “We know some of the drivers, when we ask them why they don’t deliver [the water] they complain about not being paid – as if that is our problem.” 

According to Nkuna the water tankers only arrived in her neighbourhood two weeks ago, ahead of the Water and Sanitation Minister’s visit last week. Senzo Mchunu and Tshwane mayor Cilliers Brink conducted an oversight visit to  the Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment Works and Klipdrift Package Plant in Hammanskraal, followed by a community meeting. 

“Every day is a struggle. I spend more than R300 a month to buy water for cooking and drinking,” she says, who is unemployed and depends on the government’s R350 grant as well as the child support grant.  

During the visit, Mhcunu said Hammanskraal would have clean and safe drinking water by 1 September 2024. But Nkuna is not convinced. 

“Now they [politicians] are coming here telling us the same thing they said last year because it’s almost election time. But as long as we don’t have clean water coming from our taps, I’m not voting.”

Fecal matter in tap water 

Residents use municipal tap water to bathe and do laundry. But even this limited use isn’t without problems. 

Since May last year, Lenah Mogatla (51) from Temba ward 74 has been seeing what she believes are feaces in her tap water. She first noticed this when she was running water to wash her clothing. 

“I was doing laundry and opened the tap to rinse the clothes. I went inside the house for a few minutes, when I came back the clothes were covered in feaces and more was coming out of the tap,” she says. 

The video clip below was taken during Health-e News’ visit to  the area. It shows a bucket of laundry with feacal matter staining the clothes.  

“I called the councillor and he said there is nothing he could do and advised me to call the media. I’ve called the media and the municipal call centre but nothing has been done to date.”

A month back, in March, Mogatla says she almost lost her son who unknowingly drank the unsafe water. 

“We store water in buckets and he drank from the wrong one. He started vomiting, and had diarrhoea with blood in his feaces. We took him to the doctor but he didn’t get better, his symptoms got worse. 

“We eventually decided to take him to Tshwane district hospital where he was admitted for two weeks. After tests were done we were told that his illness was caused by consuming contaminated water,” she says. 

Like Nkuna, Mogatla believes that the minister’s promises are just part of electioneering. 

“We have been suffering for a long time and nothing is being done. They come here a month before elections to encourage us to vote yet we are the ones that feel the brunt of not having water,” says Mogatla.  

Sewage spills in homes 

Not far from Mogatla’s home, residents of Kanana ward 49 are plagued by sewage spills. It was established in 2000, and has been experiencing sewage spills since 2015.

Francine Maothe (41) who’s been living here from the beginning says she’s seen all the development that has taken place. The community was excited when, in 2013, a sewage system was installed. But their joy was short-lived because two years later a terrible stench started to consume the neighborhood. 

“It’s bad here in Kanana, we live in a stinky place. We have been reporting to the municipality with no help. Last week there were feaces in one of the homes in the neighborhood and we went to help clean it,” says Maothe.

She says the overwhelming smell makes it hard to even eat at times. 

Plans to improve services 

Addressing the community, the minister promised residents that on 1  September they will have clean water, as long as they dont disturb the project.

“We have people who will go to the appointed contractor demanding money as a protection fee and stopping the project. This time we will not allow that. This project will be finished and people of Hammanskraal will have clean water,” he said.

City of Tshwane spokesperson, Selby Bokaba, denies the allegations of electioneering saying the next Local Government Elections are in 2026, so the city can’t be accused of electioneering. 

“We went to the Hammanskraal residents to account for the promises made last year and to update them on the progress of the commitments that were made,” he says. 

Bokaba says, before the community meeting, the city had not been made aware of water tankers  not showing up. “We pay for those tankers to deliver water to our communities. Community members must give us details so that we can investigate. If the allegation is true, then we will claim our money back from the contractor and take other necessary action.” – Health-e News


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