Environmental Health OurHealth Rural Health

Municipality installs pump but community can’t foot electrical bill

Written by Cynthia Maseko

Residents of the small, rural Mpumalanga town of Vezinyawo said they were told to pay R2 to keep a municipal water pump working after the municipality would not pay R200 for prepaid electricity, residents allege.

Water faucet

Residents allege they were told to pay up for a municipal pump. Local Ward Councillor Eric Phakathi denies this

In mid-October the small community outside Amsterdam allegedly went a week without water.

This was allegedly after community members were told by their local counsellor that each household would have to contribute R2 to keep an electrical pump supplying the community with water. They claim that no announcement was made and that the municipality did not provide them with water trucks during the stoppage.

Nomvula Ngwenya is living with HIV and says she was forced to buy clean water or gamble with her health.

“Because of my HIV status I had no choice, I had to buy clean water,” she told OurHealth. “I can’t continue to compromise my immune system by using stream water because it causes my diarrhea.”

Recently giving birth to a baby boy, Ngwenya said she chose to move back home where she felt sure to access clean water rather than risk her infant’s health in Vezinyawo.

However, many others had no where else to go

“Our community didn’t have any choice other than to use stream water,” said resident Sphiwe Dlamini. “We shared the water with animals and it’s not healthy…we continued using (the water) even when it smelled of cow dung and other animals’ faeces.”

But Ward Councillor Eric Phakathi denied allegations that community members have been asked to pay for the electricity to keep the pump running.

“I never told any person to contribute any money to buy electricity, but I was told by ward committee that some of the community members suggested to collect R50.00 every month to buy the electricity,” he said. “I haven’t meet with the community (so) I can’t say it happened”.

He added that he had used his personal money to buy electricity after also fundraising among local Amsterdam businesses.

“Their problem affected me as well, which is why I have pleaded with our local municipality to assist us and give the community a petty cash of R200,00 to buy electricity,” he said. “I wasn’t told that (the community) didn’t have water but the minute I was informed I personally took my money and drove to Piet Retief to buy the electricity.”

“The problem was resolved and now the community has clean water as we speak,” he added.


Read more stories from Health-e News’ water investigation: 

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.