Olifantshoek – Anger spilled over onto the N14 outside Olifantshoek on Wednesday, with residents setting a heavy-duty truck alight during a service delivery protest.
The exasperated residents have been without access to running water for almost a month now.
A truck that was transporting crates of beer was looted and torched, while the intersection at the N14 outside Olifantshoek was closed to traffic for two hours.
Community members said that the entire town was without water, although no explanations were forthcoming from the local municipality.
“People are fed up, we feel like we are being punished. We will intensify our protest action if there is no water by today.”
They added that the municipality was not providing any water trucks to help alleviate their suffering.
“Those of us who are lucky enough to have borehole water are sharing what we have. There is no drinking water and we have to buy bottled water. There is no water to bath, flush our toilets or cook.”
Residents are also aggrieved that despite installing prepaid water meters, there was still no water flowing from the taps.
“To counter mounting debts to Sedibeng Water, consumers were forced to purchase prepaid meters. Residents were promised that all the water problems would be solved if we bought the prepaid water meters. The municipality owes millions of rand to the water board. The worst of all is that we will still receive accounts to pay for the non-existent water.”
The spokesperson for Gamagara Municipality, Kamogelo Semamai, said that the local authority had addressed the community’s grievances on Tuesday.
“The situation became volatile after a small group of people, who were not happy with our response, proceeded to burn tyres in the street and burnt a truck on the N14,” Semamai said yesterday.
“We have been requesting the mines to provide us with water tanks as a temporary measure and a good Samaritan also assisted. We are delivering water to the community so that services are not disrupted.”
He denied that the municipality had any outstanding payments to Sedibeng Water.
“We have honoured all our payments to Sedibeng and Eskom. Olifantshoek is the only town in the area that obtains its water directly from Sedibeng. The town is high lying and the water pressure is not strong enough to supply the town. The surrounding towns such as Kathu and Kuruman supplement their water source from the mines.”
Semamai said that they were looking at drilling boreholes in Olifantshoek in the next six months. “This should alleviate the problem. Our technicians replaced three water pumps and we are confident that the water will be flowing from Thursday (today).”
Police spokesperson Captain Sergio Kock said that three men, aged 22, 25 and 32 years, were arrested on Wednesday on charges of public violence following protest action in Olifantshoek.
He said that members from the SAPS Public Order Policing units from Kimberley and Upington had assisted the Olifantshoek police, after community members looted a beer truck and set it alight about three kilometres outside Olifantshoek at about 8am on Wednesday.
Kock said that the truck driver was not injured during the incident.
“Protesters also barricaded and closed off the N14 road. Police managed to disperse the crowd and open the road at about 10am.”
He indicated that a vehicle from a local scrap yard was set alight on Tuesday, although no charges were being investigated at this stage.
Kock added that the police were still monitoring the area as the situation was “still quite tense”.