By December JG Ndhlovu
The RDP village in Acornhoek has been without constant potable water supply for many years now, actually the residents of this village have been experiencing potable water supply problems from around 2010 and they have been getting water from a pipe to Tintswalo Hospital that was accidentally discovered by one lady when she was ploughing her fields. But the challenge is that the water is very slow during the day, it is literally dripping and it takes a long time to fill a 20 litre canister. So the community survives by using that slow “illegal connection” to get water or once in a blue moon they would get water from their taps. It is in this poverty stricken RDP village where I was introduced to 18 women who are trained by a non-profit organization known as Zingela Ulwazi to be Permaculture implementers. It is how I learned about their water supply crisis when I was invited by Zingela Ulwazi to come talk about our Constitutional rights to have access to clean, drinkable water. They also told me that always when they complain to Bushbuckridge Local Municipality (BLM) they would be told that the Injaka Dam is empty; that is why they do not have water.
In these home gardens the women plant vegetables like spinach, potatoes, carrots, lettuce, green pepper, tomatoes, peanuts and okra. Some also have herbs in their gardens. Almost all the women live with their children or grandchildren. These gardens afford them fresh healthy vegetables for the family without buying from the supermarkets.This is the best way to beat the escalating food costs.
Requesting DWS’s intervention
Since I knew about this problem I tried to communicate with BLM about this issue and they promised to investigate because they did not know of such situation that it prevails in the Orpen RDP settlements.
Well I started engaging the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) about the problem. I have always had a good working relationship with most DWS workers that I have engaged with in regard to water shortages or environmental problems in general. So on the 11th February 2020 I wrote an email to Ms Khensani Munisi (DWS) and requested her intervention about the water supply challenges that this community has been facing for many years and above all we all know that here in South Africa, water access is a Constitutional right not privilege. Interestingly in less than half an hour after dropping Ms Munisi the email, I got a call from Ms Khensani Munisi acknowledging receipt of my email. She told me that she was on her way to Gauteng to attend a meeting until Thursday but she had asked Mr Shabangu to follow up with me concerning my request. That was impressive to get such a quick response from a government official. It doesn’t happen too often. Well within few minutes I received a call from Mr Shabangu (DWS) and he immediately asked if I could be available to accompany him to the area of concern to investigate before engaging BLM on the matter. On the 12th February 2020 I went with Mr Shabangu to the RDP village for him to investigate the water shortage allegations in the area.
The first person we visited was Ms Mumsy Mathebula, one of the 18 women being trained by Zingela Ulwazi to be permaculture farmers. She stays with 6 children and she is unemployed, depending solely on the children’s monthly grants.
The second person we visited was Ms Esther Mashale, she is also part of the Permaculture Explorers and she lives with her husband and their 5 children. Zingela Ulwazi has helped each woman develop her own home garden, fenced it and awarded each a 2200 litres Jojo tank for rain water harvesting during rainy season. The Permaculture Explorers earn points to attain these items through attendance, homework assignments or experimenting with seed or recipes they have never used before. Unfortunately the gardens become dry because of water shortage and the vegetables that are planted also wilt and eventually die.
After this visit Mr John Shabangu engaged with BLM about this situation and they promised to reconnect the potable water supply back to the RDP village. Unfortunately the entire Bushbuckridge has been experiencing protests and road blockades for almost the entire February. The communities are demanding many things including water, access roads, tarring of local roads etc. To the contrary it seems like even the protestors are not sure about their demands because in one area people would say lot of contradictory statements relating to protests.
Now as soon as the protests calm down I will again follow up with the DWS and report back to them about the progress.