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A cholera outbreak in a South African town highlights the government’s failure once again to solve water problems


South Africa recorded its first two cases of cholera in February, following outbreaks in neighboring Mozambique and Malawi, the countries hardest hit by the epidemic in 2023, according to the United Nations.

A family gathers in the courtyard of their home in the town of Hamanskral, near Pretoria, to say goodbye to a relative who has gone victim to a cholera outbreak that has killed 15 people in recent days, and they blame the government in Africa’s most developed economy for failing to solve the chronic water problems that contribute to the spread of the epidemic. .

Kagisu Siddiqui can’t remember when the tap water in Hamansekral was fit for consumption. His relative, Michael Siddiqui, 53, died a week after falling ill.

“The tap water is brown and dirty,” Kagysu, 37, told AFP. “Everyone has the right to clean water. I hope my cousin’s death is not in vain.”

Since Friday, 15 of the 34 people who contracted cholera have died in Gauteng province, where Hamanskral is located. The director general of the Ministry of Health, Sandile Buthelezi, explains that the infection shows a “very high mortality rate”.


Infection with this deadly disease is caused by bacteria, which are generally transmitted through contaminated food or water. Siddiqui recounts that his relative died after a local hospital refused to receive him, due to the lack of beds and health personnel.

“The nurses are overburdened (and) not receiving enough support… each nurse has only two hands… And when there are not enough of them at some point, the patients suffer.”

Anger towards the government is simmering in the small town 50km north of Pretoria, where residents face power and water cuts for several hours a day.

Many of the residents are unemployed and pass their time sitting outside houses made of mud or sheet metal, behind barbed wire fences.

Residents say the cholera outbreak is one sign of a malfunctioning sewage treatment system, poor pipe infrastructure, and the graft of municipal authorities.

“We don’t have water.”

Following the public outcry, the government announced that it would investigate the causes of the Hamanskral water crisis. My friend describes how his relative had diarrhea and continuous vomiting, before his body wasted and he was unable to walk, sleep or shower.

After being hospitalized for the second time, he died in the emergency room. Siddiqui says the water crisis is “a problem that could have been solved a long time ago”.

Municipal authorities have urged residents of Hamanskral not to drink tap water, and promised that cisterns will distribute water, but residents say the cisterns only show up once or twice a week.

“We don’t have water, we don’t have houses… We have nothing,” said Rosa Covanni, as she fetched water from a cistern on a dirt road in a nearby town.

And this 61-year-old woman, carrying a bucket of water in her hand, adds that she has lost hope of seeing a faucet installed in her house, which is a hut whose walls are made of tin.

On the other hand, some have benefited from the water crisis and set up a shop selling pure water, which many residents cannot afford.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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