Decades of thirst

Decades of thirst

MAFETENG-FOR the past three decades, ’Makabelo Ngoanahali and dozens of other villagers have lived without clean water. And nobody in authority seemed to care.

Yet, health officials are constantly telling them to wash their hands regularly if they are to prevent Covid-19 at a time cases of the infection are spiking.
Many of Ngoanahali’s fellow villagers are baffled by how officials expect them to achieve such high standards of hygiene which require regular supply of clean water.

Often sharing water wells with livestock, villagers in Ha-Mohlalefi in Kolo are lucky to get 80 litres of rationed water on some days.
“It is not enough as we take close to two days without water and the very little we get we share it with our livestock,” she said.

Sometimes, when the situation is dire, the village authorities only dispense 40 litres of water per household irrespective of the size of the family.
“We plead with those responsible to rescue us urgently,” Ngoanahali said.
At the root of the village’s problems is a stolen generator that was used to pump water to about 100 households.

Ngoanahali said it has been more than three decades since the generator was stolen, creating serious water problems in the area.
In winter, the wells that villagers usually rely on dry up, she said.
Authorities at the Rural Water Supply are now promising to replace the stolen generator to save lives in the area.

Villagers are not holding their breath though after enduring so many years of neglect.
One of the villagers, Molisana Mofammere, said the water problem started in the 1980s while he was still working in the mines in South Africa.

“We even came together as Kolo miners to find a solution but all efforts were in vain,” said Mofammere, who walks with the aid of crutches and struggles to reach the communal well early in the morning for a chance to get some water.

“I depend on my neighbours. It hurts me to always have to beg,” he said. “We can’t go on like this.”
Chief Khosi Bereng, the village headman, said he hoped authorities will deliver on their promise.

“We will rejoice once the water system is operating again,” he said, noting that people in surrounding villages also faced similar water scarcity problems.
“People drink very dirty water there and it is unhealthy,” Chief Bereng said.
The Integrated Catchment Manager of Likhetla Sub-catchment, Sebabatso Selia, said the Rural Water Supply is planning to replace the electricity generator with a solar system.

However, it could take time for the plans to materialise, meaning more harsh days await for the villagers.
“This place is yet to be surveyed for costing as the system in there is very old,” she said.

She said Covid-19 restrictions could also hinder progress.
“We are not sure how long it will take but we wanted it to be done by the end of the year,” she said, warning that vandalism also posed a threat once the system is installed.

She called on the villagers to be vigilant to secure the installations.
“There should be capacitation (of the villagers) and they themselves should find ways of securing their infrastructure,” she said.

“Everywhere, we have engines being stolen,” said Mafeteng RWS Coordinator, ’Maketsiea Matšela, adding that solar panels, cables and other accessories have not been spared.
“We don’t know what is right anymore,” she said.
Villagers were reluctant to report such cases due to fear of the police and gangsters.

“Their fear is that the police will demand evidence, which is something they don’t have and they also fear for their lives knowing how Mafeteng operates,” she said, referring to killings and other retributive crime rampant in the area

“I believe the perpetrators don’t come from far,” she said.
The Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Water Lepota Sekola said the ministry plans to instal taps in 23 villages.
Sekola said the first batch of construction will cost around M40 million and maintenance about M18 million.

“The money allocated for maintenance is insufficient and it only covers half of the requests filed in my office. Chances are there are still more applications to come,” he said.
He said they aim to complete the installation of taps by the end of September.

“We want to use the available money and ask for more,” he said.
For local leaders, the water problem should be treated as a priority.
“I hope that this (water shortage) will come to an end soon,” said Thaba-Phechela Member of Parliament, Mohau Hlalele.
“We need assistance desperately,” said Hlalele.

’Mapule Motsopa

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