Elizabeth Masinge struggles to get the wheelbarrow over the rocky gravel road near her home in Bode Village, outside Giyani in Limpopo. The 69-year-old zig-zags across the road, trying hard to control the load: two 25-litre containers full of water.
She will use the water for drinking, cooking, cleaning her home and doing laundry. Two days later, the pensioner will, once again, walk more than a kilometre from her house to collect water.
This is life for Masinge and her neighbours in the villages of Bode and Dzingidzingi, an area marred by running water shortages. Their only source of potable water is a borehole, consisting of two communal taps. Thousands of residents rely on these taps for running water.
To ensure that she does get water, Masinge must often wake up early in the morning – around 6am – to go and stand in a long queue at the local borehole. On some days this can take up half of Masinge’s day. And she does not always go back home with water.
The borehole water, which is pumped into two water tanks, sometimes runs dry before it is her turn to fill-up. The situation is made worse by power cuts: the borehole does not pump any water during power outages. In these instances, she returns to the station the next day to queue again.
The borehole was drilled in 2020 at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic to ease water woes in the area. Before then residents like Masinge had to rely on buying water from private providers.
Masinge used to spend R210 a week from her pension grant money to hire a private van to fill-up her small water tank. But the water would only last her for a few days.
“For many years, we have been promised that the government will erect taps with running water in our homes. We are still waiting and we do not know for how long we will continue to wait. We are really struggling without running water closer to our homes,” Masinge tells Health-e News.
Public health issue
According to the World Health Organisation access to safe and adequate water supply is the cornerstone to preventing infections. Without enough water people are subject to poor hygiene. This, in turn, leaves them vulnerable to infectious diseases such as diarrhoea.
Alana Potter is the global coordinator at End Water Poverty, a water and sanitation advocacy organisation. She says if people are collecting water away from their homes they typically collect less water. This means they have less water at home for drinking, cooking and other uses.
“This lowers food hygiene and hand hygiene. It makes them more vulnerable to the full range of waterborne diseases, including diarrhoea, cholera, roundworm and hookworm infection. Also they store the water at home which increases the risk of the water they drink becoming infected,” says Potter.
Masinge who was born and raised in Bode village lives by herself. Her three children are all working in Gauteng.
She says that at her old age, her wish is to have running water in the comfort of her home. But she is slowly losing hope that this will happen in her lifetime.
“Some days my old bones are not strong enough to push a wheelbarrow with water. I have to use water daily for most things in the house. But because it’s so difficult to collect the water, I have to set priorities of what I want to use it for. That way the water lasts me longer – just in case I am unable to go and get more,” explains Masinge.
She says that she is able to collect water from the borehole station at the moment. But she is worried about what will happen in the near future, as she is getting older each day. “We need running water at our homes. Water is everything.”
Long wait for running water
In 2014 the National Department of Water and Sanitation launched the Nandoni-Giyani Bulk Water Project, with the aim of easing water shortages in Giyani villages. The project is meant to supply more than 55 villages in Giyani, including Bode where Masinge lives, with clean running water.
It’s been almost 10 years now. But none of these villages have received a single drop of water from the multi-million rand Nandoni Dam. This is despite the Minister of Water and Sanitation, Senzo Mchunu having promised Giyani residents in April this year that they will “soon” get water from the project.
But it remains to be seen how “soon”, as last month (August), Mchunu stated that the Giyani Water Project has experienced hurdles along the way.
Mathabatha indicated that there is progress made on the Nandoni-Giyani Bulk Water project saying that pumping of raw water from Nandoni dam to Nsami Dam in Giyani has already started.
National water and sanitation spokesperson Wisane Mavasa says the construction of a 325 km pipeline to supply bulk water from Giyani Water Treatment Works to 55 villages from the commanding reservoir in Nsami dam is underway.
“Three hundred km of installations have already been covered and the project is at 64% completion and is scheduled for completion in March 2024,” says Mavasa.
Masinge no longer believes the promises of her village getting a steady supply of running water.
“I am a pensioner and I should be at home enjoying the benefits of our democracy. But how am I supposed to do that when I don’t have water? When will we ever have water at our homes or even if it’s a few communal taps within the village,” says Masinge.
But Mavasa says the Giyani Bulk Water project is well on track.
“We anticipate that they will be completed within the set timelines and therefore the people of Giyani, and the surrounding villages will have an uninterrupted and sustainable supply of drinking water,” says Mavasa. -Health-e News.