De Hoop’s hopeless, say residents

2015-02-22 15:00

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Electricity and potable water have come to Lettie and Frans Tshehla’s little corner of Limpopo – but they can’t access either resource.

The Tshehlas live right next to one of government’s largest infrastructure projects of the past decade: the R3?billion, 1.5km-long De Hoop Dam in Limpopo’s Sekhukhune district.

It was boiling hot when City Press visited the couple, who aren’t sure of their ages but whose ID books say they were both born in 1945.

“The cold breeze is really nice and nothing beats the smell of fresh water blown this way,” Lettie said. Then she sighed.

“It is sad, however, that this cold wind is actually the only benefit we enjoy from this dam.”

This is ancestral land belonging to the Tshehla Trust, and the couple grew up drinking water from the nearby Steelpoort River.

About 10 years ago, officials came to tell them a dam was going to be built less than 1km from their house to end the Sekhukhune district’s ongoing water crisis.

“We cooperated and gave consent, and worked with the authorities in the removal of our parents and great-grandparents’ graves from the area where the dam is now built,” Lettie said.

“We could not say no to something that was to ensure that our children did not drink from the river with animals, like we grew up doing.”

They hoped their village would be electrified. An electrical line passes in front of their home – but it’s used to power the light on the dam’s gigantic wall and its pump house. The dam has a capacity of 347?million cubic metres.

President Jacob Zuma officially opened it last March, describing the water project as part of his government’s “good story to tell”.

Though both infrastructure and the delivery of water featured heavily in President Zuma’s state of the nation address last week, De Hoop didn’t get a mention.

“It’s been promises all these years, but I doubt if I will die having drunk clean water from a tap here in Tshehla Trust,” Lettie said.

Her children still drink from the river. The couple’s son, Titus, accompanied by his pet dog, pushes a wheelbarrow loaded with two 25-litre containers for about 700m to reach the Steelpoort River each day.

Once he’s navigated the bushes and other hazards, Titus fills the containers while his dog cools down and laps at the water.

Willy Mosoma, spokesperson for the Sekhukhune District Municipality, confirmed that no villages were “currently” getting water from De Hoop.

Mosoma said this was because the water treatment plant and linked bulk pipeline had only “recently” been completed.

“We are currently purifying the water from the dam with the help of Lepelle Northern Water and we hope that, before June, communities bordering the dam will be the first to be supplied with dam water,” he said.

In Maseven village, on the dam’s opposite bank, Khomotso Tsoka said the situation was the same.

“We have seen huge [bulk supply] pipes dug in past our village and now water is flowing through while we’re left dry. Why not start with us who are the closest to the water source?” Tsoka asked.

“It is sad that this is how we grew up and this continues to happen today. Seemingly no one cares about us – like we’re forgotten communities.”

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