Residents of Somerset East have been without water for 23 days, while the Blue Crane Route Municipality keeps everyone in the dark about the cause of this growing humanitarian disaster.
People are queuing to collect water from water tanks. Businesses have ground to a standstill, pupils cannot use toilets at schools, hospitals and clinics in the area have been affected, people cannot wash and toilets cannot be flushed.
Even the Eastern Cape MEC of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Xolile Nqatha, who was approached by the Democratic Alliance to intervene, appears to be unable to get answers out of municipal officials.
There is no communication or transparency around the matter, which has brought the town to a standstill.
In some cases, water returns every third or fourth day, for an hour or two, before the taps run dry again. Even in these cases, residents have to rely on each other to know when the water is flowing, as no communication is forthcoming from the municipality.
Democratic Alliance councillors in the area suspect that the already compromised water situation in the town has been further aggravated by the recent loadshedding, which could have impacted on water pumps in the area, preventing water being pumped to reservoirs.
However, attempts to get confirmation on this from the municipality have also simply been ignored.
It has become abundantly clear that the ANC’s deployed cadres are incapable of providing the residents of Somerset East with their constitutionally guaranteed right to water. Worse, they simply refuse to be held accountable for their inaction and incompetence.
The DA has now written directly to the Human Rights Commission, requesting their urgent intervention in the matter and has called for loadshedding to be suspended in the town, until the water situation has been resolved.
A DA-led Eastern Cape government would ensure that the water starts flowing in Somerset East, by making use of the constitutionally afforded avenues available to intervene, and would ensure that those officials responsible are held accountable.
We would not simply shrug our shoulders and claim that the officials refuse to provide feedback.