In this file picture, residents from a drought stricken area in Cape Town are seen queuing and waiting their turn to fill their water bottles.

JOHANNESBURG- It is chaos in the Emfuleni Municipality as residents and business continue to suffer from water shortages and raw sewage runs into the streets and rivers.

The municipality, which owes Rand Water almost R214 million, has blamed the shortages on a 10% water cut by Rand Water because of historical debt. Emfuleni's assistant manager of media relations and community, Makhosonke Sangweni, said Rand Water was continuing to escalate the water cuts by decreasing the water pressure more than the agreed 10%.

Rand Water, on the other hand, has maintained that the shortage was because the municipality’s pumps to their pressure tower were not operational.

“The pressure tower is responsible for supplying water to the high-lying areas of Emfuleni and as this was not operating as normal, water supply was not reaching these high-lying areas,” said Rand Water media relations manager Justice Mohale in a statement.
The municipality said they were unsure of why there were sewage leaks and that they were waiting for a comprehensive report from Metsi-A-Lekoa, the water services authority entity for the municipality.


Despite the lack of clarity on what is actually causing the shortages and sewage leaks, ordinary citizens and businesses are the ones who are bearing the brunt of it all. Red and Black Beauty Salon in Vereeniging customers can decrease by more than half when there isn’t water, especially if it happens at the end of the month. So the salon  store water in buckets.

"We can’t get any customers because they want to plait their hair or install a weave but they’ll want to wash their hair first," stylist Beryl Mogodhi said.

However, even the water in buckets does not work as some clients prefer water they see coming straight of the tap.

"If we tell them it’s from buckets, then some clients don’t want to do their hair and leave,” said Mogodhi.

On Saturday, Chipo Kutandz went to work without having taken a bath as there was not even a drop of water coming out of the tap. She said it would be better if they were told in advance that there would be no water as that would allow them to make plans to refill buckets and containers

“I have kids at home and we can’t even use the toilet or even cook. Sometimes we have to use transport to travel to where there is water and collect it from there. Without water, everything stops,” she added.

All around the municipality there are pools of raw sewage spilling out and running into the roads. There is also sewage spilling into the Vaal and Rietspruit rivers. In Sebokeng, residents walking by the pools of sewage opt to cross the street to avoid encountering the stench.