While some South Africans are spending a lot more time in pools and open waters this festive season, access to water remains a struggle for residents of Amathole District Municipality.
Some areas in the district have been without water for months now.
The municipality says while efforts to fully restore water supply are underway – it will take time for the system to recover.
The municipality is partly blaming an illegal workers’ strike for the water problem.
“ADM is currently fixing all the vandalised infrastructure which also plays a huge role in intermittent water supply. We unreservedly apologies to our communities for this unfortunate incident which has compromised their constitutional right of access to basic services. With the same breath ADM would like to thank all our communities for their patience during the disruption of services,” it says.
On Monday, the municipality also issued a statement, urging communities to boil their water before consumption. It attributed this to pipe bursts, which the municipality said were caused by the alleged water infrastructure sabotage.
In October, the Amathole also grounded water tankers for security reasons in various drought-stricken communities around Butterworth.
While acknowledging the authorities’ assertions that vandalism has played a role in communities not having water, a Centane community activist who was arrested during the hard lockdown for holding a public meeting over the water challenges, Harvey Ntshoko, has said they had the crisis even before the sabotage of infrastructure.
Some activists, including Ntshoko, and civil society organisations in Eastern Cape have threatened to take the Amathole District Municipality, the Amatola Water Board and the Mnquma Local Municipality to court in January should they fail to present a detailed plan for emergency water provision to communities in ward 28 in Centane.
While all the implicated parties have missed the initial December 15 deadline, the Centre for Environmental Rights’ Leanne Govindsamy says they will decide on a way forward after a second deadline expires on January 15.
The water problems in the Eastern Cape persist amid the provincial government’s battle to slow down the resurgence of COVID-19 infections.
While there has been a decline in the number of cases in hotspots like the Nelson Mandela Bay and the Sarah Baartman districts, a more than 20% spike in cases has been reported in at least four districts, including Alfred Nzo and OR Tambo.
One of the ways to curb the spread of the pandemic is regular washing of hands with soap and/or sanitising. However, buying sanitisers is a luxury for most of the Amathole District community members, who mostly live in abject poverty.
According to Stats SA, the Eastern Cape remains one of the provinces with the highest adult headcount of adult poverty of 67.3%.