During January 2023, the Tumahole community in Parys in Free State took to the streets in protest and shutdown the area following the Ngwathe Local Municipality’s ongoing failure to provide a basic, yet essential, service such as water. Eleven people were arrested on charges of public violence.
In the Inyanda Community News September and October 2022 editions, we published a series of two articles which explored how the water crisis was affecting Tumahole residents. The first article in the series had warned that ‘tensions are high in the township of Tumahole’ as a result of the crisis. The Jojo tanks were described as mere ‘decorations’ since they were rarely refilled. When the representatives of the Inyanda National Land Movement and Trust for Community Outreach and Education (TCOE) met with members of the Tumahole community, the community explained that the water crisis has been unfolding since 2009.
On 6 December 2022, the Parys Water Crisis Coordinating Committee presented a set of urgent demands to the Ngwathe Local Municipality regarding the water crisis. The Ngwathe Local Municipality did nothing about these demands, so it comes as no surprise that this crisis has escalated in the way that it has. In a community meeting at the beginning of this year, the decision was then taken to protest and shutdown Tumahole in an attempt to draw attention to the extent of the water crisis and how it has impacted people’s quality of life.
The Inyanda National Movement stands in solidarity with the community for exercising their constitutional right to protest since the lack of water in Parys is a violation of the resident’s constitutional right to water. But during the water protest and shutdown, a municipal building and the Mayor’s mother’s house was torched. As a nonviolent movement, the Inyanda National Land Movement is opposed to violence which destroys infrastructure and is a threat to life.
“Given how essential water is to life and health, the State’s failure to deliver on its constitutional mandate to supply clean drinking water is a form of violence against the community. We also condemn the use of violence by the police in response to the protests of the frustrated community. This is an inhumane response by the State to the understandable rage of citizens whose pleas for a regular supply of clean water have gone unheard for too long,” says Moipone Jwayi the National Chair of the Inyanda National Land Movement.
“The Assembly of the Unemployed is very worried about the water crisis given the heatwave in the Free State. We are particularly concerned about the Tumahole people who are getting mud from their taps instead of water. Government isn’t worried about what is happening there and people are being arrested instead of government solving the real problem,” says Khokhoma Motsi from the Assembly of the Unemployed.
National Treasury’s austerity plans, which includes deep budget cuts for basic services, has left many municipalities without the resources to repair key infrastructure. “Austerity measures coupled with the lack of good governance, corruption, and deployment of persons without the required expertise to perform critical duties has plummeted municipalities into distress,” says Aaron Ranayeke from TCOE.
While there were and still are some Jojo tanks available in the area, these tanks are not regularly supplied with water and it can take up to four weeks for it to be replenished by the municipality. “Tumahole residents felt strongly that the Ngwathe Local Municipality is not only corrupt, but also lacks the capacity and expertise to provide water services,” adds Ranayeke.
“Given how essential water is to life and health, the State’s failure to deliver on its constitutional mandate to supply clean drinking water is a form of violence against the community. We also condemn the use of violence by the police in response to the protests of the frustrated community. This is an inhumane response by the State to the understandable rage of citizens whose pleas and demands for a regular supply of clean water have gone unheard for too long,” adds Jwayi.
The Local Government Municipal Structures Act of 1998, clarifies the role and responsibilities of district municipalities when a local municipality is unable to perform its constitutional functions. “The Fezile Dabi District Municipality, failed to intervene once it became evident that the Ngwathe Local Municipality was unable to resolve the water crisis. The Intergovernmental Relations Framework Act of 2005 deals with matters such as cooperative governance and Integrated Governance Relations for the implementation of protocols to facilitate integrated service delivery. If these two acts had been fully implemented this water crisis may have been averted. Therefore, both the Ministers of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs as well as the Department of Water and Sanitation equally failed the people of Tumahole,” explains Ranayeke.
The Inyanda National Land Movement and the Parys Water Crisis Coordinating Committee therefore demands that:
- The Ngwathe Local Municipality acknowledges that they are incapable of providing water services.
- The Fezile Dabi District Municipality performs its obligations as per the Municipal Structures Act of 1998 and takes over the water services which the Ngwathe Local Municipality is unable to provide.
- The immediate release of those arrested for exercising their constitutional right to express their frustrations and health concerns about having no access to water.
Editor’s Note: At the time of going to print, the eleven protestors who had been arrested were released on free bail.