WATCH | ‘Make me water, talk is cheap’: Tyla’s lyrics find favour with protesters during nine-day outage

Emmarentia residents took it to the streets with a portable speaker playing Tyla's song 'Water' after nine days of outages. File photo.
Emmarentia residents took it to the streets with a portable speaker playing Tyla's song 'Water' after nine days of outages. File photo.
Image: Chris Van Lennep

Afrobeats pop star Tyla's song Water, played on a portable speaker, grabbed the attention of motorists when residents in Emmarentia, Johannesburg, protested against a prolonged water shortage. 

After a nine-day outage in the Emmarentia area, the latest of several cuts, a group of residents staged a picket during rush-hour traffic on Tuesday afternoon to “make a statement” about their plight. 

Residents carried empty bottles, buckets and placards to the road, calling for consistent water supply while grooving to the music. Though running taps have nothing to do with the song, the lyrics include the lines: make me water, normally I could keep my cool, but tonight I'm wildin', talk is cheap.

One of the organisers, Vaunn Kelly, said playing the song was an inspirational move by a resident.

That was a great move. I think it was inspired. It was a case of residents showing we are peaceful and [the song] brings us together across diverse races, genders and religions. It was a sense of community across the spectrum.”

While the latest outage is related to complications during the major Rand Water maintenance work taking place from June 22 to July 29, Kelly said residents have been experiencing nightly water cuts since September due to water-shedding by Joburg Water through the Hursthill 2 reservoir. 

He said this usually happens between 8pm and 9pm.

Residents have written to Joburg Water, sent e-mails and tried to arrange meetings with the City of Johannesburg's entity. Kelly said sometimes when they report the problem they don't even get a reference number.

“Our major concern was that this was getting to a level where they couldn't tell us what was going on. They don't even have teams running around to try to address the issue.

“Nine days without water. It is good that Rand Water is doing maintenance on the systems but we’ve had a lot of issues with the pump. Joburg Water couldn't tell us what is happening with Hursthill reservoir, which feeds most of Emmarentia, Auckland Park, Melville, Richmond, all those areas, including Greenside,” he said.

There are more than 15,000 residents in the areas who rely on the Hursthill 2 reservoir. Kelly said Joburg Water has acknowledged structural leaks in the reservoir but can't tell residents about the impacts, consequences and possible fixes.

“They say there is a structural leak, which is a major potential safety issue for people around the reservoir, but also for water supply. You can’t use the reservoir, and you can’t fill it when there is a power disruption or load-shedding, which happened a lot last year. 

What we want is transparency. What is the situation with inflow into Hursthill 2? What is the reservoir issue? If there is a crack, what is the impact? Does it mean you can’t fill it more than 20%?  When will it be repaired?”  

Kelly said residents want an independent expert site visit and assessment because they are not receiving straight answers from Joburg Water. 

We want to make sure residents have water supplies. It is not only that I can’t have a cup of coffee, it is down to hygiene. You can't shower, you can't wash clothes, you can't wash dishes. There are elderly people who don't have access to water.”

In a systems update on Tuesday, Johannesburg Water said: “Maintenance at Eikenhof is set to continue according to the planned schedule until July 12. During this time some areas will continue to have water supply but at a reduced level.

“While water supply has improved in most systems, Johannesburg Water is aware there are areas within the Hursthill 1 and 2 Reservoir supply zones experiencing intermittent supply, while some are without water.

“This is due to airlocks in the system. The entity’s team are on the ground flushing out the network to improve supply pressure and protect the infrastructure against pipe bursts that can result from airlocks.

“Air prevents water flow and can lead to reduced supply pressure. If not removed or flushed out of the system, air can also cause water hammer in a system, which in turn can cause instant pressure surges and this causes bursts, specially in older infrastructure pipes and connection points.”



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