South Africa

At wits' end over leaking pipe in drought-hit Nelson Mandela Bay

At wits' end over leaking pipe in drought-hit Nelson Mandela Bay

A family who have been without water for a month are terrified they will be slapped with an astronomical water bill - despite repeated calls for the municipality to fix a burst pipe that has been spewing fresh water since June.

Zuziwe Tshaka, 72, who has lived in the house in KwaMagxaki, near Port Elizabeth, for years, said since September the leak has grown  worse by the day. 

She said she reported the problem to the municipality several times, and when people were sent out to look at the problem, she was told there was a problem with the gauge. But no one ever returned to fix it.

“We noticed stagnant water from underground in June and immediately informed the municipality,” she said.

“They came and said they would be back but never came to fix it.”

She said the pipe had since burst, resulting in the family now having no running water inside the house.

“It's almost a month now that we dont have water running in the house. We cannot even use the toilet because of the leak. We have to ask neighbours and we struggle to do laundry for the children,” she said.

Tshaka said she lived with her three grandchildren and son and they had all been battling without water.

In desperation, she called in a private plumber but he told her the pipes were municipal and to fix the problem, water to the whole area would need to be disconnected.

“I don't know what to do any more,” she said.

Municipal spokesperson Mamela Ndamase said the municipality did not attend to leaks inside consumers’ yards “unless the resident is a beneficiary in the Assistance To The Poor (ATTP) programme and according to our records they are not”.

When asked about Tshakas claim that a plumber had told her the pipe was municipal and that water to the area needed to be shut off for it to be fixed, Ndamase did not respond.

Tshaka said she was already paying a hefty water bill and was scared that the leak would mean it would skyrocket and she would be unable to pay it.

“I'm scared and waiting for the water statement. I wonder how much water has been lost.

She said her daughter in Johannesburg had tried to assist by calling the municipality. She said they were given different reference numbers every time and were promised that a team would be sent out to fix the problem.

“I went myself to the municipal office and when I got there [a] security [guard] told me the lifts were not working. I had to use the stairs and it's on the seventh floor and I couldn't, so I went back home.

“ We need help — we can’t go on forever with a leak and no water,” she said.

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