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South Africa’s dire water shortage means that some civil servants have to give each other lifts to the other side of town just to find a working toilet.

According to the News 24 website, employees at the Department of Social Development in Mpumalanga in the east of the country have to drive 6km (4 miles) to a shopping mall in order to answer the call of nature. The department is a local office helping South Africans alleviate poverty and provide social welfare services, but staff complains that they have to leave clients in the lurch as they go in search of lavatories.

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“I kept on asking why I am not attended to and I was told that the person who has to help me went to the bathroom, as there was no water in the building,” one client told News 24.

Management say they are doing all they can to alleviate the situation and have provided daily water cans for staff, but point out that the water shortage is a nationwide event that is affecting millions. Elsewhere in Mpumalanga, the drought has already caused problems in schools and hospitals.

Across South Africa, recent heavy rains have not done much to ease the shortages. The IOL.co.za news portal says that levels at the Vaal Dam, which supplies water to Johannesburg, have risen for the 11th week in a row but the situation is still “dire”. In Cape Town, officials say that residents and businesses are still using 7m litres (1.5m gallons) too much each day, and have warned people against waste. Gardeners have been told they may only use one bucketful of water at a time, and then only on Tuesdays and Saturdays.