Pretoria - The water crisis in Hammanskraal is not a new phenomenon, for the past 16 years, the City of Tshwane has failed to provide clean and drinkable water to residents.
This was according to a report by panellists of an independent commission of inquiry into the water crisis in the area.
For many years the the Rooiwal waste-water treatment has come under criticism for being the source of dirty water consumed by people in Hammanskraal due to its lack of capacity to purify waste water, resulting in sludge being discharged into the Apies River.
Instead of fixing the situation, residents have had a long back and forth battle with the municipality over the unhealthy water.
IOL has compiled a timeline of events which occurred over the past decade concerning the water crisis which has gripped the township.
In March 2013, residents in Steve Bikoville, Hammanskraal went on a protest after allegedly being without clean water for about two months.
Some community members claimed that they resorted to drinking water from a nearby stream and ended up getting stomach cramps and diarrhoea.
Residents reached a boiling point after the third child from the area was hit by a car after fetching water at a nearby river.
To provide temporary solution, the municipality sent it water trucks.
In July 2014, a red flag after a diarrhoea outbreak was raised when the Jubilee Hospital and Temba community health centre treated almost 25 people for the condition in one day.
The situation reached crisis proportions as numbers continued to increase and 73 people were treated within a week.
In September 2018, former Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga together with the then Gauteng premier David Makhura went to visit the community and promised residents that the province and Water and Sanitation Department were prioritising the matter.
During the meeting, Msimanga drank the water in front of residents who had gathered inside the hall demonstrating that the water was not contaminated.
Makhura then promised to send a team from the provincial health department to investigate cases of illnesses caused by water.
In August 2019, the municipality indicated that its working on resolving the ongoing water crisis in Hammanskraal after the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) found the drinking water was contaminated with E coli and threatened legal action, demanding that the City act after the findings.
The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) had also raised concerns with the metro about the quality of water in the area.
During that time, former Tshwane mayor Steven Mokgalapa said he was aware of Outa's findings that the city was supplying Hammanskraal poor quality water.
He said the Themba Water Treatment Plant is at 99% completion, which was set scheduled for the end of August 2019.
He said it was not totally true that the water was not safe for human consumption.
During the same month in August 2019, former Utility Services MMC Abel Tau, lashed out at the SAHRC provincial manager, Buang Jones, for leaking the Hammanskraal water report before having a meeting with the City.
Jones said the water in the area was unfit for human consumption, basing his comment on the report compiled by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research following a laboratory test.
Tau described the commission’s behaviour as astonishing and said it was very dangerous to take the first sample and conclude that the water was unfit for human consumption.
In September 2019, the City of Tshwane was asked to rope in Rand Water to assist with the alleviation of water woes in Hammanskraal by providing people with drinkable water.
The request was made by the department of water and sanitation, according to its provincial manager Sibusiso Mthembu.
He said Rand Water has a water pipeline constructed 20km from the area, which could be used to supply clean water to residents.
Mthembu said the proposal was made to the municipality as one of the short-term solutions to the address water challenges in the area.
He said the other option to the City was to bring on board the Magalies Water to share its expertise on how to provide clean water in the people.
In August 2021, after years of complaining, an independent commission of inquiry into the Hammanskraal water crisis was held and it was discovered that the City of Tshwane has dismally failed to be accountable and responsive to the water needs of the Hammanskraal and surrounding communities for the past 16 years.
The commission was mandated by ActionSA and chaired by Professor Jonas Letsoalo.
“Besides there not being sufficient water provided, the little water that was supplied was contaminated with human waste and/or had a bad smell of chlorine or human waste,” read the report.
Even though the City had indicated that there was work already under way to fix the problem of water in Hammanskraal, the commission said it was never reflected on its report because nobody came to represent the municipality during the hearing.
“The commission invited the mayor. There was no response; not even the presence. Second point: we applied for access into the Rooiwal wastewater plant that was denied,” said Letsoalo.
In October 2021, the SAHRC released a report which found the City of Tshwane had not met its constitutional obligation to provide clean water to residents.
In December 2021, after becoming increasingly frustrated with the water crisis, Hammanskraal residents approached the Gauteng legislature asking law-makers to intervene and provide them with clean, drinkable water.
Some residents submitted petitions to the provincial legislature’s petitions committee, asking for intervention to resolve the problem.
In April 2022, residents of Stinkwater a neighbouring area not far from Hammanskraal, went for three weeks without water and when water was finally returned, the City said it was not fit for direct consumption.
To resolve the issue, the municipality promised to bring in water tanks, however, some residents complained that the tanks don’t have delivery times and sometimes they don’t come.
In March 2023, unhappy with the City of Tshwane’s failure to provide water after tanks failed to come for almost a week, Hammanskraal community members resolved to approach the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, to compel the metro to provide adequate water.
There was also no communication forthcoming from the municipality as to what the problem was.
Residents said they have been left with no choice as efforts from the SAHRC to assist had failed.
In May 2023, 15 cholera-related deaths were reported in Hammanskraal due to contaminated water.
More than 50 people have been admitted at Jubilee Hospital for medical care.