Water truck Bulletin Tzaneen
This is one of 20 to 30 water trucks spotted every day at a fire hydrant in Tzaneen's new industrial area. These trucks draw water from the hydrant and then sell it to poor people in the villages.

Between 20 and 30 trucks stop at the fire hydrant in Industrial Street in the new industrial area every day. These trucks have JoJo tanks strapped to their low beds and they use the fire hydrant to fill these tanks with water which they then transport to the Nkowankowa and Lenyenye areas who are in dire need of water. One of these vehicles is a Greater Tzaneen Municipality (GTM) truck. The rest are not, and belong to outside contractors, which the municipality said were appointed to help them deliver water to the outlying communities.

The problem however, is that Bulletin has received numerous reports from community members in these outlying areas which suggest that the water is not being distributed, but is being sold at R350 per 200 litres.

We calculated that one truck with a 5 000-litre tank would pocket roughly R8 750 per trip. We know that some of these trucks return to the fire hydrant to refill their tanks up to three times a day. Do the calculations and you suddenly have a very profitable, tax-free business that easily nets close to a quarter of a million a month. That is if you work on an average of twenty days in a month and two truck loads a day.  

Water trucks in Tzaneen
The familiar sight of a private truck filling up Jojo tanks with water drawn from the municipal fire hydrant in the new industrial area.

The GTM’s communications department however said that the practice of filling the tankers with water from a fire hydrant was perfectly legal given the circumstances. “Only GTM water trucks and those of our service providers are permitted to draw water from the fire hydrants under the supervision of trained personnel,” said Vutivi Bridgettes, media liaison at the GTM. “However there are water trucks that draw water without permission, at the moment we cannot prohibit them due to the fact that there’s water shortages and GTM water tankers are unable to satisfy all the villages. Water is a constitutional human right, and everyone has a right to access clean water.”

Bulletin has asked Bridgettes from a list of their service providers. We also asked whether the truck drivers each have their own key for the fire hydrant and what were to happen should one of these trucks damage the hydrant. Furthermore we wanted to know who fits the bill and how it was possible that this system was being run without any supervision by any GTM member as there has never been a municipal worker spotted at the site since the reports started flooding in. Lastly we want to know why this specific fire hydrant which is very well hidden, was designated as the one to be used by these entrepreneurs.