‘How can we be expected to eat where we s**t?’

2013-05-26 14:00

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As we drive through the streets of Meqheleng, we see a little girl, about five years old, helping her mother rinse their plastic laundry basins at the tap in their yard.

She splashes water all over herself, squealing with delight, joy etched all over her face.

A common sight in many townships, perhaps, but this would never have happened in Meqheleng before activist Andries Tatane was killed two years ago.

Then, running water was an occasional luxury and sewage ran in the streets. Now every yard has a tap, thanks to a new pipeline linking the township to the water treatment plant.

“It’s not perfect yet, but we are making some progress,” says municipal manager Tshepiso Ramakarane.

But some 30km away from Meqheleng, in Mokodumela township outside Clocolan, residents wake up each morning to the stench of overflowing manholes spewing excrement on to their driveways and into their homes.

Matlapula Mafongozi (44), who lives in the neighbouring township of Sunflower, has to dig trenches to divert the effluent away from his whitewashed home.

The morning City Press visited, he took up his shovel and went to dig again because the rain had washed his old trenches away.

He couldn’t drive into his yard without being stuck in a dam of sewage.

Even though he has a flush toilet, he dismantled it and went back to using the bucket system because when the manhole outside his home overflowed, his outside flush toilet followed suit, spewing excrement all over his yard.

“I have four children living in my house and the youngest is three years old. I try to make sure they are safe from this toxic waste,” he says.

Not only are residents forced to use the bucket system, they have to dispose of their waste in holes they dig in their yards.

Mokodumela resident Anna Nthu (68) says: “This is beyond disgusting. How can we be expected to eat where we s**t? The municipality can take weeks to come fetch this so I have to dig a hole for it.

“It’s unhygienic and when I or my grandchild gets sick, an ambulance won’t even be able to come here because of that sewage marsh down the road.”

Nthu wishes her neighbourhood was more like Meqheleng, where Adelene Lebesa (65) says she is delighted the sewage no longer dams up in front of her yard and clean water comes out of her tap, save for the occasional water outage.

Fellow Meqheleng resident Dikeledi Tsaoane (45) says she has seen many improvements since Tatane’s death.

She says that although the neighbourhood is cut up about the fact that no one was held responsible for his death, she believes he did not die in vain.

“We don’t have everything we want right now, but at least we have water,” she says.

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