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Desperate villagers drink with pigs despite water tank deliveries

17 April 2020 - 14:44 By Sikho Ntshobane
People in some parts of the OR Tambo district still have no option but to drink from murky streams they share with pigs, dogs and cows.
People in some parts of the OR Tambo district still have no option but to drink from murky streams they share with pigs, dogs and cows.
Image: iStock

Despite the delivery of more than 4,000 water tanks to assist drought-stricken communities during the lockdown, people in some parts of OR Tambo district still have no option but to drink from the murky streams they share with their pigs, dogs and cows.

Natural ponds are drying up, and sometimes the dirty water in dongas is the only option for drinking purposes, DispatchLIVE reported.

The publication reported this week that 4,308 water tanks have been made available to communities in the Eastern Cape, with priority given to water-scarce areas.

The province was declared a drought disaster area in October last year.

In remote villages in the OR Tambo area, residents, who said with bitterness they are only remembered at election time, are desperate for water tanks to arrive.  

District authorities insist they are doing everything in their power to ensure that all those without taps are provided with water tanks or temporary piped water.

Mampumpana Sivungu, a headman at Ndakane village in Mqanduli, said he tried to phone the area’s ward councillor about the tanks.

“Maybe they have forgotten about us altogether as we haven’t heard anything,” he said.

“But when it is election time, you see a lot of cars coming here to canvass for votes.”

In his village, people get water from a small stream called Meva, which flows through dongas below Ndakane.

The problem, Sivungu said, was that the water was contaminated with used baby nappies, possibly dumped by communities upstream.

There is a natural spring which provides water, but most of the time pigs use it to cool off. Dogs and cows also drink there.

Sivungu said they had heard on radio about the importance of washing their hands to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, but it was pointless in the village because the water was dirty.

King Sabata Dalindyebo municipal spokesperson Sonwabo Mampoza said they had received 102 tanks, of which 72 had been distributed in Mqanduli.

He said the distribution list was with the district municipality.

In Jambeni village, outside Port St Johns, people also drink from rivers and dams.

Balungile Mguca said the journey to those sources was “just too much”, especially for the elderly.

“We can’t wash our hands regularly as per the government’s call,” he said.

Nonyevu villager Thokamile Ndamase said they had to walk to a nearby village to get tap water, which violated lockdown rules.

Port St Johns mayor Nomvuzo Mlombile-Cingo said the municipality had received 12 tanks so far. Sixty more were expected.

District municipal spokesperson Zimkhita Macingwane said they were prioritising villages that had no water projects in progress and no water infrastructure.

She said district mayor Thokozile Sokanyile had held a meeting on Thursday with Amatola Water, and processes were under way to speed up provision of water to communities.

“It is our priority to ensure  everyone has access to clean water during this time and even beyond.”

She said the drought, coupled with existing backlogs and the fact that many people continued to build new homes, were challenges.

“We plead with our community to use water sparingly as it is a scarce commodity in our district,” Macingwane said.