Over 100 villages in Raymond Mhlaba without water

Siyamthanda Nkcenkce from Gilton in Alice gets water to drink from a dam. Picture: Sandiso Phaliso

Villagers in Amathole District Municipality continue without water for months on end despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

Taps in over 100 villages in Raymond Mhlaba Municipality, which includes towns like Alice, Fort Beaufort and Middledrift, are ornaments. They are always dry with no water coming from them. Villages in Alice, Dimbaza, Qonce and Fort Beaufort have had no water for months now. Providing water in these areas is the sole responsibility of Amathole District Municipality (ADM).

There has been no relief provided to this shortage, in some villages for years. In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, residents have been washing their hands now and then to avoid being infected with the coronavirus but without a reliable source of water, they stand a greater risk of contracting this deadly disease. Most residents say not enough has been done by the ADM to ensure the provision of safe, potable water.

ADM admits it is not proving relief in the form of water tankers claiming there are too many villages to service and that these villages have been hard hit by vandalism and illegal connections to its water infrastructure. Finding the funds to provide water relief was also a problem, according to the municipality. Residents dispute the municipality’s claim saying the water shortages are caused by aging, leaking old pipes that need to be changed, poor planning and misuse of funds.

Siphiwo Mayile of Upper Ncerha village in Alice, told Elitsha that most residents now depend on rainfall, which has been scarce. “Water is a basic. Animals need to drink and plants cannot survive without water,” said Mayile.

Siphokazi Khalmashe of Krwakrwa also in Alice, said in his area most residents have to fork out R20 for a 25-litre drum of water from privately operated trucks. “Who lives a normal life without water? Access to water should be prioritised more than anything else, because water is life,” said Khalmashe. “People are skeptical and cautious to let others use the little water that they have. If you don’t have a water-tank at your house, you are on your own.”

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In Fort Beaufort, Nomthetheleli Dayimani said she’s been without water for five months and her livestock and garden are affected: “It’s a disaster because farmers cannot are no longer producing as they would normally have.”

Seymour resident, Nomangesi Buku said the shortage of water “is a risk, and many people would be infected with Covid-19 because they don’t have water to wash any part of their body”.

Thembeka Nkosana from Dimbaza said it was difficult for her to follow Covid-19 protocols. “We are a family of seven cramped in a two bedroom house. Two people are working almost daily and three go to school. There are great chances that they might bring the coronavirus to us and we cannot protect ourselves when we can’t wash our hands and faces regularly because we don’t have water,” she said.

In October last year, Elitsha ran stories of villagers who were without water in Ngqushwa and Centane both falling under the Amathole District Municipality.

ADM spokesperson, Nonceba Madikizela-Vuso said the municipality “had a pipe burst which has affected supply to this area and a number of others”. She said the burst pipe was on the Binfield Rising main “again”.  “Our team is still busy with the repair,” she said.

Asked about what emergency relief is being organised, she responded, “Unfortunately, owing to the large number of villages affected we are not able to cart water. It is noteworthy to indicate that ADM has seen an attack on its water infrastructure which comes in a form of vandalism. This denies communities access to water and wastes state resources as we have to divert funding to fix vandalised infrastructure.” She said illegal water connections to our pipeline “… damages our infrastructure and causes leaks”.

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