More places in Vaal River, elsewhere test positive for cholera


Another seven places in and around the Vaal River tested positive for cholera.

According to the Department of Health, overall laboratory-confirmed and suspected cases are decreasing, although this does not mean the end of the spread of cholera.

In the past month, AfriForum has conducted several water tests in, among other things, the Vaal River, the river system and surrounding towns after earlier tests in this river tested positive for the bacterial disease. Around 40 laboratory tests were carried out in the immediate vicinity of the Vaal River.

Drinking water tests were also carried out at several other towns to confirm whether the water is safe for human consumption. These tests were carried out after AfriForum received several requests from communities concerned about the quality of their drinking water.

According to AfriForum, the following places have now tested positive for cholera:

  • Water at the Barrage Bridge in the Vaal River;
  • Vaal River Water in Paris;
  • In Welcome to Thabong where the Mostert Canal begins;
  • In Welcome to a furrow that runs into the Witpan;
  • At Barkley West in the Vaal River;
  • At Douglas in the Vaal River before it merges with the Orange River; and
  • At Warrenton in the Vaal River.

Lambert de Klerk, manager of environmental affairs at AfriForum, says it is equally worrying that the results also indicate that E. coli is present in the majority of the water samples taken in the river system.

“The focus of these tests was twofold. Firstly, we wanted to confirm whether the drinking water of the towns located along the Vaal River is safe for human consumption and secondly, we had to determine whether there is cholera in the river.

“The results are even more worrying because so many people in South Africa use water from the Vaal River on a daily basis and therefore it needs to be better monitored.”

De Klerk says the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) must actively intervene and that AfriForum is prepared to help.

“When looking at the interim reports issued by the DWS, it is clear that the directives issued are not being obeyed. It seems the DWS is more bark than bite and it’s time they started biting again.

“However, there is one issue in terms of the results that does not make sense. Cholera was not detected at one point in the river, but further downstream the water did test positive for cholera. AfriForum is currently talking to experts about this to determine the reason for this.”

Overall cases ‘declining’

The Department of Health has meanwhile indicated that there is a significant decrease in the number of confirmed laboratory and suspected cases of cholera.

According to Foster Mohale, spokesperson for the department, only 28 suspected cases have been reported in the past ten days.

“This does not mean the transmission of cholera is over. Members of the public are still encouraged to be prepared and hygienic, especially if food is prepared in large quantities.”

A total of 1,073 suspected cases of cholera were reported in five provinces in the country between February 1 and July 4, of which 198 were confirmed by laboratories.

Most cases were recorded in Gauteng (176), particularly Hammanskraal, followed by the Free State (11), North West (6), Limpopo (4) and Mpumalanga (1).

A total of 47 deaths have been linked to cholera during this time, including four new deaths in the last two weeks in the Free State.