Water woes in Vanrhynsdorp see residents take to the streets

Residents of Vanrhynsdorp in the Western Cape have gone for five days without water and there’s no relief in sight. It’s not the first time this has happened. Now they are threatening to block the N7 highway to Namibia.

‘Today is five days without a single drop of water,” said Glen Farmer, a resident of Vanrhynsdorp. He was speaking on Tuesday as residents began protesting against the lack of water.

Vanrhynsdorp is about 300km north of Cape Town on the N7 leading to the Northern Cape and on to Namibia. The town falls under the Matzikama Municipality.

The ongoing supply problems began in December, said Farmer, a member of the South African Communist Party and community activist who has been leading protests over the lack of water.

Previously, when the water supply had been disrupted, Matzikama mayor Johan van der Hoven issued a public apology over what was described as “discoloured” water.

Read more in Daily Maverick:Rolling blackouts blamed for water outages in Western Cape municipalities

A meeting was held on Monday with municipal officials, where old infrastructure was blamed.

Farmer said he needed to escort the manager out of the meeting as “you can only imagine, being without water for four days, how frustrated people are”.

That afternoon, residents of the Maskamsig suburb began protesting along the R27 which connects Vanrhynsdorp to Nieuwoudtville and Calvinia in the Northern Cape.

“No trucks were allowed in or out,” said Farmer.

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These protests will continue “until such time as the municipality provides answers about when the water is coming”.

Farmer claimed there was “no real effort from the municipality to engage”. 

The municipality has provided the community with 300 five-litre bottles of water, but Farmer said this wasn’t enough, and that it was “inhumane to keep people without water”.

He said it was a violation of people’s basic rights.

Farmer said if the municipality did not provide answers or solutions, the community could block the nearby N7 highway.

He said while communication from the municipality was poor, ward councillor Christo Boks had been proactive.

“He did everything in his power to assist the community,” said Farmer.

Three days ago, the municipality, through its social media outlets, attributed the lack of water in Vanrhynsdorp to a broken pipe at a nearby prison’s pump station. The municipality said at the time that a water truck would supply the community.

On Tuesday afternoon, the municipality said workers were installing a booster pump.

Daily Maverick reported recently on an R89-million allocation by the Western Cape government to struggling municipalities for the provision of generators to keep water and power flowing. DM

Author: editor

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