By Anees Teladia
If concerns over safety of the consumption of the water supply in Cape Town weren’t enough for the City administration to address, they will certainly have to sink or swim when dealing with the urgent concerns raised by several communities regarding the high water tariffs imposed upon citizens. Just yesterday, protest action was taken to highlight the plight of many community members around Khayelitsha and their objection to the exorbitant tariffs placed on water consumption. One of the primary concerns raised by protesters is the inaccuracy of the water meters. The protests resulted in some transport services being suspended and several road closures in and around Somerset West and Khayelitsha.
“People are complaining about the water meters that are not accurate…we have been calling officials, raising the concern of the challenges we have with the water meters. To date, this problem hasn’t been resolved. Hence, the communities from town-to-town will also be embarking on the streets, raising their concerns. [However] it is not just the water meters. It’s quite a number of service delivery problems that people are unhappy about,” said sub-council chairperson in Khayelitsha, Councillor Patrick Mngxunyeni.
When asked whether the protests have been successful in getting the voices of the communities heard, Councillor Mngxunyeni told VOC that while no concrete changes or resolutions have been made, there is acknowledgement and a response has been given.
“Nothing has been achieved yet. Suffice to say that there is a response from the office of the mayor, that on the 16th and 17th [April] they will be visiting the area with all nine departments. That is where I think a proper response will be given.”
Chairperson of the Khayelitsha Community Policing Committee, Lorraine Mosana says that the attendance at the protests was significant.
“There were a lot of people! [participating in the protests that took place yesterday]”
“I think there are going to be more protests because it’s not only the one area complaining about the meter boxes. A lot of different community members complain,” said Mosana.
According to an official media release by the City of Cape Town, protest action and disruptions have negatively impacted the City’s ability to provide services and has put the lives of ordinary citizens at risk.
“This week, protest action in Blackheath and Strand have caused severe disruptions and volatility in some areas of the city, putting the lives of members of the public at risk and impacting on the City’s ability to deliver services. In Khayelitsha a number of main roads have been closed to traffic as a result of protest action,” said the release.
“A number of City health facilities and libraries in Strand and Khayelitsha are closed or short-staffed as personnel cannot get into the areas. Access to the Khayelitsha Hospital has also been blocked during these illegal protests putting the lives of patients at risk.”
According to the official release, opportunists have also taken advantage of the situation and have begun looting and damaging property.
“During the last 24 hours at least three businesses were looted by criminal elements either instigating the illegal protests or using the protests as excuses for theft and robbery.”
Protesters blocked roads by burning tyres and other objects, damaging public infrastructure.
Reports indicate that protesters have also committed acts of vandalism on the OR Tambo Hall among other structures and that several schools across the Cape have been closed due to the protests.
There are questions being raised around political involvement in the protests.
According to reports, 31 people were arrested in the Lwandle area since yesterday.