Article by: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik – First published on groundup.org.za
Residents of Butterworth in the Eastern Cape have been without tap water for more than a week, and deliveries by tanker to surrounding villages have also stopped, GroundUp reports
On Tuesday, 16 people appeared in the Butterworth Magistrate’s Court, charged with public violence. They were released on a warning. This followed continuing protests over water that started on Sunday.
Protesters have blocked roads and the N2 with rocks and burning tyres. Shops, schools and clinics have closed.
On Monday, Amathole District Municipality (ADM) acting mayor Zibuthe Mqwazi and Mnquma Local Municipality Mayor Sithembiso Ncetezo tried to address residents, but they demanded that arrested protesters be released first.
Protesters say the lack of water is not caused by drought, but by the unresponsive Amathole and Mnquma municipalities.
Community leader Saziso Peter said all the villages under Mnquma had no tap water. He said residents had offered to assist in digging out the Ngcuwa Dam, which had filled up with sand and was currently empty. “They told us that Water Affairs is responsible,” said Peter.
Matters were made worse when ADM workers embarked on an unprotected strike over wages.
They have now suspended their strike. But Peter says problems with the delivery of water by tanker predate the strike action.
He said ADM workers had been selling the water. “Eight hundred litres are sold for R1 200 and 20 litres are sold for R20… Those who could not afford it were forced to drink dirty water,” said Peter.
“We are not going to stop this fight until we see water coming through our taps. We no longer want tank water, because they are giving us dirty water. We are demanding clean water and it is our right,” he said.
Mnquma municipality spokesperson Loyiso Mpalantshane said: “We call for calm and an end to destruction of public property while solutions are being explored to normalise the situation.”