Officers clamped down on an informal car wash at Killarney taxi rank and ended the operation by dumping buckets of water into drains and nearby fields. The owner was also handed a R200 fine despite claiming to use grey water for his business.
Car washer Zako Mbana said the water came from the neighbouring Rietvlei and was drained of soot overnight before being used to ensure water was not wasted.
“We’re working here. We get water from the vlei and drain it, now we can’t do anything. It’s my only income. We have to get water,” said Mbana, who charges R50 per car and gets half of his earnings.
Another car washer in Joe Slovo, Tony Ugwu, was busted for using a hose and buckets, but investigations revealed he was using a well point and water from his washing machine to keep his business going in the drought.
“It’s a very big problem for us as we use dirty water to wash cars. (The restrictions) affected our business a lot. I wash 10 cars, I can’t pay rent or feed my family. The well point cost R15 000 so now I’m happy to have it,” said Ugwu.
A law enforcement officer expressed his gratitude at Ugwu for switching to grey water but said he had been to the particular car wash three times before to warn Ugwu about using potable water.
Water wasters in Dunoon were caught using a tap to fill buckets to wash cars and escaped the grasp of the law by running away when officers tried to apprehend them. Another was caught washing a car whose owner's licence had expired. The owner was handed a R500 fine for both violations.
Mayco member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith, said law enforcement was stepping in uncharted territory when it came to addressing water wasting violations. He said that officers did not have equipment to contain the water and dumped the water used by car washers, as it was no longer sanitary.
“I get that they’re trying to do something useful, but when they’re breaking the law and people complain, you have to listen to it because they have the law to quote. Enforcement comes across impossible situations and they’re obligated to uphold those laws.
“Everyone has to adapt, there is tremendous pressure from the public to address water wasting in the city. (Car washers) need to have evidence of a well point source.
"It’s incumbent to demonstrate that, or else everyone could say that they have a well point. Washing of cars on streets is also a violation of streets and public places by-law."