A matter of life, death
The people of Gunjaneni and Tholokuhle, living not far from President Jacob Zuma's homestead of Nkandla, have not had clean drinking water for more than three years.
Nkandla is reportedly getting a R2-billion facelift, most of it at taxpayers' expense.
Gunjaneni and Tholokuhle are administered by the Mtubatuba local municipality and the uMkhanyakude district municipality.
The two rural villages are less than 300km from Nkandla, where a minitown, dubbed Zumaville, is reportedly being built.
Zumaville, according to the Mail & Guardian, will have a swimming pool and tree-lined streets connecting buildings of modern design.
Though 100km of fencing has been erected around Zumaville, the people of Gunjaneni and Tholokuhle yesterday spoke of how they are forced to beg relatives to bring them water from Durban, 300km away.
This water crisis has been going on for the past three years and has compelled villagers to share the little water they have with their livestock.
Nomthandazo Manqele of Tholokuhle said the community has been getting its water from nearby streams but they have run dry.
"For the past three years, life has been difficult after the streams ran dry. We had to get water from the dam that was dug by livestock owners for their cattle. But now even the dam is almost empty," Manqele said.
She said livestock stirs up sand and mud into the water, spoiling it.
"We have no choice but to share the dirty water with the livestock because they also need to drink.
"We boil it and pour in some bleach to rid it of diseases. But, as the man-made dams run dry, we do not know where we will get a glass of water to drink.
"It is like God has forsaken us. Municipal water taps have been lying idle for years - no water comes from them."
Another resident, Samkelisiwe Mkhwanazi, said she spent weeks at Hlabisa Hospital in 2000 when her 12-year-old daughter had cholera.
"We are forced to travel long distances searching for water and it is frustrating," said Mkhwanazi.
Isolesizwe High School pupils Nokwanda Mcambi, 13, and Siphesihle Mkhwanazi, 14, said they sleep in the open veld to be early to queue for water from a nearby stream.
"We leave home at 8pm to be in front of the queue and only return at 4am. This badly affects our schooling because sometimes we have to skip classes and . our future is uncertain," they said.
"We can be raped or attacked while [queuing for water] in the bush but we have no choice. Living in this area is like a curse."
Some livestock owners travel long distances searching for water for their livestock.
Mtubatuba local municipality councillor Khumbulani Msweli admitted that there were serious water problems.
"Though we are trying to provide people with water, I would be lying to say that we are anywhere near to winning.
"The problem is too big. Less than a quarter of the people have access to water from the 5000-litre tanks supplied by uMkhanyakude district," Msweli said.
"When you talk about water, you are talking about a need . a necessity, not a luxury. Even someone born today has to use water. So does the livestock."
Msweli, who claimed that there were 3000 residents in his ward, said he had no idea what would happen if the Hluhluwe Dam [the main source of water in the area] ran dry - likely because of drought.
"The situation is so bad . not everybody can afford to pay R500 for transport to fetch water.
"[As the municipality] we do try, but, honestly speaking, our measures are temporary."
A Department of Water Affairs spokesman was not immediately available for comment.