‘It’s every man for himself’

2016-07-04 12:52
Greytown resident Sandile Maphumulo fills up containers with water to take home from a community tank. Maphumulo said the situation had been “very bad” and that he encountered queues at the water tank almost daily.

Greytown resident Sandile Maphumulo fills up containers with water to take home from a community tank. Maphumulo said the situation had been “very bad” and that he encountered queues at the water tank almost daily. (Chelsea Pieterse, The Witness)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Pietermaritzburg - There is a war being fought over water in a KwaZulu-Natal town and it’s every person for themselves.

Since Greytown’s taps ran dry two weeks ago, the vandalism of water tanks, theft of water, fights over water, and the illegal sale of water are reportedly common occurrences in the town.

There is speculation that those who are selling water do not want people to collect the free water from the town’s water tanks, so they remove the taps and make holes in the tanks to drain them, forcing people to buy the water they are selling.

One resident said they were “trying to make money out of the disaster”.

In a bid to stop the town from running out of water completely, Umzinyathi District Municipality and the water authority announced two weeks ago that there would be no water supplied to the town’s taps any longer, and the only supply would be via water tanks that are filled once a day.

“It’s every man for himself,” said a Greytown resident who asked not to be named.

“People are stealing water tanks from around the town and some are arriving at the tanks with bakkie loads of buckets to fill.”

The resident said they had seen bakkies laden with containers driving from tank to tank to fill their buckets.

“The municipal tanker has come to fill up the tank on our street twice in one day a few times.

“It is an everyday struggle and this is only the beginning,” said the resident.

Another resident living in Solomon, a township in Greytown, said the desperate need for water meant people had to stand in queues for over three hours just to fill a bucket.

“It has been hectic. We have not had water since February, and we have been using the water tanks as our only source of water since then.”

The Solomon resident said she had to wake up early to avoid queues at the tank because the waiting in lines became “too long” in the afternoons.

“Sometimes we come to the tanks and they have been stabbed [vandalised] and water is just pouring out.

“Other times, the taps have been stolen, and as a community we have to buy new taps.”

Greytown Primary School principal Fanie Nel said the school had a reservoir nearby and had been “lucky” to get water supply.

Nel said there are eight children in the school’s hostel, but water does not reach the top floor and the children cart buckets up and down the stairs every morning to bath.

“The teachers who live on the school’s property have had to make arrangements with friends to bathe and shower,” he said.

“In Greytown, you don’t invite your friends over for a braai anymore; you invite them over to bath.”

Charles Warden said his family spends R150 on drinking water every week.

Warden said he had seen bakkies with Durban and Pietermaritzburg number plates at the tank down the road, filling up to 30 buckets of water.

“It has been crazy. We do not know if the water is being sold or being hoarded.”

Local resident and Umvoti Water official Brian Walker said a project was being worked on to restore water to Greytown.

The project would see a reservoir and pump station being set up near nine bore­holes to supply the town.

Walker said the project should be completed in four weeks and that Greytown’s water supply was expected to run completely dry in five weeks.

Asked what would happen if the project was not completed by the end of the five weeks, a source said it would be “time to close up shop”.

“We would be done!”

Walker said he saw a man loading up his bakkie with scores of buckets of water filled from a water tank last week.

“I took his photograph and he immediately started screaming and shouting at me.

“I left and later received a call from my domestic worker who said the man had come to the house and was screaming at her and her daughter.

“She told the man that I was on my way, but he had left by the time I arrived home.”

A Greytown security company, which did not want to be named, said it had received requests for 24-hour guarding of water tanks.

The owner said someone tried to steal a tank from Durban Street last week, but was stopped by the community.

“A tank was stolen on Monday and was replaced on Tuesday morning, only to be stolen on Tuesday night,” he said.

“Two more tanks were vandalised in the town during the week as well.”

A guard for the company said he chased people last Friday after finding them pulling off a tank tap, wasting litres of water.

“Just today [Friday] I have seen four or five tanks that were damaged and spraying water everywhere.”

The security owner added that he often saw taxi drivers crowding around water tanks, washing their vehicles from the tanks.

Jen Cowie, a Greytown resident and owner of the local Wimpy (which employs 20 women, mostly breadwinners), said businesses were also struggling.

“The owner of this centre has sunk a borehole that supplies us. Because of this, we have water for our ablution facilities. If the water runs out, we will either have to cart it from our farm or close the business,” she said

“This unacceptable situation could have been avoided. If restrictions were put in place last year already, we would not be having the troubles we are having now.”

• chelsea.pieterse@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  water

Inside News24


Matric Results are coming soon!

Notify me when results become available

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.