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PROJECT: THE WATER OR TANKER MAFIA

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South Africa's infrastructure has been teetering on the verge of collapse. Our water supply is a serious concern. Rand Water, which supplies household water to Gauteng, has directly attributed the water shortage crisis to municipal mismanagement and inadequate capacity.


The issue is the lack of municipal action to address the deteriorating water infrastructure. The basic services that people of South Africa are entitled to receive – access to clean water, sanitation, electricity, refuse removal services, public transport and good roads – cannot be delivered without adequate infrastructure.


The National Treasury has decided to address municipalities such as Tshwane and Johannesburg by notifying both municipalities of its intention to cut a combined R1.83bn for grants, signalling that it is getting tough on errant municipalities.


This is a national crisis exasperated by continued loadshedding. Mismanagement has created a breeding ground for criminals, including the Water or Tanker Mafia. As always, crime begets crime. This vicious cycle of inefficiency, mismanagement, corruption, and theft is increasing at an exponential rate.

 
  • The term water or tanker mafia refers to a phenomenon in South Africa where organised groups or individuals exploit water scarcity by illegally monopolising water distribution through tanker trucks.

  • This unique discussion explores the complexities surrounding the water or tanker mafia in South Africa, delving into its socio-economic, political, and environmental implications.

  • At its core, the water or tanker mafia thrives in areas where access to clean and reliable water is limited, often in marginalised communities characterised by poverty, inadequate infrastructure, and governmental neglect.

  • In these contexts, residents are vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous actors who control water supply through tanker trucks and charge exorbitant prices for basic necessities.

  • The emergence of the water or tanker mafia can be traced back to a confluence of factors, including systemic failures in water management, corruption, and socio-economic inequalities.

  • Despite being a water-scarce country, South Africa struggles with issues such as ageing infrastructure, inefficient governance structures, and unequal access to water resources.

  • These challenges create fertile ground for illicit activities, with criminal syndicates capitalising on the vulnerabilities within the water supply chain.

  • The water or tanker mafia operations have far-reaching consequences for affected communities.

  • Firstly, the inflated prices charged by the mafia place an undue financial burden on already impoverished residents, exacerbating socio-economic disparities and perpetuating cycles of poverty.

  • Moreover, relying on water tanker trucks for essential water needs undermines efforts to promote sustainable water management and conservation, further straining already fragile ecosystems and exacerbating water scarcity in the long term.

  • The water or tanker mafia also intersects with broader political dynamics, highlighting issues of governance, accountability, and corruption within the South African state.

  • Authorities' failure to effectively regulate and monitor water distribution enables criminal elements to operate with impunity, eroding trust in public institutions and undermining the rule of law.

  • Furthermore, the collusion between the mafia and local officials or politicians underscores the pervasiveness of corruption and the need for systemic reforms to promote transparency and accountability in water governance.

  • Addressing the water or tanker mafia requires a multi-faceted approach that addresses both the symptoms and root causes of the problem.

  • This includes strengthening regulatory frameworks, investing in water infrastructure and management systems, enhancing community participation and empowerment, and promoting transparency and accountability in water governance.

  • Additionally, efforts to combat the water or tanker mafia must be accompanied by broader socio-economic interventions to address poverty, inequality, and socio-economic exclusion.

 

THE WATER OR TANKER MAFIA:

  • Unmarked trucks are selling water illegally to families as the municipalities battle to deliver water to some areas.

  • Verulam, KwaMashu, Phoenix, Tongaat and KwaXimba are a few examples of areas in Durban affected by water shortages.

  • Municipalities own water trucks to deliver free water to areas with limited or no running water, they also allocate private contractors to supplement the service.

  • This does not stop others from selling municipal water from unmarked trucks.

  • The water or tanker mafia fill their private tanks with municipal water.

  • They then sell the stolen water to households.

  • One seller charged R500.00 to fill a 5,000-litre container.

  • On the other hand, official municipal tankers are not allowed to sell water.

  • These tankers have signs indicating that water is not for sale.

  • The tanker supervisors do ad-hoc checks as a deterrent.

  • Since water shortages are a daily obstacle, residents are willing to pay for their water as they cannot depend on the availability of the municipality’s tankers.

  • The drivers of the unmarked tankers can be contacted via cell phone.

  • Other consumers are also bypassing flow-limiting devices, which has significantly increased water demand and put even more strain on the water services infrastructure.

  • It is also known that members of the water or tanker mafia deliberately damage public water infrastructure to extend lucrative contracts with municipalities.

  • Water rights activists stress that, given the corruption surrounding water contracts, the ties between politicians and water mafias cannot be ignored.


 

LEGITIMATE MUNICIPALITY WATER TANKER:

 

Experts believe that as much as 50% of the water from bulk water suppliers in South Africa does not reach the end consumer owing to leakages, theft, and failing infrastructure. In many areas, water supply is inadequate, leading to a rapid depletion of reservoirs. This creates a greater demand for households, who must pay for water from the tanker mafias.


Water or tanker mafias are criminal syndicates profiting from the country's water crisis. The groups capitalise on government failures to ensure taps remain dry and create a state of dependence on their costly services.


In conclusion, the water or tanker mafia in South Africa represents a complex and multi-faceted issue with profound implications for affected communities and broader society. By understanding the underlying drivers and dynamics of the phenomenon and implementing holistic solutions that address its socio-economic, political, and environmental dimensions, South Africa can move towards a more equitable, sustainable, and water-secure future.


 

REFERENCES:





 

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Mike Bolhuis

Specialist Investigators into

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