Community protest over water shortages leaves villages in Vhembe District dry

Community protest over water shortages leaves villages in Vhembe District dryWater shortages. (Pic credit: Anita Martinz)

Mutoti Village lies just outside Thohoyandou in Limpopo. Not far from the village, pipelines from Nandoni Water Plant transport water to nearby villages across the Vhembe District Municipality. But, there is no pipeline supplying water to Mutoti Village. Residents have expressed frustration at being excluded from accessing water from the plant, which is situated near their village.

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They told Health-e News that they have been waiting for years for the municipality and the Limpopo Department of Water and Sanitation to make good on their promise to direct a water pipeline from Nandoni Dam to their village. According to community leaders, residents have had to hire trucks to ferry water from nearby villages such as Lufule and Mphego, which are getting their water supply from Nandoni.

“It is so painful when you see water flowing at the dam knowing very well that you will not be getting any despite being surrounded by the dam. Look, we are forced to go and ferry water from other villages, despite the same water being pumped at our village. And until we are supplied with water, water pumping will not take place at the dam,” said Baloyi.

On Sunday, angry and frustrated villagers shut down the pumps at Nandoni Water Plant, leaving several villages in the Vhembe district without water. The residents have vowed to keep the plant at the multi-million rand Nandoni Dam shut until their grievances have been addressed.

Mutoti Village community leader Solomon Baloyi said they don’t understand why they are not getting their water from Nandoni. Since the dam’s completion in 2005, Baloyi said they were promised that the village’s water woes would be addressed. But, after years of failed promises, they have resorted to closing down the water plant until their demands are met.

Water shortages and community shutdown of water supply

“We are fed up as a community hence we have decided to shutdown water supply to all other areas which receive their water from Nandoni Dam. Just imagine the Nandoni Water plant was built on our land, not far from our houses but we do not have drinking water supply, but the dam is currently supplying areas which are very far with running water everyday but us who had to relocate from our homes to make way for the dam, we have no water,” said Baloyi.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further made it urgent for the village to have access to clean and safe running water. Villagers said not having clean and running water at their disposal is making it difficult for them to practice proper hygiene, which is essential in the prevention of the spread of COVID-19. “We are currently in the middle of a pandemic which requires one to always wash their hands with water and soap. But, how are we supposed to do that when we do not have any water?  Our pleas to both Vhembe District Municipality and the Department of Water and Sanitation are, pleas provide us with water like what you’re doing to other areas,” he added.

The provincial department of Water and Sanitation has since condemned the protest action. In a media statement, the provincial head of Water and Sanitation in the province, Lucy Kobe, pleaded with community members to refrain from shutting down the Nandoni Water Plant whenever they feel aggrieved. “We fully understand that people have a Constitutional right to protest, however, no one has a right to infringe on someone else’s right to have access to water. The protesters also endangered the lives of the people guarding the plant, something that is against the law as well and we condemn that,” said Kobe.

Kobe said the national government was aware of the water supply problems in the area, and added that they were working closely with the provincial and local governments to come up with immediate solutions. Attempts to get comment from the Vhembe District Municipality on their action plan for the distribution of water from the Nandoni Water Plant and its subsequent closure were not successful. – Health-e News