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Water woes for Strand pensioners

At least 40 families who are beneficiaries of the Alan Boesak Village housing project in Strand are surprised that the City of Cape Town has almost completely cut off the water supply to their homes – citing accounts in arrears.

The families moved into their homes about 14 months ago. “In all the time that we have lived here we were never notified of any water account in arrears,” said pensioner Moereeda Latief.

She explained that they are only allocated 350 F of water a day, after which the supply is cut off until the next day.

“So then how can we be in arrears? There’s no way that we can use more water than what is allocated to us. None of this makes sense.”

As of Tuesday (11 February) this week, the residents have been without water for three weeks.

Another resident, Rhoda Wanza, labelled the situation as dire and said when visiting the municipal offices they are sent from pillar to post.

Residents were asked at the Strand municipal offices to seek further assistance at the Somerset West offices before again being sent to the Strand offices.

“None of the accounts are in our names; only the house number and address. The accounts are all in Asla’s name,” said Wanza, referring to the service providers contracted by the City.

“Some of the homes only have water dripping from their taps, so it’s not completely dry, but still very inconvenient and difficult for families.”

Kashiefa Baderoen makes a daily trek to the Beverley Hills informal settlement with containers to get water, several hundred metres away from her home. “I have no choice because the City is not assisting us and they’re making it difficult for us to have our water supply restored.”

DistrictMail approached Asla for comment on the matter, but this was declined. “Alan Boesak Village is a City project and we are the service provider for the City. The project managers of the City are completely aware of the situation and they are handling all the queries,” said Karen Siebrits, project manager at Asla.

According to Zahid Badroodien, acting Mayoral Committee member for Human Settlements, at the time of handing over the properties to the approved beneficiaries, it could not yet be done in their name. He said transfer of ownership usually only happens later as a result of the registration process at the Deeds Office.

It usually transpires several months after occupation of the property by the approved beneficiary, he said, adding that occupation has to take place as soon as construction is completed to avoid the risk of illegal occupation of the property.

“It was agreed with the Water and Sanitation Department and the Revenue Department that this approach would be followed to first register in the name of the contractor to allow the processing of the connections,” Badroodien explained.

“It was agreed up front that the contractor would not be responsible for the account and would not be billed. It was agreed that water management devices would be installed in all cases; by implication the water usage could be limited to not exceed the free water limit and, thus, to reduce wastage and huge, unaffordable bills.”

But Badroodien failed to answer questions as to how the accounts could be in arrears and why residents were not given sufficient warning before the water supply was cut.

“It must be noted that it is standard practice that, on handover of any house to a beneficiary, on the day of occupation the new owner inspects the house in the presence of the contractor and the City official, and then signs a letter of acceptance and undertaking. This letter acknowledges the presence of a water meter, contains the water meter reading on the day of handover, and the recipient accepts possession of the property with the responsibilities that go along with this,” he said.

Badroodien also did not answer questions related to the fact that most residents are pensioners and if rebates on their accounts would be applicable.

“An official at the Human Settlements Directorate has met with members of the community and informed them that they needed to personally contact the Water and Sanitation Department office in Strand to make arrangements, after which water services would be restored,” he related.

“This is a relatively simple process and those who responded have had their water supply restored. Unfortunately, some of those affected have up to now not responded to this solution.”

Countering this, Latief said: “I was at the municipal offices last Friday; they promised to switch the water back on in the afternoon. But the weekend came and went and still we have no water.”

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