Solo protester wins out

2013-04-06 00:00

A CREIGHTON hotel owner, Michele Vermaak, pitched up with her sleeping bag at the Sisonke District Municipality on Thursday night, prepared to stay there until the town’s water supply was restored.

It was the seventh day since the taps ran dry and there was no word as to what had gone wrong or when the water supply was to be restored.

Vermaak shook out her sleeping bag, laid it out on the floor in the reception area, and spoke about her frustration.

She said there had been a church gathering in Creighton that attracted more than 3 000 visitors. She had several pastors staying at her hotel, but they and all her other guests had left when there was no water and she had to cancel all the other bookings for the rest of the week.

Vermaak believes the municipal officials are indifferent to her plight because none of them lives in Creighton.

When there was still no word by Thursday on whether the town would ever get water, she drove to Ixopo to stage a solitary protest.

She said municipal officials became worried about her overnight stay and decided to negotiate. The head of water services, Nkululeko Biyase, promised to send a tanker with water to her hotel.

Vermaak stayed until she had word from her husband, Chris, that the water had arrived. But the water was muddy, so she didn’t budge.

She finally made her way home just after 9 pm, when clean water was running out of the tanker and after being told what was being done to restore the town’s supply.

Yesterday, Sisonke district municipal manager Nandi Dlamini said the problem had started with an Eskom power failure last Friday, which caused the Creighton waterworks to shut down.

This resulted in the reservoir running dry, and when the power was restored, the water that went into the pipes was very muddy. The taps had to be shut again to allow water to build up in the reservoir.

An additional snag was airlocks forming in the pipes as well as pressure problems in the reticulation system that caused further delays. Dlamini said they expected all the problems to be sorted out and the town’s water supply to be fully restored by today.

By late yesterday it was a case of all’s well that ends well.

Biyase visited Vermaak to check if the hotel was getting water and she made lunch for him.

They agreed to keep in touch and Vermaak said she would be monitoring the situation.

“Ultimately it was a matter of communication. If people knew what was happening and what to expect, they would be more understanding,” she said.

• nalini@witness.co.za

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