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South African biggest cities’ water system on verge of collapse –Report

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*Water shortages have affected millions of consumers, businesses, and healthcare facilities in Johannesburg, Africa’s richest city, and its adjoining towns have equally been affected by ‘a water system plagued by other long-term problems,’ say local media

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

Millions of residents, healthcare workers, and other consumers in Africa’s richest city, Johannesburg, and some other adjoining cities, in South Africa, are currently experiencing a severe water shortages in the middle of a summer heat wave.

The water shortages, which have lasted nearly two weeks, and have affected some 50 percent of especially Johannesburg Water’s supply area, officials said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa

ConsumerConnect learnt experts have attributed the embarrassing situation to a combination of factors, including ineptitude, lack of transparency and accountability, as well as “little to no political will”, which has worsened the water supply crisis in the Southern African country.

Johannesburg has a population of almost six million people, agency report said.

Consequently, shortages of this necessity of life have affected businesses badly, and several hospitals equally have been affected as several consumers demonstrated on the streets carrying placards with diverse inscriptions, including ‘No Water, No Answer, No Leadership’ and ‘JHB Water – There Is None’.

On the seriousness of the situation in the affected cities, nurses at a medical centre told local media that they were not able to wash their hands at work.

Mlimandlela Ndamase, a Spokesperson for Johannesburg’s Mayor, explained that an initial problem at a key pump station occurred March 3, 2024, after a power outage from a lightning strike.

This is not the first time the city has been without water. The city experienced regular shortages last year, according to report.

Ndamase acknowledged Johannesburg’s water system is plagued by other long-term problems.

“The city does accept that there are challenges as regards to aged infrastructure, the maintenance of infrastructure, and also the need to roll out new infrastructure throughout the city,” he said.

But many have blamed authorities for what they say is incompetence, and there have been some small protest gatherings.

Nombuso Shabalala, a Spokesperson for Johannesburg Water, last Wednesday, acknowledged that there had been human error, too.

Shabalala stated: “Technical teams discovered a bulk supplier valve had been closed, thus restricting supply into the system.

“The valve has since been opened, and this has assisted with building some capacity.”

Anja du Plessis, an associate professor and water expert at the University of South Africa, said, “Ineptitude, deficiency of transparency and accountability, as well as little to no political will,” had exacerbated the crisis.

“The rapid escalation … of the city of Johannesburg’s water woes can be attributed to a dysfunctional and inept municipality, the lack of necessary skilled personnel, as well as the lack of financial resources, or even non-investment into the maintenance of dilapidated infrastructure,” du Plessis said.

The water problems come amid issues with the nation’s electricity supply.

South Africa has been mired in an energy crisis for more than a decade, and it has accelerated over the past year, with the country experiencing almost daily scheduled blackouts — sometimes for as long as 10 hours a day.

Water tankers have been set up across the city.

Johannesburg Water says most of its systems are now in recovery.

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