Tatane Project: The umbilical mud hut cord

2015-04-27 14:00

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Sunlight streams through tiny gaps in the roof of a dilapidated mud hut, exposing its fading thatch roof held up by a black, smoke-covered and rickety wooden frame.

Three large, blue, plastic water drums rest against the wall, surrounded by smaller containers.

Although this hut is on its last legs, it is clearly still serving some purpose for Phineus Pilusa.

But the mud hut is also a sore reminder of the sleepless, cold winter nights and nonstop summer rains that damaged the thatch roof.

“I don’t want this hut any more, but I cannot afford to see it razed to the ground, because it is still housing my electricity box. If the authorities deliver on their promise and move the box into the RDP house, then I will definitely let it go,” Pilusa said.

The 68-year-old pensioner lives in Mawa Block 9 in the Bolobedu area outside Tzaneen in Limpopo. He waited for almost 15 years for an RDP house, which he received two years ago.

This was also the first time he was able to use a proper brick pit toilet, bringing to an end years of relieving himself in the bushes.

“Sleeping in a brick house for the first time in decades was the greatest fruit of freedom I have ever tasted, and it gave me a ray of hope that more was on the way,” he said.

Pilusa’s RDP house has no direct electricity connection and gets its power from the electricity box in the mud hut. But this poses huge problems.

“Rainy days are the worst, when sparks are flying from the electric box in the hut whenever it is penetrated by the water. Sometimes water dripping into the box trips the electricity connection and I’m left with no power for days – until it is completely dry,” he added.

Pilusa’s life may have changed a great deal since he moved from a mud hut into a brick house, but not much else has changed.

A single bed he shares with his wife is the only proper piece of furniture inside the house. His living room has four plastic chairs and an old wooden cabinet. There’s also a wobbly wooden table upon which sits an old tape recorder – the only electronic appliance in the house.

“I am not asking for anything much at the moment, but life would be better if I can get my [electricity] box inside the brick house and for the whole community to get a consistent water supply,” he said. “We still get water once or twice a week in this village, but on dry days we rely on salty borehole water.”

His queries surrounding service delivery remain unanswered. The municipality tells him it’s Eskom’s problem, but the power utility sends him back to the municipality, leaving Pilusa exasperated.

An unemployed young villager, Obert Pilusa – a distant relative – said he was expecting more protest action in the area.

“People are frustrated, especially when they see other villages getting basic services like consistent water supply and tarred roads. I will still vote, hoping for some change, but I doubt if others are still interested in voting when they are not seeing any improvements,” he said.

Responding to the protests in the area last month, Tzaneen municipality spokesperson Neville Ndlala said: “In the next two weeks, Eskom will begin with the surveys, designs and all necessary processes that must precede the actual physical connection. From [this coming Friday], the work of connecting electricity will commence.”

Broken promises of Mawa village

I am looking at my people forming long queues, waiting for their turn to get water from the few communal taps available to hundreds of them.

The three water containers I am pushing in my wheelbarrow are also quite heavy. But this our daily experience in Mawa Block 9.

I am proud to be from this village because I was born and bred here. We are a close-knit community, even in our suffering.

What pains me, however, is having to go out to get salty borehole water for my family’s consumption whenever the communal taps run out of water. Imagine, two decades into democracy and we are still left with no choice but to consume salty, unhealthy water. People are also forced to share water from the river with animals on really dry days. My area gets water from the municipality twice a week.

Every time I push a wheelbarrow to and from the water point, it makes me think twice about voting and democracy.

I voted for change and enhanced service delivery in 2014. I was hopeful, but it seems democracy has betrayed me and my hope is fading by the second.

Voting is no longer meaningful to me. Why vote people into power only for them to vanish even before the ink dries on the ballot paper?

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