Johannesburg - Lekwa-Teemane municipal manager Andrew Makwapane on Thursday blamed a contractor for Bloemhof's water contamination, which claimed the life of a baby.
“We know there was a sewage spillage and there was a contractor in Extension five in Boitumelong who was supposed to fix the problem Ä but he abandoned his work due to protest riots in the area,” he told Sapa.
More than 200 people were hospitalised with diarrhoea this week in the water-depleted North West town which has seen schools shut down and police and municipal offices left without water.
Makwapane could not say when the spill happened, or specify which riots he was referring to.
“If there is somebody who is responsible for the contamination, we will take necessary steps. We want to restore normality and give water back to the people.”
Violent protests erupted in the area in April when residents torched several buildings, including a municipal office, clinic and houses belonging to municipality employees. The mayor's house was also set alight.
Residents wanted their entire municipal council removed.
Makwapane said tests were being carried out to determine the cause of the diarrhoea.
“The source of the diarrhoea outbreak has not been identified yet. We are waiting for tests from the laboratory.... We stopped water supply to the communities since last Friday,” he said.
The results were expected on Friday.
Civil rights group Afriforum said it would conduct its own tests on the water.
Makwapane said Bloemhof's water system had been cleaned and supply would be restored within the next few hours. He, however, urged people to boil water before use.
North West health department spokesman Tebogo Lekgethwane earlier confirmed that a baby had died on Wednesday after contracting severe diarrhoea from the contamination.
Over 200 people reported to local clinics with similar symptoms since Saturday. He said claims of a cholera outbreak had not yet been confirmed.
“Cholera can only be declared when there have been laboratory tests done. We have not declared it cholera. We took samples from the water to go test them. We have not received the results from the laboratory.”
Water tankers had been deployed to the area, while schools had been closed since Monday.
Earlier in the day, Boitumelong residents queued to fill containers with contaminated water from what appeared to be the only working tap in the area in a yard. They said they needed the water even though it was impure because they had been without water for a week.
About 30 people were in line, some with buckets and 25 litre containers, and others with wheelbarrows. Some of those who left carried the containers on their heads.
“Our toilets are stinking. They are full because we don't have water,” resident Meisie Kgomo told Sapa.
“Our kids have been returned from school. (We) can't bath, can't cook, we need clean water as soon as possible.”
There was also no water at the local police station and municipal offices.
By Thursday afternoon, water in the tankers was depleted and people resorted to taking water from swimming pools.