Water is a basic right because it is about life itself. Communities living near mines have for years been denied this basic right. Their problem is due to the mining operations and poor service delivery by local government.Activists in the Bench Marks Community Monitoring programme report on how this denial of a basic service places them at a high risk to infection by the Corona Virus, .
Washing hands has been identified as a necessary protection against infectious diseases. As a response to the pandemic, government has made an extra effort to provide communities with water. However not all communities have received this service yet.
The following is a selection of monitors reports over March and April on the problem of Water and the struggle to stop the spread of the Corona Virus.
Thembisile ‘Temshaz’ Mbethe , Mpumelelweni, Emalahleni (Mpumalanga) (10 April 2020):
“In my area we are still having a water challenge that it has been going on even before lock down started as it is an ongoing challenge. So one of the precautionary measures says we must wash hands at-least for 20 seconds time & again and we must use clean water preferably running water (water from a tap) but the reality is our taps are dry… no water is coming out.. and there’s no any alternative has been made by our Local Municipality for the community in this 13 days of lock down.”
Lucky Hlabirwa writing of Lephalale Municipality Marapong (9 April 2020)
“At last water stressed community got water from the local municipality. Those who are living in informal settlements are the most targets of Corona Virus. Reason being that most of informal settlements are not given priorities on coming to service delivery. During this lockdown period people use water none stop because we are supposed to wash hands frequently and bath not mentioning all activities that needs water when we are indoors. People got Water and that’s a relief but my concern is those who are not able to buy sanitizers or use soap when they Wash hands under the following reasons… being unemployed and poverty. When they come to fetch water they open and close the taps without washing their hands. What if someone with the Virus have used the tap? They are using hole toilets and you can’t help yourself without touching…”
Thokozile Mntambo in Thulani Snake – Park (Soweto), (8 April 2020):
”Thulani Snake-Park is unfortunately one of the townships in Soweto with the highest number of people suffering from TB , Asthma , Lung cancer and many children born with cerebral palsy. This is because of the toxic mine waste from the tailing dump. Residents living in informal settlements are sharing taps on daily basis to get water .Since this national lock down the taps are overcrowded because most of the people are not going to work and the schools are closed. Their safety is compromised because these taps are not sanitised and there is no social distancing taking place. It’s been two weeks since the lockdown and a JoJo tank has been placed but it is not yet working or helping the community.”
Mpho Tjale, from Mokopane reports from Mahwelereng Shopping Complex (7 April 2020)
“The comment I could hear from community members was that, they understand the seriousness of the virus but they cant lock themselves in their houses without food and they are struggling in getting transport and some also were raising issue of basic services in their community, mostly shortage of water in their communities, but I then gave them the free number of the department of water and sanitation which is 0800200200 to lodge a complain about the shortage and I also emphasized that they should be patient when calling them as it might take few minutes before they could go through”.
Tokelo Mahlakoane in Sekutlong Village, Sekhukhune (6 April 2020)
“Today on 6 April at Moroke Sekutlong Village it was a Christmas to the residents because the community of Moroke Sekutlong had a chance of getting water after a long time since 23 September 2017, Seeing our residents smiling when seeing a truck delivering a water it was very touching. We remember our community fetching water from the river or they buy water from small truck which it Cost R40-00 per Tank, So you can see and feel that the residents were very happy about the delivery of Water today. We really think and hope this was begging of Justice.”
Phokeng Forum , Masosobane Phokeng (4 April 2020):
“Masosobane had an issue with water shortage for some time, previously we had engaged the authorities but we had no victories in the past. Since we took part in programme facilitated by BUA we had a change in how the authorities where responding to our demands. Since the beginning of the year we had constant supply of water and a week before the lockdown, those without water tanks received frequent water supply via the tank trucks.”
Mantxakane from Sekhukhune in Limpopo (29 March 2020)
”…we have a water crisis because we bought the water so the supplier they didn’t deliver water due to corona virus so we use Sefufule river as second option.”
Gamogashoa Makhuduthamaga from Sekhukhune Limpopo (30 March 2020)
“At Gamogashoa Makhuduthamaga Local Monicipality there is still a water challenge as some people still go collect water away from their homes. One can see few wearing masks.” Furthermore, in Marapong, Lephalale Municipality, Limpopo the report reads thus: “We have a very big challenge of Water supply especially at informal settlements because they are using water tanks.People force to go a distance to fetch water. In addition, in Mokopane in Limpopo, in the Morapaneng village we have a challenge with water in been a week now as we have to wash our hand so this is a big scarcity.”
Happiness Koma, from Sekhukhune Limpopo, Moshira village (30 March 2020) :
“Now the government has advice people to wash their hands regularly to limit the spread of COVID – 19 but still the community of Moshira struggle to have access to clean water and they drink water from Motse River. Not only youth that is concerned about thus but every one, “now how are we going to protect our selves with this polluted water from Motse river is not even clean but because we dont have jobs and we dont afford to buy water like the rich people do we drink this water . Our lives are in danger now if this COVID – 19 need us to clean our hands then for us is death because we don’t have water.”
Lentswe Buda from Motlhabe, North West Province (31 March 2020): “One other way to prevent getting infected by Covid 19 is to wash our hands regularly, Motlhabe is one other area that is struggling with access to water so far its been over a week since we do not have water at all, so we definitely in high risk of getting infected.”