The endless battle for drinking water

2017-11-26 05:59
Residents of Ga-Moretsele near Jane Furse contributed R50 per household towards the drilling of a borehole, which supplies them with water once a week. Pictures: Lucas Ledwaba/Mukurukuru Media

Residents of Ga-Moretsele near Jane Furse contributed R50 per household towards the drilling of a borehole, which supplies them with water once a week. Pictures: Lucas Ledwaba/Mukurukuru Media

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Did the Sekhukhune District Municipality keep its promise to provide water to villages near the multimillion-rand De Hoop Dam? City Press partnered with Track My Mayor* to find out.

Promise Tracking - Municipality blames withdrawal of R126m for delivery woes

The Sekhukhune District Municipality committed itself to delivering water from the De Hoop Dam to Limpopo villages from Kutullo to Jane Furse by June.

In March, Greater Tubatse News reported that mayor Keamotseng Stanley Ramaila had confirmed that the municipality would deliver on its promise to the people of Kutullo, Ga-Malekana, Maseven, Ngwaabe, Ga-Maphopha and Tshehlwaneng to Jane Furse. 

However, five months after the deadline, municipal spokesperson Willy Mosoma said only Ga-Malekana and Ngwaabe to Ga-Maphopha were benefiting from the De Hoop Dam.

Reporter Lucas Ledwaba found that residents had access to water in Ga-Malekana and Ngwaabe, but that this was irregular.

In Ga-Maphopha, residents struggled to access sporadic water supply without taps. 

Mosoma said the failure to fulfil the promise in full was the result of the withdrawal of R126m in municipal infrastructure grant funding “which we disputed but failed”.

Asked why it stopped the funds, despite the possible adverse effects on service delivery, National Treasury said that while “the municipality argued that their projects were committed, most of the projects linked to the stopped money were not ready for implementation”.

It said the municipality risked having unused cash, which could be subject to misuse. 

Mosoma said the municipality was confident of water delivery to the villages around the De Hoop Dam, up to Jane Furse, by April next year. – Liesl Pretorius 

* Willy Mosoma's full response at the end of the article

* Track My Mayor follows the progress of mayoral promises in the interest of increased accountability at local government level. 

The endless battle for drinking water

By Lucas Ledwaba

When residents of Ga-Moretsele in Limpopo grew tired of waiting to be connected to a water supply, they took matters into their own hands.

Each household in the village, located near Jane Furse, donated R50 towards a fund to buy a machine to pump water from an old borehole that had fallen into disrepair.

Now the borehole supplies water once a week to communal taps set up in the sandy streets of the village.

It is not enough to sustain households, but it is much better than trudging along the outskirts of the village looking for water from springs and streams, according to resident Doreen Nkadimeng.

Nkadimeng’s home is next to one of the communal taps.

The Nkadimeng family in Ga-Moretsele fill up drums with water from a tap near their house. The village taps run once a week. Photos: Lucas Ledwaba/Mukurukuru Media

“We realised that there was no progress [with the government water supply project]. We were really suffering,” she says.

A number of villages in the Sekhukhune District Municipality were expected to receive water from the De Hoop Dam by June this year, but the municipality failed to meet its deadline.

President Jacob Zuma officially opened the R3bn dam in March 2014. The intention was for it to supply water to poorly serviced rural communities in Sekhukhune, Zuma said at the time.

More than three years later, residents of villages that do receive water from the dam say the supply is unreliable.

Moeketsi Moila, who lives in Ngwaabe, runs the S’gidla Waar car wash along the busy D2219 road between Jane Furse and De Hoop.

So far, he has managed to sustain himself from the business, but finds it difficult to keep it running with an irregular water supply.

Moeketsi Moila, who runs the S'gidla Waar car wash in Ngwaabe, says being without a reliable water supply is costly.

“We are forced to buy water here,” Moila says.

He spends at least R100 to fill a 1 000-litre tank with water he buys from vendors who have found a way of making a living from the crisis.

Those who have the means have drilled boreholes in their yards and, in turn, sell water to those who rely solely on the government for their supply.

“Sometimes I struggle to make this R100 to buy water,” Moila says. On these days, he buys water in small containers for R2 each.

Residents such as Tebogo Mabelane – who lives in Ga-Malekana, not far from Ngwaabe – sometimes wake up in the middle of the night to fill up their tanks and buckets, when the water suddenly starts running without warning.

Mabelane says the water supply in her village has improved over the past year.

Her home, like many in the village, has a tap in the yard. Her family has invested in a 2 000 litre water storage tank.

Tebogo Mabelane says there has been an improvement in the supply of water in her home village, Ga-Malekana.

“In the past, we used to walk a long distance to get water from the river. We had to carry buckets on our heads and walk up and down very steep hills,” she says, adding that the taps now run at least once a week, but only for a few hours at a time.

“You can’t bath anytime you wish. You can’t do laundry just about any time. You have to learn to save water because you never know when you will have it again,” she says.

In Ga-Maphopha village, Milton Sepudung is frustrated by the fact that although water pipes were put along the main road cutting through the village, no taps were installed.

So, when the water runs through the pipe, residents are forced to find a way of getting the water out and into their containers.

A water pipe without a tap in Ga-Maphopha.

“We don’t know the reason we don’t have water. We go for long periods without. It is only when there is a funeral in the village that we get water for at least an entire weekend,” he says.

“Other than that, we go for weeks, even months without water.”

Kadishe Motshana of Ga-Mogashoa village in Tshehlwaneng, says government installed taps in the streets, but these had never worked and were eventually vandalised.

“Getting water is a serious struggle here,” he says.

“A family of four people have to use the same water to bath. We have to save water.” – Mukurukuru Media

Residents of Tshehlwaneng are without a reliable water supply despite their proximity to the De Hoop Dam and being along a bulk water supply system development route.

Still relying on the river

By Poloko Tau

With a 25 litre bucket filled with water perched on top of her head, Leenetji Tau negotiates a small hill as she leaves the river.

Tau has never known a water source in Kutullo village in Limpopo, where she was born, other than the Steelpoort River, which is about 800m from her house.

The 34-year-old only gets a chance to use a tap when she visits friends or relatives in other areas.

Leenetji Tau and her son Kgothatso walk from Kutullo village near Steelpoort to collect water from the Steelpoort River, which flows past their home. Residents of the village rely on this river for water despite being located about 5km from the De Hoop Dam. Photos: Lucas Ledwaba/Mukurukuru Media

“All my life, I have fetched water from the river. It’s sad that my child is doing it with me today. I have lost hope, but I pray that my son does not reach my age and is still drinking water from the river and sharing it with animals,” she says.

Kutullo is one of the villages that was supposed to receive water from the De Hoop Dam by June.

The Sekhukhune District Municipality now estimates that water will be supplied to the village by April.

Tau says the construction of the dam, which is about 5km away, “was supposed to change our lives”, but now it seems as though the community has been forgotten.

Anna Tau collects water from the river, which flows past her village of Kutullo from the De Hoop Dam. Her niece Leenetji and Leenetji's son Kgothatso accompanied her to the river.

“The water from the dam gushes through pipes that run right through our village, while we’re left to drink from the river,” she says.

While Tau’s patience is wearing thin, the wait has paid off for an elderly couple from nearby Tshehla Trust.

For years, Frans and Lettie Tshehla only enjoyed the breeze released as the water gushed through the sluice gates at the dam, which is clearly visible from their house.

 Leenetji and Anna go to pour water into a large drum after walking to the river where they draw water daily.

More than a year ago, a tap was installed in their yard.

“My wheelbarrow has finally retired and my children can do much better things with their time now. They don’t have to walk down to the river all the time for water,” Lettie says.

“My family can finally say there is freedom because we can taste it in this clean water.”

She says the taps do sometimes go dry, “but I am not complaining at all because we do have water almost all the time”.

Frans Tshehla lives near the De Hoop Dam in Tshehla Trust. The community struggled to get running water for a number of years, even after the multi-million rand dam was built. The village is now connected to the water system and Tshehla enjoys watering his garden.

Hope after court action 

By Poloko Tau

Residents of five villages near the Flag Boshielo Dam in Limpopo have taken the Sekhukhune District Municipality to court to force it to supply them with water. Poloko Tau visited three of the villages and found that residents were cautiously optimistic.

The spillway at the Flag Boshielo Dam in Limpopo looks parched – a sign that water levels are low.

In nearby Elandskraal, resident Dirkie Mohlokwane says it shouldn’t have taken court action to force the municipality to provide water.

Mohlokwane was involved in the original court application as the chairperson of the Concerned Residents of Flag Boshielo West.

“The municipality was literally forced to provide water in tanks in the interim and when they were not enough we went back to court and they were once again ordered to increase the number.

“Things have improved in that we get taps flowing at least three or four days in a week,” he says. This is a result of the court action.

The water problems in these villages date back to 2009, when the municipality implemented a rotational system so that villages would get water once a week on specific days.

A committee representing Elandskraal, Dichoeung, Morarela, Mbuzini and Tsantsabela villages was formed.

Sarah Molapo relies on water delivered by municipal trucks in Dichoeung village near Marble Hall, Limpopo. Photos: Lucas Ledwaba/Mukurukuru Media

In 2015, they approached the High Court in Pretoria to force the municipality to supply them with water, citing their constitutional right to access.

“More often than not, there were prolonged periods – sometimes three to four weeks at a time – when we did not receive any water.

"In these instances, we would receive no notification of the break in the water supply or for how long it would last,” residents said in court papers at the time.

They returned to court in August this year to seek a more permanent solution to the villages’ water woes.

Water is delivered to Dichoeung.

When the municipality failed to comply with an agreement to increase supply, they argued that the mayor should be jailed.

According to GroundUp, the municipality’s lawyer argued that Mayor Keamotseng Stanley Ramaila had not acted maliciously and that prosecuting him “would not benefit the community’s aim for water”.

Instead, the court opted to call upon the minister of water affairs to report back on how the water delivery problems in the villages would be solved.

Back in Tsantsabela, Sarah Molapo waits for her 25 litre containers to fill up from one of the tanks in the village.

She frequently steps on the muddy soil to cool down her bare feet in the scorching heat.

Once the containers are full, she loads them into a wheelbarrow and pushes them home, where she will pour the water into a bigger 200 litre drum for storage.

Residents of Elandskraal have been struggling to get a regular water supply since 2009. The area is near the Flag Boshielo Dam.

“I’m glad that we do not have to go many days without a drop like we used to,” she says.

In Dichoeung, Lazarus Seroka says their taps have been dry for over a week.

“Since then we have been entirely dependent on these big green tanks that are constantly replenished.

“At least people don’t have to go to the river any more.”

Mohlokwane says the state of affairs looks promising.

“I am hoping the municipality is working on a permanent solution and that we do not have to go back to court again.

"We’re not asking for much, but there are people who are too poor to buy water and who are forced to go to the rivers and risk being attacked by crocodiles.

"We’ve seen it happen when we used to go for weeks without a drop,” he adds.

Municipal spokesperson Willy Mosoma did not respond to a request for comment.

* Reporting for this story was supported by Code for Africa’s impactAFRICA fund. 

A broken water pipe in Elandskraal.

Full response: Willy Mosoma, spokesperson of the Sekhukhune District Municipality

"Firstly, we acknowledge that in August 2016, we anticipated that the people of Kutullo, Maseven, the whole of Ngwaabe [and] Tshehlwaneng up to Jane Furse [would] be supplied with water from De Hoop Dam in June 2017. Unfortunately, not all these villages are currently supplied. It's only Ga-Malekana [and] Ngwaabe [up to] Ga-Maphopha who are benefiting from De Hoop Dam to date.

“This was as a result of [the] withdrawal of R126m of our MIG [municipal infrastructure grant] funding, which we disputed but failed. The funds were committed to Ngwaabe Scheme, which comprised reservoirs, pipelines [and] steel tanks to the villages around Ngwaabe.

“We are, however, confident that all villages surrounding De Hoop Dam [up to] Jane Furse will be supplied with water come February to April 2018. We are currently commissioning the bulk pipeline from Malekana Waste Water Treatment Plant to Jane Furse, to be completed in February 2018 and our [reticulation] project to link all Ngwaabe villages is at 95% completion and the final completion of the project is April 2018.

“The district municipality wishes to apologise for the inconvenience caused to our communities due to projections, which could not be met. This was caused partly by the fact that the delivery of [these] basic services is a shared responsibility of all layers of government.”

Mosoma did not respond to a request to clarify what role the shared responsibility of the different spheres of government played in the delay.

Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  service delivery  |  water

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