Two years on and communities are still crying for water

Sam Naidoo, 75, and Sominthra Ramlagan, 79, walking on Oleander Road, in Verulam, each with a 10 litre bucket of water in their hand. Picture: Jehran Naidoo/The POST

Sam Naidoo, 75, and Sominthra Ramlagan, 79, walking on Oleander Road, in Verulam, each with a 10 litre bucket of water in their hand. Picture: Jehran Naidoo/The POST

Published Apr 11, 2024


TODAY marks two years since the disastrous floods that hit KwaZulu Natal, on April 11, 2022.

At the time key water infra-structure, like the Tongaat water works, was destroyed, leaving residents without water in their taps for almost a year.

Many other areas suffered a similar fate and two years on, many residents are still without a regular supply of water.

With the May 29 elections around the corner, eThekwini residents – particularly those in the northern suburbs of Tongaat, Verulam and Phoenix – have accused the government of failing to supply this basic human right.

In Verulam, some areas have been without any water for more than 200 days.

The POST took to the streets yesterday, speaking to residents and civic leaders about the water woes and lack of service delivery.

While driving through Verulam, I spotted Sam Naidoo, 75, and Sominthra Ramlagan, 79, walking on Oleander Road, in Verulam, each with a 10 litre bucket of water in their hand.

They had just collected it from a static tank installed by a local company, Havenridge Distributors.

“We can’t make it anymore. Every day this is how we must walk to go and fetch water. Imagine, at my age, I can’t get water from the tap. I have to carry this heavy bucket, which is backbreaking,” Sominthra Ramlagan complained.

Local civic organisations said many women, children, the elderly and sickly, suffered the same fate as Naidoo and Ramlagan daily.

They are left to fend for themselves because the constant challenges in the reticulation system result in ongoing water outages, the organisations said.

“From the flood damage, the excuses now are endless for the taps running dry. They range from defective air valves, sabotage and heavy rains,” said the civic representatives.

“The municipality and Department of Water and Sanitation, has come up with a plethora of excuses for the poor service delivery. We are fed up,” they said.

Community led organisations, like the Voice of Phoenix, Verulam Water Crisis Committee and the Tongaat Civic Association, have been forced to barter with the government, often during tense exchanges, to get access to water.

Bisham Devchand, Mike Padayachee, Freddy Moodley and Ricky Naidoo from the Verulam Water Crisis Committee outside the Mountview Community Hall. Picture: Jehran Naidoo/ The POST

It has been local businessmen, like Ricky Naidoo, of Venk Pac that have come to the rescue of residents in the northern suburbs – taking water to them free of charge, since the April 2023 floods.

But, it has not been an easy task.

“It has been difficult to be honest. I have my trucks with Jojo tanks and they have been going around giving free water to people since the floods. But it is a

costly affair. This includes fuel for the six trucks, the drivers, and the water to compensate for. It is a cost I had not budgeted for, but we are here to support the community and supply this gift of life …” Naidoo said.

Naidoo was on the ground in Verulam, yesterday, and was joined by the Verulam Water Crisis Committee members, Freddy Moodley and vice chairman, Mike Padayachee.

Vassie Govender of the Voice of Phoenix (VOP) also attested to Naidoo’s commitment and described him as “superhero” who served his community.

Meanwhile, the VOP is currently housing 29 displaced individuals at the Victory Centre Church in Phoenix, after their homes were washed away during April floods, in the Palmview.

“Ricky Naidoo has always gone out of his way to uplift communities in need, especially when people need it the most. These are by no means small donations or acts. He has been a lifesaver.

“It has been difficult for these families since the floods. As you can see, they live in tents and we have been told by the government that a housing solution would be provided for them. Nothing has happened to date.

“We are also in discussion with the Sibiya trust to help us provide a temporary solution for these five families,” Govender said.

“Besides the housing challenges, the water outages are still a big problem in Phoenix. It is a daily struggle for people. It’s not just the floods that triggered this. A lot also has to do with the complete lack of maintenance of the water infrastructure.

“The city sends in someone to fix a leak today, and tomorrow a few metres down the line, there’s another leak. I don't understand why they can’t fix the problem the first time around.”

Govender also thanked the KwaZulu-Natal-based aQuelle water company that has also been a huge assistance to the community.

An aQuelle truck can been seen parked as employees giving away free water to people. Picture: Supplied

Operations Manager at aQuelle Gladson Songelwa said another consignment, holding around 45 000 litres of water, would be delivered to Phoenix as part of their ongoing efforts.

“When we first saw the effects of the flooding in KZN and in our local communities, we knew help would be needed, and water is what we have. We thought it would be a once-off but we saw the problem grow into something much bigger and communities like Tongaat, Verulam and Phoenix were heavily affected.

"This is when we decided to do something. There are a lot of things wrong right now in the country but water is a basic need and we were in a position to help people with it," Gladson Songelwa, the operations manager aQuelle Water told the POST.

During a walk-about, the Tongaat Civic Association’s Ranjith Ramphal, showed the POST some of the parts of the town that had been ravaged by the floods, including the historic Outspan ground that serves as a venue for the annual Brake Village Temple Kavady.

Ramphal said simple things like maintaining a sports field has become a “hard ask for the government”.

“Since the floods, our water struggles have been ongoing. There have been engagements with government officials but for the most part, nothing has changed. Having no water is still a daily challenge for many residents. Our elderly are impacted the most. As a civic movement we have been forced to come up with ways to get the government to commit to provide basic services, like cutting the grass in this ground [Outspan],” Ramphal said.

He then drove to a section in Tongaat, adjacent to a stream and a road, that had recently been dug up for a repair job.

Ramphal stopped, lit a cigarette, inhaled deeply and let out a sigh before saying: “In three weeks, there were three repairs done here. A burst pipe and then a repair. Two days later, another burst pipe and another repair. Three days later, the same …”