Latest World News

No power and now no water: South Africans are cracking up


Already deprived of electricity for up to ten hours a day, many South Africans also have to go without water: ironically, the absence or irregularity of power disrupts the supply system and even sewers. In Johannesburg and Pretoria this week, in the most populated region of the country, a power failure in a pumping station supplying reservoirs and water towers has dried up a number of taps, confirmed the company Rand Water.

Exasperation is at its peak. And discouragement can be heard in the conversations, which condemn impotent politicians and denounce the rampant corruption against a backdrop of poverty and glaring inequalities. For months now, everyone has had to plan activities as mundane as cooking or laundry according to the daily calendar, which can be consulted via an app, announced cuts.

Thomas Mabasa, a railway employee, has now taken to showering at his workplace. But his children “must go to school without”. The 43-year-old joined an angry mob this week who demonstrated in Soshanguve, north of the capital, blocking roads with rocks and rubbish. “Sometimes we wait to see if the water will come back in the middle of the night to wake the children and shower them before it disappears again”he explains to AFP, in front of a pile of tires.

Vandalism and drought

Africa’s most industrialized economy has been crippled by record power cuts over the past year, and problems at debt-ridden state-owned Eskom have deepened. The company, which provides about 90% of the country’s electricity, mainly through aging coal-fired power plants, has struggled for years to meet demand.

Spokesperson for the Ministry of Water and Sanitation, Wisane Mavasa, assured that the government was working with the water companies “to improve the situation”recognizing that “the energy crisis has an impact on water infrastructure”. The constant restarting of machines, caused by power outages, multiplies breakdowns. Water pumping and treatment stations, which need a constant flow of power, are being hit hard, she added.

Read also: In South Africa, the electricity crisis does not spare the dead

Crime is also contributing to the crisis, with the city of Johannesburg claiming that hundreds of water tanks have been vandalized or stolen in 2022, either for private use or resold to the highest bidder.

Schools and hospitals also toast. In Pretoria, Kalafong Hospital was without water for two days last weekend. Ethel Malatji, a 21-year-old student, says it’s getting complicated to cook, wash or clean. “We don’t even have water to drink”, she told AFP. And how to concentrate on his studies when demonstrators block the access road to campus.

Heat wave

At the southern tip of the country, the tourist city of Cape Town had to close some of its beaches, in the middle of the austral summer, after the discharge of wastewater due to power outages in sewage treatment plants.

A heat wave increased demand for water in the southeast of the country, forcing authorities to implement rationing.

Read also: In South Africa, the agri-food sector affected by repeated power cuts

This situation could become more frequent if energy and infrastructure problems are not resolved, warns Dewald van Niekerk, head of the African Center for Disaster Studies at North-West University.


“The Africa World”

Every Saturday, find a week of news and debates, by the editorial staff of “Monde Afrique”


South Africa, which already suffers from lack of water, will experience “extreme drought conditions” in the coming years with the expected return of the El Niño climatic phenomenon, he underlines: “Electricity really needs to power these pumps. »

The World with AFP