10 May 2019

South Africa: Villagers in Port St Johns Drink From Murky Pond Water

Ward councillor blames vandals, residents for community's taps running dry

"We have been voting for years but there is no development in our area," says 45-year-old Nolungile Funani. She lives in the rural village of Lujecweni near Port St Johns in the Eastern Cape.

Funani along with other villagers often wake up as early as 2am to collect water from a nearby pond. The water, which is also used by grazing cattle and other animals, is murky with rubbish around it. Funani said communal taps were installed in early 2018, but have since run dry. "There is no water in the communal taps but that didn't make us stop voting. We believe that the people that we are voting for will see this and do the right thing," she said.

"It has been like this for a very long time ... We use this water for drinking, cooking and washing," said resident Nwabisa Madlisa as she scooped up brown-coloured water from the pond into her bucket.

Another resident Lungisani Magaqa added: "Some people don't believe that there are humans who can use this kind of water, but the sad truth is that we do exist and it's painful."

Some people don't believe that there are humans who can use this kind of water, but the sad truth is that we do exist

Responding to questions from GroundUp, ward 3 councillor, Zolile Maqhina, blamed the community for "not taking care of what belongs to them". He said the municipality's pump house had been ransacked by vandals who stole diesel and engine parts.

He accused some community members of buying the stolen diesel. "It is not the job of the municipality to protect what is in our community's. It's the job of the community to make sure that no one destroyed what they already have," he said.

Responding to the councillor, Magaqa said, "We never knew why the water stopped. It's the first time hearing about diesel and engine parts being stolen. Next time the councillor must try to communicate better with us."

Most villagers said they are hopeful that the recent elections will bring some much-needed change in their community.

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