Eastern Cape villagers drink muddy water as stream dries up

Mambele Mazwana and Mazulu Magugu draw water from the stream. (Nomzamo Yuku, GroundUp)
Mambele Mazwana and Mazulu Magugu draw water from the stream. (Nomzamo Yuku, GroundUp)

Mount Frere – Residents of Mhlotsheni village near Mount Frere in the Eastern Cape are drinking and washing in muddy water as their only stream dries up.

The small Rhontsana stream, which feeds the Umzimvubu River and serves as a main source of water for more than 300 households, has been drying up since July 2016 following severe drought in the Alfred Nzo district, GroundUp reported.

Villagers wake early to queue for a little water at a small pond the stream supplies. Sometimes a fight breaks out over access to the water.

Thandiwe Nogwaji, 64, said villagers had waited for years to get piped water. A reservoir was still being built.

“We have been relying on this stream for years. It is only now that it is drying up, causing a lot of stress to many of us,” said Mambele Mazwana, 56.

“There is nowhere else we can get water from. We are forced to rush here every morning and evening to fetch water because we cannot get even a drop during the day. Our livestock is also depending on this stream and very little water gets to our pond.”

While the reservoir was being built, the municipality should provide water tanks or deliver water with trucks, she said.

Alfred Nzo municipality spokesperson Ndabuko Masumpa said the R114.4m Ntibane and Umzimvubu supply scheme was announced last December and be completed by the end of this year.

The project would bring clean water to the villages of Mgungundlovu, Qhanqu, Mhlotsheni, Lutshikini, Mtsila, Qhanqu, Mpoza, Lutateni, Manqilweni, Tyeni, Nguse, Gubhuzi, Mhlutha and Nyosini and benefit more than 17 800 people.

Asked what would be done for the villagers in the meantime, Masumpa said the focus was on providing long-term solutions.

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