Six months of Day Zero for Chris Hani residents in Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality

At a meeting during July in Chris Hani, the sentiment shared by everyone is that “our sin is being black, poor and unemployed.” This is why the municipality and the intervening national government department did not honour our invitation to attend this meeting where we shared our concerns and queries about this water crisis. To us, our municipal and political officials are only visible when they are talking on TV. No one has ever come to address us about the day zero we have been facing for six months now.

If we are lucky we get 1,2 litres of water a day when the water truck comes to our community. Although in the past there were many periods where the water tanker would come only once a week. During these times, the 1,2 litres of water we received from the water truck was the only water we had for the whole week. Many of us have medical conditions that require us to take prescriptions for which this crisis has forced us to stop taking our medicine because we have no water. We must also have water to use for our toilets, but without water our sewage has nowhere to go. As we speak, our houses are smelling with a greater volume of waste. We are forced to wear dirty clothes. Those of us who do have a job go to work with very dirty clothes. With an ongoing energy crisis in this country, we sometimes cannot even iron our work clothes.

To reiterate, we have experienced Day Zero in Chris Hani for six months. It is quite puzzling that we sit with huge water bills, some are about R20 000, and yet we are faced with this failed water system. There is no explanation from the municipality as to why we are being billed like this when most of our area is without running water. We are fighting with each other because four houses in the same area of Chris Hani have uninterrupted running water. Due to the astronomical water bills they are subjected to; they do not allow us to get water from their yards. This results in some of us entering their yards without their consent and pouring water. Tensions run high in our community and sometimes leads to serious arguments among residents.

The water that is delivered by the water tankers is of poor quality. When we ask the driver what these trucks were doing before delivering this water, which might explain the water’s poor quality, we are presented with no answers. This question also remains a mystery to our councillor.

We see the water crisis in Chris Hani as a problem that is class-based. The water supply running to the middle-class areas of Uitenhage remains uninterrupted. The only thing that does affect them is what affects everyone else in this country, loadshedding. This reminds us again that “our only sin is being poor, black, and unemployed.”

For the reasons mentioned above, we have decided as working class residents of Kwanobuhle to go to the streets and show our emotions until officials in the municipality and the national government arrive in our communities to address our concerns. We do know they will all be charitable and in celebratory mode on Mandela Day – this is why we want to use that day for them to know that there cannot be a normal Mandela Day in Nelson Mandela Bay while we have been facing Day Zero for over six months now.

We demand:

  • Cut municipal bills on water to residents until this issue has been sorted out
  • Indigent policy must be enforced
  • As the municipality, you must improve your communication skills with residents
  • Compensate the people who have suffered from illnesses from the contaminated water
  • Close all water leaks and respond to reports on time
  • Bring proof that water is now safe to drink
  • We demand One House One Water Tank
  • Trucks must supply water everyday
  • Create separate spaces where animals consume different water from that of human beings
  • Stop the estimation of water billings. Read straight from what is on the meter
  • There should be Water Tanks in all schools

Editor’s note: This article was written by the Nelson Mandela Bay Water Crisis Committee