In an important ruling on 1 October 2021, the Mthatha High Court instructed the local, provincial and national governments to develop concrete plans to deliver potable water to the Centane community in the Eastern Cape.

The Amathole District Municipality in conjunction with the Minister of Water and Sanitation, the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) and the Eastern Cape Premier must report to the Court within the next two months about plans they are making to implement this order.

In a shameful demonstration of government neglect, the communities of Centane have not had sustainable access to water in the last five years. Many have been forced to meet their water needs from contaminated rivers and lakes, depleting boreholes, and inconsistent water deliveries from local government. Some communities have to walk as far as 2km to fetch clean water. Women are particularly vulnerable and are forced to collect water in groups to avoid gender-based crimes.

On 6 September 2021 Masifundise, together with Coastal Links from the Eastern Cape filed an urgent application to the Mthatha High Court against the Minister of Water and Sanitation and the Eastern Cape Provincial Government for their inefficiencies in providing the rural community of Centane with basic water services.

This application was supported by the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) and was heard as a matter of urgency on 28 September 2021.

On 1 October 2021, the Mthatha High court made the order which brings some hope to the water stressed communities of Ward 28 in the Mnquma Municipality.

“We are relieved that the courts have finally recognised the water needs of Nxaxo, Nombanjana and Ngcizele. Our right to water is linked to our dignity and now finally our dignity has been affirmed. We hope that court order will be respected and executed swiftly because we have been suffering without water for a very long time,” said Centane water activist, Harvey Ntshoko

 “They cannot hide behind bureaucracy anymore,” Naseegh Jaffer, Director of Masifundise said. “This is a victory for drought stricken rural communities. But it is also sad that communities had to resort to legal action to claim their right to water” he commented.

“We trust that government will honour this court order,” Jaffer said. “Masifundise earnestly looks forward to the implementation of this order.”