Tragedy as woman dies in well

Tragedy as woman dies in well

MOKEMA – ’Mamosunyetsane Shale, 63, left her home in Ha-Molapo in Mokema for a routine trip to the village well to fetch water last Thursday.
Moments later, she was dead. ’Mamosunyetsane’s lifeless body was discovered by a young girl who saw some legs protruding from the well’s mouth.
The girl ran to the village to inform her elders.

The villagers ran to the well and they found ’Mamosunyetsane’s head was deep in the water with her legs appearing at the entrance of the well.
’Mamosunyetsane’s husband, Mochabane Shale, told thepost this week that his wife must have slipped while trying to kneel to draw some water, resulting in her falling into the well head first.

Shale, who was inconsolable during the interview, says he wept like a child when he saw his wife’s lifeless body.
“When I arrived at the well after they told me my wife had fallen into the well, I was weeping like a small child,” Shale says.
“I wanted to run to the well when they told me the bad news but I couldn’t because I have only one leg.”

Ha-Molapo, which is about 30km south of the capital Maseru, has battled persistent water shortages for the past five decades.
Despite the vast water resources in Lesotho, villagers in Ha-Molapo still fetch water from unprotected sources.
The well ’Mamosunyetsane fell into was a perilous one.

The well is a round pit with a small concrete wall. It is slightly above 1.5 metres deep, with a radius of a just a metre.
Yet for one to collect water, she would have to kneel down with one hand supporting the body on the floor while the other is holding a long rod tied to a container that is used to draw the water.

It is an unnerving experience for the uninitiated. Mochabane, who has a prosthetic leg, says it took him a bit of time to get to the well after he heard news of the disaster. “On the way to the well I met my daughter, who was rushing there, and she was weeping and she couldn’t stop. I started weeping too”.

“I couldn’t believe it when I found her lifeless body covered with a blanket. I removed the blanket and I saw that it was my wife.”
Mochabane says his wife was everything to him. They married in 1973 after he had had an accident at a mine in South Africa and his right leg was amputated.

“She did everything, from fieldwork to fetching water, cooking and collecting whatever we would use as fuel to cook. She did what I couldn’t do,” Mochabane says. Mochabane says he was like a child to his wife as she did everything for him.
He says he is also quickly losing his vision as he is suffering from sugar diabetes.
It is not surprising that at a moment of great anguish, Mochabane is pointing a finger at the government.
He says if the government had provided portable water to the 800 villagers in Ha-Molapo, this tragedy would not have happened.
His house is over a kilometre away from the well, one of only two that are close to the village.

The village also has two borehole taps. Mochabane says they also have another well that poses a much riskier threat on the other side of the village.
It is three metres deep but one has to step on shaky stones piled up against its interior wall, squat and then lower a container tied to a long rope.
Any momentary slip, one can plunge down to their watery death.

If they do not want to fetch water from the two wells, the villagers have to queue for about five hours at borehole taps.
“If I had money I would sue the government for the death of my wife,” Mochabane says.
He says successive governments since independence in 1965 have been promising to install water taps in their homes, promises that have largely gone unfulfilled.

During the Leabua Jonathan administration in the early 1970s, the government installed water taps.
The taps later broke down and were never repaired.
“Water in this village has been a problem for a long time and we have been committed to voting for a government we believed would bring change,” he says.

“We have only received empty promises. Water is our primary need here, we are amazed that water from Metolong just passes us by, the pipes that take water to Morija pass through Mokema but we don’t have water, what kind of service is this?”
“It is the responsibility of the government to see that its people have water, electricity and roads,” he says.
’Mathabang Tšosane, 66, told thepost she has to wake up as early as 5am to queue for water at one of the taps.
“We have no choice but to wake up early because there is simply no water, I sit here all morning and my children bring me breakfast and lunch at the well,” Tšosane said.

“At my age imagine me kneeling down and bending close to the well, that is too dangerous,” Tšosane said.
The village chief, Teketsi Maama, says it is unfortunate that people are now dying while trying to fetch water when “water pipes pass through this village from Metolong to Morija”. Chief Maama says the Lowlands Water Project dug furrows in the village in a bid to pipe water to distant villages while paying no attention to the needs of his people.

Maama said the only development they can remember is taps that were first installed in the village by Jonathan.
“Since then we have had water pumps that break all the time and because of the drought the water sources have dried up,” Maama said.
Maama said although this is sad news for the village (to have lost a fellow villager) he believes this death will nudge the government to finally act to bring relief for his people.

“The Minister of Water Samonyane Ntsekele, MP Thuso Litjobo from the Alliance of Democrats and the constituency MP Motebang Koma visited the scene and the home of the deceased,” Maama said. “From their speeches we are hopeful that our situation will change,” he said.
Officials from the Ministry of Water Affairs were in the village on Tuesday to attend to the crisis.

Rose Moremoholo

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