How Johannesburg Water destroyed my property and violated it’s own bylaws

Job-card number 700110012910 was supposed to connect the adjacent stand #174 in Broadacres Country Estate on 21st August 2015 to an already existing connection point.

A supposedly simple job which took Johannesburg Water 5 months to complete and left me with unsettled damages of R 29,872.00 (USD 2,100.00) and tens of thousands of Rand in legal fees to force Johannesburg Water to comply with their own bylaws.

To illustrate, the work required would have been as simple as connecting the existing connection point (green) to stand #174 being built at that time:

The problem was that Johannesburg Water actually never installed connection points for #173 and #174, but in true governmental stubbornness the Johannesburg Water representatives decided that my home (#175) was built on top of the two “missing” connection points and requested to dig a small pilot hole outside my property (for good measures, they also dug up the Eskom distribution box which eventually toppled over):

Johannesburg Water returned a week later and asked to dig another pilot-hole inside my property. When I objected to the digging inside my property I was threatened that I am violating bylaws and Johannesburg Water would then rather tear down my boundary wall as I “criminally” built the wall over the water connection (it turned out that they could never find the “missing” pipes).

Within less than one hour, the workers had dug a 1.5m deep hole, destroyed part of the foundation and the boundary wall. The Johannesburg Water supervisors (Tibor, Reeza) and their managers refused to return any of my calls and emails and I was left with this:

The above “mountain” erected in August 2015 remained like this until December 2015 as Johannesburg Water continued to dig all over the estate – yes over 5 months Johannesburg Water decided to dig up 9 different locations trying to find the “existing” connection points:

Meetings scheduled with Johannesburg Water to resolve the issue were not attended by Johannesburg Water representatives and phone calls and emails remained unanswered.

On the 11th September municipality workers arrived unannounced at the estate and based on instructions from their supervisors proceeded to splice my water connection in order to supply water to the adjacent stand:

Johannesburg Water was perfectly happy violating several of their own bylaws:

Section 24.1 – only one connection pipe is allowed to supply water to a single premise
Section 25 – interconnection between premises
Section 28 (quantity, quality & pressure)
Section 29 (general conditions of supply)

The spliced connection remained like this from 11th September 2015 until end of January 2016 and our water supply and pressure was frequently affected when the neighbouring stand used water excessively.

By now one would have thought that things can not get any worse until I received a phone call from estate security on 22nd October 2015 that an excavator is busy digging up my pavement. It turns out that Johannesburg Water decided to continue tracing the “missing” pipes and that it was perfectly fine to dig up private property without informing the owner:

The Eskom box was again damaged, but this time “secured” with a wooden plank. Johannesburg Water also proudly announced that they restored my pavement to it’s original condition (refer to picture#4 above – take note of the pile of pavement neatly lined up against my wall – yes, this is how “restored to original condition” is defined by Johannesburg Water.

At this point in time I had engaged with attorneys as Johannesburg Water employees became obsessed of finding water pipes which they never installed instead of just running new pipes (which they eventually did in December 2015).

It took until November 2015 that the Johannesburg Water representatives agreed that new connection pipes will be run on common property to stands #173 and #174. This was reluctantly agreed by Johannesburg Water and was only possible after exhaustive legal intervention. By that time Johannesburg Water had:

  • Dug up my garden twice
  • Damaged part of my boundary wall and foundation
  • Damaged my irrigation system 3 times
  • Dug up my driveway and cracked pavement due to the use of heavy machinery

Johannesburg Water was initially very reluctant to share how public liability claims can be submitted (yes, Johannesburg Water provides insurance via AON Insurance for any damages caused) and suggested that I should rather use my own insurance to repair damages (which in turn would have hiked my premiums).

Despite the previous agreement that Johannesburg Water would run new connection pipes on common property, on the 27th November 2015 the same team arrived and proceeded to dig up my pavement again and rip apart the irrigation system I had repaired the previous time (and 2 times prior to that). Somehow Johannesburg Water also managed to reverse into the Eskom box so hard that it’s cabinet door sprung open and was found completely bent:

When Johannesburg Water “installed” the new connection pipes, they did this without any regard to any of the existing infrastructure and sleeves. It was a miracle that they missed the high voltage Eskom electricity supply feed to the distribution box, but Tibor’s team did quite successfully fully destroy Telkom data-lines:

The damage was so excessive that it took 7 Telkom staff and their supervisors to arrive in 4 separate cars and required them to completely rewire 80 metres (!) of data lines across 6(!) manholes over 8 hours on one of the hottest days in Johannesburg (35 degrees):

The damage to our high-speed data lines caused massive headaches as our income was directly affected for 2 weeks as we had to fall back to slower 3G connections with daily data-costs of up to R600 (approx USD 40).

While I appreciate that mistakes happen, the sheer stubbornness, incompetence and often outright negligence by Johannesburg Water, their employees and supervisors is just astonishing. It took from 21st August 2015 until 27th January 2016 (5 months!) to supply water to one of their customers. The final installation also did not go as expected and Johannesburg Water damaged my irrigation (now the 4th time):

We supplied 3 separate claims to Johannesburg Water amounting to a conservative R 29,872.00 for repairing paving, irrigation, landscaping, high-speed data lines and despite several legal interventions, Johannesburg Water and their insurer AON Insurance have not settled the claims.

AON Insurance and their legal representatives (Norton Rose) have threatened with defamation law-suits and legal action should I decide to publish my experience with Johannesburg Water and their settlement proposal went as far as restricting me to report the various issues to the Ombudsman:

Despite the legal threats I will post a number of follow up posts which will depict how Johannesburg Water and their insurer AON Insurance avoided settlement of claims and their legal representatives (under instruction from Johannesburg Water / AON Insurance) drafted a settlement proposal which not only attempts to infringe on my basic rights but also attempted to use my rights as a consumer to escalate issues of such nature to regulatory bodies.

All information provided above is factual and is accompanied by 380 photos as well as hundreds of pages of transcripts of email communication between all parties involved.