Residents of Nabane village say that for them, washing hands regularly — as advised by the government and global health bodies to curb coronavirus’ spread — is out of reach for them. A project that sought to bring water to the village has been halted due to the national lockdown, and villagers fear Covid-19 spreading in the poorly serviced community. 

Nabane village, situated next to Lenyenye outside Tzaneen, has gone without water for years, and residents have resorted to buying water to make do. 

According to Makwana Modiba*, a 65-year-old pensioner, who lives with her children and sister, community members can’t comply with Covid-19 prevention measures because they don’t have a steady water supply. 

“It has been nearly 10 years now with no water. We thought because the issue of water is a matter of life and death that maybe we would be supplied with water swiftly but nothing has changed. We don’t know what to do,” said the pensioner.

Modiba buys water with her pension money — and the water she buys goes to bathing, cooking and washing.

“I won’t have money to buy water everyday as I have to save water for at least a week. So, at the moment I can’t comply as there is no water. The water tankers they promised us, came once during the lockdown and I couldn’t get any water,” she said.

An essential resource

Nabane was one of the villages that was supposed to benefit from the Thabina Water Reticulation project. But according to the South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO), the project has come to a halt since the national lockdown began. 

“Water is essential to fight coronavirus, and they say we must wash our hands constantly but you cannot do that without water. Some of our community members cannot afford sanitisers and even if they can, where will they buy them? They are not available,” says Deco Makola, SANCO secretary in Ward 30, Matome Rakgoale branch.

Makola adds: “There was a project for water reticulation, and we were set to get the water from [that project] but the contractor disappeared without even a single drop of water coming out from those taps. Now there is another contractor doing the rounds in our village but we aren’t sure if it’s another scheme to milk the municipality coffers.”

Mopani District spokesperson, Odas Ngobeni, states that the Thabina Water Reticulation project’s progress is currently halted by national lockdown.

“The Thabina project is implemented in phases through the Municipal Infrastructure Grant, where we are laying a steel bulk pipeline up to Lenyenye. We have done 3km already. Recently, we appointed two contractors. One is appointed to do 2,5km at an amount of R19-million, while another one is appointed to do 4,7km at an amount of R48-million. Unfortunately, work has stopped in line with the Covid-19 lockdown regulations.’’

He encourages communities that have inadequate water supply to speak to the municipality.

“We have encouraged communities to communicate with ward councillors, ward committees and our satellite managers whenever they encounter challenges of water supply. They may even use the Ministerial Water Hotline: 0800 200 200,” he says.

He adds: “Together, as we fight the spread of Covid-19, consistent water supply is important, hence we are appealing to communities to always communicate with us whenever there is water supply interruption in their area, including incidences of pipe bursts. But as we do so, we also want to appeal to communities to use water sparingly. There is a water tanker schedule that is coordinated with the local municipality, and communities that have no other source should be catered to through this water tanker schedule.”

Ngobeni also says that Jojo tank installation is currently underway in the region, and that the municipality has received 46 of 115 tanks. These tanks are used to alleviate water shortages in the area.

“We were promised 115 Jojo tanks. So far, we have received 46 — of which 13 were allocated to the Greater Tzaneen Municipality. We are waiting for the other batch. I know that it has been installed in Shawela New Extension in the Greater Letaba Municipality.” — Health-e News

(*) Not real name

For more information on Covid-19 in South Africa, you can call the toll-free line on 0800 029 999, or you can send a message that says “Hi” on WhatsApp to the number 060 012 3456. You can also visit the SA Coronavirus website.