Press Release: Mmangweni get water tanks after taking municipality to court
Published by Legal Resources Centre 28 June 2018
For Immediate Release: 28 June 2018
A small village in the Eastern Cape has made a huge splash in the Mthatha High Court. On 28 June 2018, the O R Tambo District Municipality entered into a court-ordered agreement to deliver ten 5,000 litre water tanks to the village of Mmangweni within 15 days and to refill each tank on a weekly basis. This is in response to the first part of a two-part court case brought by the Legal Resources Centre on behalf of the community. The court order, granted by Matebese AJ, also requires that the tanks be within 200 meters of households in the village.
For years, residents of Mmangweni have walked long distances and waited long hours to draw dirty water from a place they call “idami.” The water has caused rashes and diarrhoea. Since becoming the Water Services Authority in 2003, the Municipality had never delivered water to the community.
The agreement comes after a year-long struggle by Masiphathisane, a resident-led committee, for the urgent delivery of water to Mmangweni. After attempts to engage with the Municipality brought no results, the community, represented by the Legal Resources Centre, brought a High Court application seeking safe drink water.
The court case alleges that the Municipality’s failure to provide water was unlawful and sought to vindicate the community’s right to access sufficient water and other rights that could not be fully realised without sufficient water, such as the right to education. Affidavits in the case demonstrated how learners often stayed home from school because they didn’t have water to bathe.
Soon after the court papers were filed, the parties entered into negotiations and by 14 June, the Municipality had already delivered four tanks, three of which have been filled with water. This has brought relief to the community.
“I’m happy because water is the first thing and the last thing … nothing can be done without water,” said Funeka Xoveni, commenting on the recently-delivered water. “I can cook, sit with my children, do housework … I don’t have to go and sit at idami.”
“I’m not so tired because I get water close by,” said another community member, Nokulunga Dyubhele.
Nobongile Soyini could taste the difference the water has made. “That water from idami was not nice in my mouth but this water… I drink a lot of it, it tastes good.”
Siqhiphu Satalaza, whose area within the village has not yet received a tank, was looking forward to the arrival of water tanks. “We would be so happy to get water from the Municipality. Children weren’t going to school because they hadn’t washed. That water from idami was making us sick. We could live a better life with water from the Municipality.”
The High Court application is divided into two parts. Part A has focused on the urgent delivery of water and has now been settled by the court-ordered agreement. Part B focuses on the Municipality’s systemic failure to provide water to the community and seeks a sustainable solution for the provision of water.
Part B remains contested, though a court date has not been set. The court-ordered agreement requires the Municipality to continue delivering water as specified in the agreement until part B is resolved.