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Limpopo water shortages: will local elections ease the desperation?

Desperate times for Elim villagers as water shortages continue to plague province.
Written by Ndivhuwo Mukwevho

Villagers from Elim, in Limpopo, are not optimistic that water shortages in the area will be resolved, despite local elections looming. For years, their pleas to local government have fallen on deaf ears.

Speaking to Health-e News, community leader and Elim resident Vicky Muvhali said residents have faced significant challenges due to water shortages, despite countless appeals to the local municipalities.

“I believe we have suffered enough. After years of raising the same issue with the Vhembe District Municipality and the Makhado Local Municipality, nothing has been done. It seems like our pleas for the provision of running water are being ignored by those in power,” said Muvhali.

“Even the hospital does not have running water and it requires a significant amount of water to operate. Last year, we raised the issue with both the Department of Health and the Vhembe District Municipality, and a borehole was drilled at the hospital. However, the water from the borehole is not enough, leading to the hospital experiencing regular water interruptions.”

Muvhali added that residents’ water woes are likely to continue for years, as the Vhembe District Municipality has failed to even maintain boreholes in the surrounding villages.

“Our villages have boreholes that are meant to supply us with water, but they are always broken due to poor maintenance and when the municipality does decide to repair them, they always do a shoddy job. Within few days, the boreholes are often reported broken again.”

Elim Hospital relies on water tankers

Limpopo Department of Health spokesperson Neil Shikwambana said the water shortages sometime forces the hospital to rely on water tankers supplied by the municipality.

“Water shortages have been affecting Elim hospital for quite some time due to illegal connections and we have, on several occasions, tried to address the problem with the local traditional leadership, but we have not succeeded. The hospital requires water to operate, so water shortages cause serious challenges,” said Shikwambana.

Villages surrounding the hospital, such as Mpheni, Waterval, Magangeni, Mutonga and Shirly, have been experiencing water shortages for years, which allegedly drove some residents to draw water illegally from the hospital’s main pipeline, which has created water woes for both the healthcare facility and surrounding communities.

As a temporary solution, the Vhembe municipality drilled a borehole last year to supply water to the hospital, this has failed to meet the facility’s consumption demands.

Local villagers said that for years they have been forced to buy water for household use from residents who have private boreholes. This has proved too expensive for some, as a five-litre bucket of water costs R3.00.

Life is tough without water

For Waterval resident Mavhungu Mudzhadzhi, life is extremely difficult without water.

“Having to buy water is very painful, especially as I have a government tap at my home, which I paid for. But it does not provide me with a single drop of water. A bucket of water cost R3.00, which is a lot of money. To make matters worse, in my house we have a flushing toilet that also requires water. So we must save the little water that we purchase from our neighbours to use for the toilet too,” said Mudzhadzhi.

“Sometimes we are forced to contend with an unbearable smell in the house, as we are unable to flush the toilet due to not having water. It is so painful, especially that the government we voted for is failing to provide us with water. I am not even looking forward to the upcoming elections, as I know that nothing is going to change.”

During the last week of September, residents from Elim villages, with the help of Limpopo-based civil organization, Vumbanani for Peacebuilding, submitted a memorandum of grievances to the Vhembe District Municipality.

Vumbanani administrator Tendai Chandigere said they are concerned about lack of provision of clean drinking water to the residents of Elim.

Continuing to suffer

“We have been trying to raise concerns about water shortages in Elim villages since 2017, but it seems like nothing is going to happen anytime soon, yet residents continue to suffer. We recently marched and handed a memorandum of our grievances to the executive mayor of Vhembe, but we are still awaiting a response. One of our suggestions is that a bulk main water pipeline be erected from the multimillion-rand Nandoni dam, which will supply us with water and address the water shortages at Elim hospital,” said Chandigere.

“Water is life and it is everyone’s right to have access to clean water, but for Elim residents water remains a scarce resource. Those who cannot afford to purchase water are bound to suffer. Hence, we have joined hands with residents to fight for water provision for everyone.”

Vote wisely

Mashudu Mulaudzi, from Mpheni village, believes the upcoming local government elections could provide a solution to Limpopo water shortages in the area if people vote wisely.

“Water is everything and without it life is not easy, especially now that we are living with COVID-19, which requires us to wash our hands with soap and water regularly. Without water, it is difficult to adhere to this as we must preserve the little water we buy for things like cooking and drinking,” said Mulaudzi.

“I believe that we have suffered enough, and I also believe that as residents we have power within our hands to change all that, which is our votes as it seems like people whom we have previously voted for do not care about our needs and rights. So, with elections coming in few weeks, we must vote wisely in order to change the current situations which we find ourselves in”.

–Health-e News

About the author

Ndivhuwo Mukwevho

Ndivhuwo Mukwevho is citizen journalist who is based in the Vhembe District of Limpopo province. He joined OurHealth in 2015 and his interests lie in investigative journalism and reporting the untold stories of disadvantaged rural communities. Ndivhuwo holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Media Studies from the University of Venda and he is currently a registered student with UNISA.