Environmental Health OurHealth

Informal settlement may have to move for water

Written by Cynthia Maseko

Skaaprus informal settlement residents have battled for 25 years for clean water. Now, local government officials say there may be little they can do for them unless they move.

Mpumalanga's Skaaprus informal settlement has four boreholes for an estimated 500 people

Mpumalanga’s Skaaprus informal settlement has four boreholes for an estimated 500 people (file photo)

Located just outside Ermelo, Skaaprus sprung up alongside one of Mpumalanga’s coal mines and is home to an estimated 500 residents. In 2012, Msukaligwa Municipality built one borehole for the community.

In June 2013, OurHealth reported about Skaaprus’ 25-year battle for clean water.

Months later the municipality built three more boreholes. However, community members say these new boreholes are still not working, which forces them to rely on nearby streams for water.

“We don’t have clean water, and there is no electricity,” said Skaaprus resident Andile Skhosana. “Our living conditions haven’t changed, and sometimes it feels like we have been forgotten.”

Community members say that while they are not confident that the stream water is clean, they prefer it to borehole water.

“We end up using the water from the streams because the borehole water smells even when it’s boiled or bleached,” Delisili Malindzisa told OurHealth.

“Most of us can’t afford to buy clean water because we are poor and unemployed,” said Malindzisa, adding that there is also often not enough borehole water for everyone. “Our health is at risk.”

Ward Counsellor Zodwa Nkosi says that while she understands the community’s frustrations, the municipality can do little unless the community relocates to municipal property.

“The municipality cannot provided water and electricity until they move to an area owned by the municipality,” said Nkosi, who added that municipal boreholes were only meant to assist the community until they relocated and were never meant to be permanent. “If they move, we will be able to resolve their problems.”

Read more: SAHRC: Water, sanitation services in crisis 

An edited version of this story first appeared in the Khanyisa Weekly Newspaper

About the author

Cynthia Maseko

Cynthia Maseko joined OurHealth in 2013 as a citizen journalist working in Mpumalanga. She is passionate about women’s health issues and joined Treatment Action Campaign branch as a volunteer after completing her matric. As an activist she has been involved with Equal Treatment, Planned Parenthood Association of South Africa, Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV and also with Marie Stopes Clinic’s project Blue Star dealing with the promotion of safe abortions and HIV education.