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Precious resource: Govt water truck drivers reveal hijack fears

Water is big business in many municipalities across the country, and there have been many reports throughout the years about the muddy tender processes for tankers involving municipal officials.

Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - As government carries out measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, including the commissioning of more water tank deliveries to rural communities, concerns have been raised about exposure to crime.

The tankers are the only reliable water supply for thousands of communities, especially in areas where there has been no running water for years.

But truck drivers tasked with getting the water to people’s homes say they constantly have to watch their backs for hijackers.

This week, Eyewitness News is casting a spotlight on how rural communities are responding to COVID-19.

Water is big business in many municipalities across the country and there have been many reports throughout the years about the muddy tender processes for tankers involving municipal officials.

It appears that even criminals are aware of this worth, targeting water delivery tankers on their way to remote villages in various rural areas.

We meet Neo Ramakgofu, who has driven a water truck for five years in the Madibeng municipality in the North West, one of the areas worst affected by water shortages.

He’s on his way to make deliveries in areas near Lethlabile.

Ramakgofu’s job comes with many challenges, including abuse at the hands of frustrated communities, which are sometimes forced to go without water for weeks.

But even the rebuke of community members comes nowhere near the fears he has about the job.

"There is also the danger from people, especially in rural areas where there is only me on the way, you can be hijacked at any time. Recently, one of our trucks was hijacked. Another threat is the community. If we have a breakdown, the day we eventually show up to them, they sometimes attack us."

Ramakgofu said that although he had always been aware of the importance of his job, the COVID-19 crisis has brought this fact closer to home.

According to the presidential command committee, more than 6,000 tanks and 723 tankers have been delivered to communities thus far.