Cholera risk in Limpopo

26 May 2014 - 02:13 By Sipho Masombuka
Cholera bacteria. File photo.
Cholera bacteria. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

A broken water pump is threatening the lives of thousands of people living in a village in Limpopo in which 29 people died in a cholera outbreak five years ago.

Despite still-fresh memories of the 2009 outbreak, residents are again having to drink the heavily polluted water.

Dozens were killed in the cholera outbreak and more than 3000 became severely ill. The worst affected area was Ga-Mampuru, where 29 people died.

Yet, only 30km away, are millions of litres of fresh water in the newly built De Hoop Dam, opened by President Jacob Zuma in March.

With another cholera outbreak looming, the Sekhukhune district municipality seems incapable of fixing the problem - a broken motor on a pump that draws water from the De Hoop Dam.

For Lucas Mohlala, the only option is to drink water from the Tubatse River flowing to the village in a trench - which reminds him that his wife, Marebuleng, and his nine-year-old daughter, Mmako, were among those killed by infected water.

After the cholera outbreak the municipality dug a borehole and installed communal taps.

But, with the taps dry, Mohlala and his fellow villagers are forced to drink the polluted water.

Anna Shabangu, who spent weeks in hospital during the outbreak, said she was still sick.

"I cannot afford to buy water so I have no choice but to drink this," said Shabangu.

Residents say they have become ill since drinking the water, which contains faeces, algae and used condoms.

"My heart nearly stopped when a baby's nappy came floating down as I scooped water," said resident Tabati Selota

A local community healthcare NGO, Bophelong Home-based Care, said the number of cholera cases had increased significantly. Since January there have been 31 cases of diarrhoea, a symptom of cholera, in Ga-Mampuru, which has a population of 7449.

Sekhukhune municipal spokesman Willy Mosoma acknowledged that there were water-provision problems in Ga-Mampuru.

He claimed that the water pump had been repaired twice.

"We need a complete overhaul of the machine."

Mosoma said it was hoped that villages in the area would be connected to the De Hoop Dam by September.