EPHRAIM MOGALE – Sekhukhune District Municipality (SDM)’s inability, as a water authority, to deliver water to the people of the vast district resulted in the affected Mamphoko, Moganyaka and Manapyane villagers embarking on fierce protests since Monday as they demanded their problems to be speedily addressed.
The latest protests in the villages outside Marble Hall within the Ephraim Mogale Local Municipality of SDM followed fierce others in the neighbouring Leeuwfontein over lack of access to water.
The angry residents barricaded the main road linking the villages to Marble Hall with burning tyres, tree branches and trunks as well as stones, rendering the area ungovernable with traffic adversely affected.
They accused SDM of neglecting them for years, especially with regard to the provisioning of running water in the villages.
They complained that 27 years into the democratic dispensation, they are still were subjected to fetch water using wheelbarrows from remote water sources that they share with animals, a situation that threatened their health and safety.
Opposition parties in the SDM Council lambasted the district municipality’s response to the water challenges faced across the district.
Solomon Maila, DA Caucus Leader in SDM, said the inability of the ANC-led SDM to deliver water services to the people of Sekhukhune in a sustainable manner in line with the dictates of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa had reached crisis proportions.
Maila said since the inception of the district municipality in the year 2000, more than R30 billion in taxpayers’ money had been spent on infrastructure and water services projects, a significant portion of which money was recorded over the years by the Auditor-General as fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
He said the district was littered with incomplete water projects due to corruption and incompetence on the part of ANC cadres who the municipality employed without the requisite qualifications and skills.
“The DA encourages communities to make their voices heard through peaceful and unarmed protests in keeping with the provisions of section 17 of the Constitution,” concluded Maila.
In response to the situation at the affected villages, Isaac Mahlakwane, Acting SDM Mayoral Spokesperson, informed that the three villages were within the South East of side of Flag Boshielo East Regional Water Scheme (RSW) and were dedicated their own water reservoir.
Mahlakwane said the RWS was realizing a high number of unauthorized water connections on the rising main which supplied the reservoirs from Lepelle Northern Water plant.
“There is a dam dedicated to Manapyane community but said to have been built sometime back, targeting the population present and the reticulation is ending far from new residents. A large number of households have developed but there is no extension on the reticulation pipelines. The community was using natural fountains and dongas as sources of portable water. As such, the community opted to interfere with the mainline to Leeuwfontein, passing the three villages from Letebetjane Village. Awareness on the bylaws was conducted through our institutional social development officers and it does not serve a purpose because there is no alternative supply,” explained Mahlakwane.
He added that Lepelle Northern Water was currently upgrading a treatment works from 8ml to 16ml per day capacity, which was to address the ongoing demand of water supply. Mahlakwane said the upgrade would improve water supply to villages within Flag Boshielo scheme.
He said the challenges facing the district municipality were those of no growth plan for those villages, which encouraged unauthorized connections as water passed through the villagers’ yards. The local authority allocated residential sites over municipal pipeline whereby the pipeline passed through residential sites with no reticulation for the new extensions. The Illegal connections impacted negatively on water supply.
Seun Mogotji, Bolsheviks Party of South Africa (BPSA) leader, an opposition in SDM Council, said the party was saddened by the fact that for people to get basic services from the government they voted for, which claimed to be the government of the people by the people, they had to resort to such actions.
Mogotji said that wouldn’t be happening if the people of the district were taken seriously by the government.
“Water has always been a thorny issue in the district and with the advent of democracy, many thought it would be prioritized but sadly, that never happened. Instead, self enrichment, looting of state coffers and rampant corruption were given priority. SDM and Lepelle Northern Water have failed the people they were supposed to serve,” said Mogotji.
He concluded that BPSA did not condone anarchy and disorderly conduct but understood the frustrations of the people.
“We hope authorities will attend to them and not only listen to their grievances but actually do something to help the residents,” Mogotji said.