Taps run dry in Butterworth -residents demand answers

Bhungeni informal settlement residents in Butterworth are using any water they can find.
Bhungeni informal settlement residents in Butterworth are using any water they can find.
Image: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik / GroundUp

Residents of Butterworth on Monday blocked the busy N2 from East London to Mthatha with burning tyres, demanding that Amathole district municipality deliver water to their small town, where the taps have run dry.

It was the second day of protest. On Sunday, residents also closed the N2 for several hours.

Residents said they had been out of water for a week since an unprotected strike at the municipality started on August 5. The workers are demanding an annual pay increment of 6.5%.

Butterworth CBD, Zizamele and Msobomvu are supplied by Xilinxa dam, which is almost empty. These areas usually get water from 5am to 8am, and again from 5pm to 8pm. Residents and the municipality say the supply has been sabotaged.

When GroundUp visited the town centre last week, there was no water. Public toilets were closed and people we spoke to said they were using the veld instead.

Cuba informal settlement and extensions were getting water delivered by tankers before the strike. Resident Axolile Soto said the area has now been without water for two weeks.

“We are now relying on dirty water from a small river which is a kilometre away. That river is for animals,” said Soto.

“Ngcuwa dam [which is empty] is full of sand and the municipality is doing nothing about that. Residents once offered to dig the dam but ADM promised to bring its contractors to do the work, and that was three years ago,” he said.

Residents with cars are fetching water from a small dam out of town. They said the water was dirty but they could at least do their laundry in it. They are buying drinking water.

Residents at Bhungeni use a small small river behind their informal settlement to do laundry. Some said they drink the water, but only after it has been boiled. 

A month ago Amathole district municipality announced that R156m would be allocated to Mnquma local municipality to implement water and sanitation projects.

On its Facebook page, the district municipality asked for patience. It said 14 water tankers had been outsourced and they would operate under private security arrangements.

It said private security would be extended to treatment plants where the water supply had been deliberately switched off or damaged.

This article was originally published on GroundUp 

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