Water supplies restored as reservoirs fill

NOTE: Article first appeared on The Citizen website on September 16, 2014. 

Water supply has been sporadic or non-existent in parts of Johannesburg and the West Rand over the past two days.

Democratic Alliance ward councillor Amanda Forsythe received calls from residents reporting “ first  low water pressure and then others saying they had completely ran out of water”.

Forsythe contacted Johannesburg Water, who informed her that the Rand Water reservoirs had ran out of water due to an extensive power outage.

FILE PICTURE: A resident fills her bucket with water from a tap. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA
FILE PICTURE: A resident fills her bucket with water from a tap. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

Johannesburg Water spokesperson, Justice Mohale said: “The interruption was caused by the power outage in the Eikenhof area, which resulted in Rand Water unable to pump water from its Eikenhof Pumping station to the Meredale Reservoir, which supplies Joburg Water.”

Affected areas included the south-western part of Johannesburg and northern suburbs including Emmarentia, Greenside, Melville and Parktown. Restoration of water supply began yesterday afternoon but because of the size of the reservoirs, it took a few hours. Forsythe said water was restored to most residents by 10pm last night, but that there were some glitches.

“Some people had water on for a while last night and then this morning had nothing, but I believe water has been fully restored now,” Forsythe said.

Considering the extent of the water interruption, Forsythe said: “Those reservoirs are huge. The power outage must have lasted a day or so. They even have back-up generators, but those also ran out of power because of the high demand for water.”

Oh baby, it’s cold outside

Construction workers stand around a fire to keep warm, 06 June 2014, in Industria West, Johannesburg. Residents of Johannesburg are expecting temperatures to drop as a cold front passes through the country. Picture: Alaister Russell
Construction workers stand around a fire to keep warm, 06 June 2014, in Industria West, Johannesburg. Residents of Johannesburg are expecting temperatures to drop as a cold front passes through the country. Picture: Alaister Russell

NOTE: Article first appeared in The Citizen newspaper on June 7, 2014. 

Temporary relief has been provided for the residents evicted in Alexandra, Johannesburg, this week amid the first winter cold. They found themselves and the few belongings they managed to hold on to housed in community halls in the area.

Phineas Ramakgasha, who works as a security guard, yesterday said he was upset about how much he had lost in just 48 hours.

He had a backpack with his work uniform, wash cloth and a bar of soap he had just bought to shower for the first time in two days.

His home and belongings were forcibly taken on Wednesday when the Red Ants evicted residents, following a court order. “I was not aware of the eviction. I rushed from work to find all my goods – TV, fridges – out in the street. They wouldn’t even let me go inside,” said an irate Ramakgasha.

He was forced to spend the night on the street with his belongings – most of which got stolen. “Our things were just lying in the street. People helped themselves. Some stole directly from our hands,” said Ramakgasha.

“Even this hall is a disaster,” he said, commenting on the small, cold space evicted people had been allocated – and the fact that they had not eaten anything by 12 noon yesterday.

Gift of the Givers are helping to provide food and blankets to some of those affected. Ramakgasha held up one of the blankets.

Another evicted resident – one of 61 – staying at the Malboro Sports Centre said the eviction was “hurtful” and their belongings were treated “carelessly”. George Nkoana said they were victims. “We all paid rent to live there. We didn’t put ourselves there. Places to live were being sold for R500 and we bought.

“We could have fought, but we didn’t. That’s why I don’t even want to go back, I don’t want to fight anyone,” said Nkoana. On the day of the eviction he moved his family and belongings to a family member’s house, but went back that night to watch over the rest of his belongings.

Both men have been separated from their families, as women and children are being accommodated at the Malboro Emergency Centre, where 25 rooms were made available to them. They also shared the sentiment that there was some foul play and “corruption” between their landlord and authorities.

Ramakgasha said he is confident they will get the new shacks they were promised by human settlements MEC Jacob Mamabolo yesterday.

They are expected to be at places of shelter until the new shacks are built for them in Malboro.

#teamvuvu: Prelene Singh

So I’ve decided to do little profiles on the team. I keep talking about these people and might have pictures up of some, but want everybody to get to know the awesome individuals I have shared the year with.

It’s a bit tense in the newsroom right now, with most people finishing off their in-depth projects. I managed to find one focused lady who was done and dusted to humor me.  Miss Prelene Singh (aka Pre or Pre-Pre when we’re feeling extra silly).

The lovely "Pre-Pre" in the newsroom. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
The lovely “Pre-Pre” in the newsroom. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

*Disclaimer from Prelene: “If you had told me about this interview I would probably have different answers. people are going to think I’m so dumb.”

Me: How would you describe your outfit/style for day?

Prelene: This morning I actually thought about what I would wear. I was happy and relieved to be done with my in-depth so I’m wearing orange to show that.  Before this course style used to be important to me but it’s just gone down the drain, 10 steps back this year. 

Me: On to the more serious, are you sure about this journalism thing?

Prelene: Yes. As a journalist you get to experience the world as no one else can or ever will. 

Me: If you weren’t doing what you doing this, what would you be doing?

Prelene: *laughs* Um if I could come back as another person, I’d totally come back as Guiliana Rancic. Jokes. I’d come back as a writer, just an entertainment writer. 

Me: How have you found your honours year?

Prelene: Let’s put it this way, I would have lost more if I had not done this course. 

Me: What’s been the most challenging thing and the most rewarding thing for you this year?

Prelene: The most challenging would have to be keeping my perseverance and dealing with the different personalities on the daily. 

The most rewarding is being recognised for the hard work I’ve done. 

Me: Where will you be next year and what will you be doing?

Prelene: I have no idea *laughs*

Me: How would you describe #teamvuvu in three words?

Prelene: Talented, loud and unique. 

In-depth wrap up [3/4]

The end is so close yet so far. Yesterday we spent the entire day indoors. Writing and re-writing (mostly re-writing) the drafts of our features. We also read and re-read one another’s features.

It was crunch time, time to make two weeks of running around Joburg looking for sources, being put on hold and having our emails pied over and over again. It was a day of reckoning, a day to do what you could with what you had. A day to take in all the criticism with your sensitivities set aside.

The week that was saw us trying desperately trying to fill the gaping potholes in the tarred road of our stories. Yesterday was about finding the nearest bucket of something to fill that hole no matter what or in some cases off-ramping just before the hole onto another path completely.

This morning we came in bright and early with one stressor put firmly behind us, ready to tackle another – Multimedia production.  We have less than 48 hours to put together the multimedia elements that will accompany our features.  I have not been looking forward to this part of the game.

Being a person who likes photo’s I originally intended to do a photo essay but I realised a very long time ago that my topic does not allow for that and I just didn’t want to deviate from my topic to accommodate my initial plans.

I now have an alternate plan – one that has to come together very quickly. I can only hope it does, let me get to it.

Best reads

Week two of in-depth hustling has come to a close, so let’s see what some of my comrades have been up to:

Organised, “victimless” crime

Yesterday I got to have a sit down interview with the chairman of the Chinese Police Forum, Rob Crawford. We met as his house just a street away from Derrick Avenue in Cyrildene.

Rob works on a volunteer basis for the CPF and has been doing so for 12 years now. He doesn’t get paid for his CPF work, during the day he makes his bacon by teaching Karate. Which made the t-shirt he was wearing seem much less prejudicial than I imagined it was.

Karate kid vibes. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

The Juice

Within in the first few minutes of speaking to Rob I realised that he was going to give me information I could have only ever dreamed of getting – and boy did he. If ever there was a scoop of life, this was it.

Rob told my colleagues and I about the kind of organised criminal activity that plagues Cyrildene. About the Chinese mafia (called the Triad), an assortment of crimes that make car hijackers look like novices to the field.

I have some but also no idea how I am going to make everything he told me fit into my story but where there’s a will, there’s a way and the will in this case is gargantuan (I never get to use that word, thanks Elle Driver/California Mountain Snake).

The arch

After the very enlightening interview with Rob, we headed to the official opening of one of the Cyrildene archways. The very pretty one that I thought was done and dusted. I wanted to find out why construction on the other arch had all but stopped and I found out due to a helpful source.

The blazing sun was not a fun time so it was a in and out mission but Shandu wrote about it on her blog, give it a look.

The things I found out yesterday made me super keen to get cracking on my second draft, have so much more to go on now. Excitement.


There have been a number of encounters along this in-depth journey that have been interesting, surprising, disappointing and some enlightening.

Today I had three different encounters that served as a further peak into the Chinese diaspora in Johannesburg.  Well maybe not so much a peak but rather an actual front row seat.

The first was in the morning at the first meeting of the day. Shandu and I headed out to Randburg to meet the centre manager at China Discount Market. Upon pulling in to the parking lot, the grey and red walls seemed to be the only thing we could see. The parking lot was almost empty.


Side piece

After a few stops and starts we sat down to talk to 26 year old Angelique Gu. She was very helpful and answered all our questions, even though our conversations were intetrupted quite often. The fifth and final interruption came from a man wearing an all black suit. He nodded in our direction and then went on to have  a whole chat with Angelique.  Then he sat down and his jacket exposed a silver gun tucked away in a holster on his hip. Two or three nervous glances later Shandu and I started packing up.

Slumber makes you fat

The next trip saw me heading out to old Chinatown with my group members Emelia and Prelene. While milling about before our interview,  Prelene and I walked into a cafe quickly. I yawned when we were paying and the lady helping us said: “You like sleep to much”. To which I replied well I do actually.  Then she went on to tell me that’s why I’m so big (she made a gesture with her arms to demonstrate my roundness). I laughed as one does when they are reminded of how they look. She then went on to tell me: “You too fat for your age. Sleep less, exercise more. Stop eating meat and only eat veg.” At which point she showed me a sample by taking a big mouthful of what looked like strips of  cucumber in a soup.  She licked her chopsticks to demonstrate how delicious her healthy lunch was. Chinese wisdom is blunt innit?

A historical affair

We had an interview with four generations of the Pon family – one of the oldest Chinese families in Johannesburg.  We met with the family at a noodle bar.


Two black pigtails and the sweetest, cutest face were the highlight of my day. Four year old ballerina, Gabriella Pon had me from the moment she showed us her first ballet move. She was very excited to show everyone her new red tutu and very keen to pose for photos.

Not only is she a ballerina but she also speaks three languages fluently (Cantonese, Mandarin and English). And has the cutest wave. She made my day.

In-depth wrap up [1/4]

This past week has been one of the most challenging of the whole year. On Monday morning we officially started working on our in-depth research projects.

Up until that point we had only been told how intense it would be and how difficult it may be to connect with sources. It took no more than a full day for us to realise this ourselves. Day after day, colleague after colleague would walk into the newsroom at the end of the day with nothing but defeat written all over their faces.

Our biggest challenge was definitely the language barrier we bumped into in almost 80% of our encounters with people from the Chinese community.  There were some particular instances that stuck out that I talked about earlier in the week. Which is why it was so interesting to find out about a partnership with the Chinese Police Forum (CPF) in Cyrildene and the South African Police Service (SAPS) in the area. They are working together to combat the language barrier so that the police in that area can do their jobS as effectively as possible.

The video above was taken at a Mandarin lesson held at the CPF offices on Thursday morning. In attendance are members of the local SAPS. These lessons take place weekly. It was interesting to me because one has come to expect foreigners to adapt to local ways of doing things when they migrate to a particular place. In this instance things are happening vice versa. The locals are finding ways to adapt to a foreign language to help migrants in that area.

While I understand that being a foreigner in any country is challenging, we have all stumbled upon one recurring theme within the Chinese community. I use the word community loosely here because the five or so examples I’m drawing from are by no means representative of the community at large. A lot of the English speaking people we encountered described the Chinese community, especially those living in Cyrildene as being very insular. To me the example above is evidence of that.

So our challenge this week was two fold. Not only could we not communicate effectively but we also had minimal success in trying to break down the walls built up by some of the people we encountered. But on the whole I get that as a foreigner in a place you consider especially dangerous, one would take to keeping to themselves to avoid landing up in any kind of perilous situations. My job is to figure out how to work around this well enough to make a connection and get the information I need,

Well I suppose that’s not my job in this particular instance because my topic doesn’t rely too heavily on individuals on the ground, but who knows it might in a few days.

Sink or swim

[Yes these titles are reference’s to the Kate Cann‘s book]

Today was the day I had to get my act together. Today was the day I had to decide what I was doing and how I was going to do it.  Today is the day things started making sense.

NEW NEW: Derrick road entrance, the home of 'new' Chinatown. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
NEW NEW: Derrick road entrance, the home of ‘new’ Chinatown. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Headed back to Cyrildene this morning to chat with someone from Marais Attorney’s, one of the only places that aren’t run or owned by Chinese people in the area. I had a chat with a 24 year old clerk, Ou Jia. He was born in Shanghai and decided to move to South Africa when he was 12. He said he just couldn’t live with his parents (yes, you read right). “Don’t get me wrong I like my parents, I just couldn’t live with them anymore,” he said.

He has been working at Marais Attorney’s for two years now and feel they help to bridge the Chinese community in Cyrildene to the “outside world”.

He said what they do is important because most Chinese migrants who are in South Africa come from rural backgrounds and have very little education, “they have a poor understanding of the law and how things work here.”

A shot at creativity. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
A shot at creativity. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

After my interview with him the two encounters that followed were a highlight of the day.

First we walked into a restaurant trying to have a chat with the owner. The three people we spoke to called a chef from the kitchen to come translate for us. We explained who we were and what we wanted to do to this young black man, he then relayed our message in what seemed like fluent Mandarin.

When he wasn’t getting his point across he started speaking in English, very slowly. Then the they went on to have a whole conversation about their stock and lunch time and we had to slowly retreat from the whole thing.

Then we went to the cultural centre, which turned out to be a library. A young woman, Hubi told us a bit about the library and even started opening up about her personal life. While she was speaking her colleague shouted at her in her mother tongue then said to us (very sternly at that)  “We’re working here! You go outside”. So that’s what we did. What a day indeed.

A labour of luck innit?

GALLERY: We went on a field trip :D

As I mentioned in my last night, today my journalism class had a field trip. We went down to the old/new Chinatown in the city.  Today I choose to tell the day’s tales in a visual manner, enjoy.

ps – a few others are up on my photo blog: therebble.tumblr.com