Death and despair in Durban

A young woman with a bucket shot dead in a queue for water at a communal water tank in a dispute over water….She will forever stand as a symbol of just how bad the water crisis in the Durban area has become. Speaking to BizNews, Democratic Alliance (DA) Councillor Nicole Bolmann says: “We’ve become the movies we watch so often. I mean, in every science fiction movie, we seem to be always searching for water, whether it’s the Hunger Games or Star Trek or whatever…there’s always the search for water and it becomes the liquid Gold. It becomes the commodity everybody needs because it is our survival. So what we witnessed…what we know about the lady being shot at the water tanker, at the Jojo, that just simplifies and amplifies the actual situation that we’re sitting in in Durban currently.”

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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 00:00 – Introduction
  • 00:37 – Tell us what has happened
  • 01:39 – DA has asked for an urgent parliamentary inquiry
  • 03:00 – Phoenix residents trying to stage a peaceful protest
  • 05:00 – Phoenix 00 days without water but other communities have been even longer
  • 06:36 – What would be the impact on the province if Durban collapsed?
  • 08:11 – If all promises are kept how long will it take to remove the crisis?
  • 09:22 – Water tank shortage
  • 10: 22 Help from the private sector
  • 11:35 – Conclusion

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Highlights from the interview

___STEADY_PAYWALL___

A young woman with a bucket shot dead in a queue for water at a communal water tank in a dispute over water…

She will forever stand as a symbol of just how bad the water crisis in the Durban area has become.  

In this interview with BizNews, Democratic Alliance (DA) Councillor Nicole Bolmann says: “We’ve become the movies we watch all so often. I mean,in  every science fiction movie, we seem to be always searching for water, whether it’s the Hunger Games or Star Trek or whatever…there’s always the search for water and it becomes the liquid Gold. It becomes the commodity everybody needs because it is our survival. So what we witnessed just recently now, what we know about the lady being shot at the water tanker, at the Jojo, that just simplifies and amplifies the actual situation that we’re sitting in in Durban currently.”

Here are some of the other highlights from the interview:

Calls for a Human Rights Commission (URC) hearing:

“…our provincial leadership…wrote to both the Human Rights Commission as well as the President of the country.

“There seems to have been an uptick in the response from the Minister of Water and Sanitation. He was back in Verulam yesterday (Sunday) with a number of suggestions…

“…(but) these pipes have been pie in the sky for years and years and years. I mean this is not something that hasn’t been coming…basically we’ve been watching this accident happen for many years and just, again, the horse has bolted, the lead rein has run out and literally we are at a loss.”

Heavy-handed police response to desperate protestors:

“…there was a meeting held in Phoenix with the mayor and a delegation from the Water Department. And…it was…a little concerning that on one side of the building you had…the water cannon with SAPS as well…I even made a joke about it. I was like, you know, they forgot to tell us to bring our buckets. And on the other side, it was people standing, a group of, I would say that they looked like Metro with their shotguns ready with the rubber bullets.

“… what I said to colleagues is that irrespective of what was going to happen there aesthetically…it was a mental picture of the situation: protect themselves…but let’s not protect the people that are absolutely desperate. 

“And then obviously we had the protests in Phoenix…tempers flaring…there was an alleged dispute between people trying to get to work and trying to get to hospital and they weren’t allowed through it. It takes me back to 2021, with these barricades…So again, we’re starting to see…where the law is heavy-handed, where the SAPS and Metro are a little bit maybe on the stronger side of where they should be. And you’re starting to see people out of desperation trying to protect what they’ve got, and that’s their families. And this time it’s for something again that we can’t just make, we can’t just get, you know, it’s just impossible.”

Calamity for tourism:

“…if I look at my own ward…Umhlanga which is the tourism and commerce capital…pretty much of the city. And…we haven’t had water…again today. We had a bit yesterday, but today marks day 13 of no-constant supply. 

“I know of hotels, I would say more like your boutique hotels and guest houses…they haven’t had a full run since 2020…with the COVID. And then we had the riots, obviously, which was a little bit concerning to people from outside of Durban. And then we’ve got the sewage drama, which still continues…it’s just another compounded issue that we’re having to deal with as business in the area.”

If Durban collapsed, what would be the fallout for the province?

“Well, pretty much everything. So it’s a house of cards currently.

“I’m currently busy with an investigation of my own in terms of capacity and systems and so on and so forth.

“As soon as there’s a lack of pressure, we have the reduction again of water into the system. So over and above….there’s the maintenance story. There’s the fact that our reticulation system is vastly outdated. 

“Another concern is that it doesn’t look like between eThekwini and the Water Board that there’s been any discussions about development.  So it’s more like let’s just put the people in, but …where are we going to get the services from? We’ll deal with it later… they’re talking about the uMkhomazi Dam. That means we’re looking at 2030. We don’t have until 2030 to get water here.”

The shortage of water tankers: 

“And at any given time, we get two or three tankers, maybe. Like yesterday, I didn’t get one tanker because apparently they were being redirected by a senior person in the Water Department. So if we’re lucky, we get tankers. Otherwise we don’t get tankers. And again, you get one tanker. I mean, our ward is about 40,000 people strong and I’ve got maybe two tankers that deal with that. So it’s not feasible, this water tanker story at all.”

When will the current crisis be resolved?

“… this date of the 15th of February seems to be the date…So I just hope for their sake that they haven’t over-promised and will under-deliver because…I don’t have to explain what’s going on the ground here in terms of angst….We tired, tired…In the last month, I’ve managed to have three showers. Everything else has been out of a bucket…obviously there’s…these communities like Bester and so on and so forth that have to do it daily….and they get river water because they don’t even get tankers…it’s an absolute mess.”

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