The community, most of whom used to work for the now defunct Blyvooruitzicht Mine, has been struggling for over a year with water and electricity supply and have been without water for weeks after the Merafong City municipality and Rand Water disconnected their water supply last month.
The mine, which was placed under provisional liquidation in August 2013, owes the municipality and Eskom millions. Osmond Mngomezulu, head of LHR’s Environmental Rights Programme, said the latest move to disconnect the water supply has dealt a further blow to the already vulnerable community.
Residents told LHR that the disconnection left them without access to safe and sufficient water for drinking, cooking, bathing, cleaning or washing. Residents have been forced to use buckets of water to force-flush their toilets, severely prejudicing their rights to basic sanitation and human dignity.
“Access to water is a basic human right that the municipality is constitutionally mandated to fulfill.
“The municipality has begun sending a single water tanker to supply the whole of the Blyvooruitzicht community at five spotswhich is both haphazardly delivered and insufficient to supply the entire area.
“Many residents must walk long distances to collect this water, severely prejudicing the elderly and disabled who are unable to walk to these delivery points and threatens their livelihoods as they are made to wait hours for water to be delivered – keeping them from being able to look for employment.
“After several failed attempts to address the matter directly with the municipality, residents have been left with no choice but to head to court,” Mngomezulu said.
LHR argue that the disconnection was unlawful and violated the residents’ constitutional and statutory rights, including access to sufficient water and basic sanitation, their right to fair administrative action and the right to dignity.
Residents maintain that the municipality did not follow due process when disconnecting water supply and failed to meaningfully engage the community.
LHR will seek an interim order to have the community’s water immediately restored pending an application for the court to declare the decision to disconnect the water supply unlawful and set it aside. They will also ask the court to direct the municipality to engage with the community regarding longer term solutions to the problem.
“We hope that a solution will be found to this matter before the country is forced to witness yet another outbreak of water-borne diseases, which could have serious, including fatal, ramifications for children and the elderly, amongst others,” warned Mngomezulu.
The DA and civil rights group AfriForum have also called on authorities to urgently restore the community’s water supply.