Tumahole is one of the townships in the town of Parys, found near the Vaal River in the Free State Province. Tumahole is known as home to freedom fighter Stompie Seipei, who unfortunately passed away around 1980s. It is also known as the hometown of Bafana Bafana star Tokelo Rantie.
It seems this township of Tumahole is faced with a big problem of water shortage. Mrs Boniswa Taliwe a resident of Tumahole for more than 20 years is very concerned about the water crisis in Tumahole. Mrs Taliwe is pensioner and a mother of seven. She states that her worries began about five years ago, when she realized that water was not coming out from the taps installed in their households anymore. She also mentioned that this year, the problem intensified because the water coming out of their taps was dirty and it had a bad smell. “Ward 11 has always had a high unemployment rate and now we are forced to drink dirty water because we cannot afford bottled water,” says Mrs Boniswa Taliwe. She added that because of her age, having to carry heavy buckets of water is not good for her health. Mrs Taliwe’s granddaughter Thandeka who is a learner, says since there’s a lot of people living in their household they use a lot of water. This means that they have to walk to get water multiple times a day. Thandeka adds that they are in danger of sexual assault from men who prey on women and girls when walking a distance to fetch water.
A member and coordinator of the Ngwathe Business Forum explained that lack of water in Tumahole is not a recent problem and has been going on for years. Matoli added that being a livestock farmer is a huge challenge in Tumahole where water is scarce. “I am very disappointed because I hoped that in this new democratic government our lives would change for the better, but that hope has been shattered because we are still struggling under the same government we voted for,” says Mr Matoli.
Mr Teboho Motsapi, secretary of Ngwathe Business Forum, explained how the water crisis is dehumanizing since water is life. Motsapi explains that when going to report this issue to the relevant authorities, they do not receive any form of assistance. In Lusaka, the other section of Tumahole, water tanks have been installed but Motsapi says those tanks are just decorations because they go months without water. The water tanks usually get refilled only when there’s a funeral in the community.
The learners of Akhi Sizwe Secondary School also voiced their opinions and one of the learners who wished to be kept anonymous said that as learners they are concerned because the water crisis interrupts their school lessons. She added that learners are forced to stand along the school fence and beg the community passing by the fence to fetch them water from the community tap during lessons when they get thirsty which takes a lot of their time. Even though there is a tank at school, the learners cannot drink the water from the tank because some learners throw dirty objects inside the tank and learners are worried that if they drink the water from the tank, it might make them sick.
It is clear that tensions are high in the township of Tumahole because of this water crisis. Inyanda Community News visited Mosepedi Community Hall, the hall is where many government departments normally go to give their services to the community. Inyanda Community News spoke to two Ngwathe Municipality workers who asked to remain anonymous because of the fear of losing their jobs. The two employees said that they believe that the water crisis is a problem that can easily be solved if the authorities took it seriously. They said the Municipality manager has been informed about the situation countless times but he has not taken any initiative to try to solve the problem. The employees also said that even their ward councillor knows about the water crisis but he said he doesn’t have the power to solve the problem. The community seem to be taken from pillar to post when they need answers to water crisis.
Nontsizi is an employee at CWP, she works at the plant where the trucks fetch water to the residents’ water tanks. Nontsizi explained how on arrival the water is poured into the delivery trucks without prior cleaning of the trucks. “The water given to people is not clean and we are scared to file complaints about what we see here at the plant because the municipality is not treating us well at all. If you speak up you will unfortunately lose your job,” says Nontsizi.
Editor’s Note: This is a first of a two-part series about how the water crisis is affecting people in the Free State.