Walking for water on blind faith

2016-11-30 06:01
PHOTO: Kailene Pillay Msunduzi mayor Themba Njilo (left) chats to Ernest Mdunge about his life and struggle to get water every day.

PHOTO: Kailene Pillay Msunduzi mayor Themba Njilo (left) chats to Ernest Mdunge about his life and struggle to get water every day.

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WITH the help of his trusted dog, a blind man must walk three kilometres along a dirt road each day to fetch water for his household.

On the return trip he must carry up to 40 litres of water using only his knowledge of the footpath as guidance.

Elandskop resident Ernest Mdunge (49), said he has no choice but to take the rocky path because his home has no tap in the yard and the closest water supply is at the roadside.

Born and raised in Elandskop, Mdunge said he was quite familiar with the pathway, but also depends on the help of his four-legged best friend, Mango, who barks at him if he approaches an obstruction along the path.

Mdunge has to fetch water from a roadside JoJo tank for him and his mentally challenged sister Bongekile Hlengwa (46).

The siblings live in a dilapidated hut made with bricks left over from a demolished house. The roof is made of grass and rain easily seeps through the stacked bricks.

There is also a pit toilet on the property.

“I use my feet to feel and guess if I am still on the right path. If Mango does not bark, I sometimes hit myself on things and fall,” Mdunge said.

He also carries a plastic stick which helps him “feel the ground for rocks”.

“It is not easy, but God guides me,” he said.

Mdunge said his trip to the JoJo tank takes him more than an hour. He carries two 20-litre buckets at a time because they last longer and help him balance while he walks back to his home.

Hlengwa’s condition is still being assessed at the local clinic to see if she qualifies for a grant.

The pair survive on Mdunge’s disability grant and on vegetables he grows from seeds donated by neighbours.

Msunduzi Mayor Themba Njilo this week walked the path Mdunge follows and visited the family.

Njilo said he needed to know “first-hand” what Mdunge experienced.

“I walked this path and it is not easy even for a man with perfect eyesight. The ground is terribly uneven and steep and it pains me to know what this man has to do to get water,” Njilo said.

An RDP house is currently being built for Mdunge and his sister and Njilo spoke to contractors on-site who assured him the house would be ready in two weeks.

“I want to come back here and officially hand over the house to him [Mdunge]. And if council cannot assist, then I will help him furnish his home out of my own pocket,” Njilo said.

Njilo added that he would arrange for a JoJo tank to be installed next to Mdunge’s home so he would not have to walk the distance he does now any longer.

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