Siphoned off: stolen water sold at taxi tank

2013-04-03 00:00

WATER thieves are stealing kilolitres of water from a flooded manhole in the city centre and selling it on the streets for R5 per 25-litre container — a theft which is likely to leave ratepayers thousands of rands out of pocket.

The Witness — through vigilant community members — has learnt that thousands of litres of water is being taken daily from a flooded manhole in Pietermaritz Street in the capital city.

Otto Street, just across from the Magistrate’s Court is another spot where water is also stolen.

It was not immediately clear who is paying or must still pay the eventual bills for the stolen water, but a group of young men is benefiting from this person’s inactivity by filling containers with water from a flooded manhole and selling the water at taxi ranks for drinking and washing taxis at R5 per 25-litre container. The Msunduzi Municipality said the leaking water is not theirs, deepening the mystery as to who is going to foot a hefty water bill.

Brenden Sivpersad, the process manager for water and sanitation at the municipality had investigated the matter.

“We have run maintenance there and shut down our pipes; it is confirmed that this is not municipal water. We suspect that it is one of the big buildings there that has a burst pipe underneath and the water is coming out in the front,” Sivpersad said.

A concerned citizen, who asked not to be named after alerting The Witness to the water theft, said it had been going on for more than a year.

“This happens almost every morning, they came here just between 7 and 9 and they load the water onto either trolleys or a car, whichever comes first and take it off down the street.

“I understand that they sell the water at the taxi rank. It is always the same group of people that I see.”

He explained that the water thieves jam a brick in the water pipe and “as the water comes out they use another container to collect the water and then fill up the other containers.”

“I have counted 66 containers of 20-litres and or 25-litres being filled. This happens almost every morning either on Pietermaritz Street or the street adjacent to the [court] building.”

A picture taken by the source shows about 1 350 litres of water stolen in one go. The source said the municipality had ignored several reports on the matter.

“A colleague of mine had complained to the municipality previously, but nothing had been done.

“I tried calling the municipality numerous times, but it just rang every time.”

Municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi said water theft is a criminal offence that needed to be reported to the police. “The municipality is bleeding in terms of water and electricity theft.

“We will be dealing with the situation as the municipality is launching a programme to audit all its water supplies.”

This comes as the reports by the Water Research Commission released recently stated that Msunduzi Municipality wastes 63% of its water, among the worst in the country.

The commission stated that nearly 40% of South Africa’s tap water, worth about R7 billion, is lost annually through leaks or theft.

Sivpersad said the water losses were greatly exaggerated.

“The auditor-general reported our losses last year were at 25%; we had reduced them by five percent. Other developed cities were at 22%. We plan to reduce those losses even further.”

He said he did not have the rand value of the losses on hand.

• thamsanqam@witness.co.za

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