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Water crisis plagues North East

CHAKALISA DUBE
Residents of Mafungo Hubona villages fetching water from tank PIC: KEOAGILE BONANG
MAFUNGO/HUBONA: Residents of Mafungo-Hubona are struggling to cope with erratic water supply in their village.

Their plight started nearly three years ago due to water rationing imposed by the Water Utilities Corporation (WUC).

The restrictions were influenced by water scarcity that came as a result of demographic pressure on water resources and poor water infrastructure as well as non-functioning boreholes in the North East and Tutume Sub-district respectively.

Mafungo-Hubona falls within the Tutume sub-district but in the Shashe West constituency.

Officials from WUC have said water rationing is aimed at ensuring that critical institutions such as schools and hospitals in the area have enough water to function optimally despite scarcity.

The disruption of water supply could continue for several months according to authorities. As almost all taps in homesteads often run dry in Mafungo/Hubona and other villages in the Tutume-sub-district owing to the rationing, water gets bowsed in to fill 5 000 litre tanks.

Residents of the affected villages then fetch water from the two tanks that are placed at strategic points mostly at the Kgotla. At their homesteads water in sporadically available late at night or early in the morning but they say most of the time it is even barely enough to drink. 

In the words of one resident, Botshabelo Duta the water crisis might be much worse than many had thought. When she stood up to comment during Kgotla meeting addressed by Shashe West Member of Parliament Fidelis Molao here on Wednesday, Duta aptly captured the frustration of many villagers.

In fact, the plight of residents of Mafungo/Hubona reflects that of dozens of North East and Tutume Sub-district residents, who for years have had to endure water scarcity.

“At night or early in the morning, we alternate between our houses and taps to check if water is availabe. You can barely find water at home in the afternoon. Yesterday, I woke up in the morning at around 2 am to go to the tap and check water. There was no water. I returned an hour later and I was still unlucky. At times the water we get is barely enough for drinking. We just get a few drops.

He said that the water they fetch at Kgotla is usually not enough because as it has to be shared among many residents. “We no longer think of bathing. That is something that we can only dream about.”

She added: “ Yesterday, my two-months-old toddler could not sleep because her body was itching owing to the fact that I did not bath her as a result of the acute shortage of water. Authorities should come up with serious interventions to address our plight. They have neglected us for so long”.

Forty seven-years old Tiyapo Thapelo, a father of seven also said that he believes that the government has neglected his area for so long.

“As a short-term intervention, we have long suggested that some of the boreholes that were used by the defunct Water Affairs should be revived to provide water to us. We do not know why WUC has not pursued the idea,” he said.  

According to him the government has often made promises to improve the water situation in the area but never delivered.

“When former president Ian Khama was in office, he came here and promised that the water situation will be dealt with timeously but nothing changed. This tells me that there is no commitment by the government to change the situation,” he explained worriedly.

The water crisis also dominated the agenda in Marobela, a village near Mafungo/Hubona. That was a few hours before Molao addressed Mafungo/Hubona residents. Motsamai Phuthego a resident of Marobela who led a task team to propose several strategies to ease the water challenge in Marobela in 2018 highlighted the plight of his fellow residents in an interview.

 “In February 2018 we proposed several interventions to WUC in relation to lessening the water scarcity in Marobela. One of the proposals was that WUC should identify boreholes in our vicinity for re-use.

The agreement was that once the boreholes have been identified a company sourced by WUC would assess them.

It was agreed that if the assessment is positive connectivity (in order to supply village taps) could be completed by June 2018,” he said.

The proposal is identical to the one that was made by Mafungo/Hubona residents.

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Phuthego says that it is apparent that WUC never pursued the proposal. “Nobody cares about our lives. At least WUC officials could have assessed the boreholes and gave us feedback, whether negative or positive,” he said. 

During a Kgotla meeting in Marobela,  WUC Masunga branch manager, Morris Mpotsang who is relatively new in office said that he was not been aware of the proposed short-term interventions sold to WUC in 2018. 

Added Phuthego:“ During the 2018 meeting we were also told that funds amounting to P220 million (a loan from the World Bank) had been secured to improve the water infrastructure in the Tutume-Sub-district as a long-term solution to the water problems.

Then the corporation said it is in the process of engaging a consultant.

The process was said to be at an evaluation stage. The target date for completion of the evaluation was to be the end of February 2018 followed by award of the tender in March of the same year.

The construction phase was to commence in September 2018 with completion date of the project set for July 2020”.

Phuthego pointed out that the suggestion that a project to resolve the water crisis on a long-term basis would start soon might just be another ‘empty promise’ by government. 

Marobela councillor, Tabona Masole said that the water crisis in the area has come with so many challenges. Mafungo/Hubona also falls within the Marobela ward.

“There are older people who are unable to go to strategic points to fetch water in the afternoon.

Without a Good Samaritan to assist them it means that they cannot access water, which seriously has adverse effects on their health considering their age.

At night the water that is usually available in taps is barely enough to drink so they cannot rely on it,” he said.  He added that the situation also compromises the safety of the residents, as they often have to wake up late at night or early in the morning to go and check water at their taps.

Masole said that water shortage has not only affected the quality of life for residents. He said that it also discourages people in his ward from setting up businesses in order to sustain their lives. 

The councillor added that next month he would table a motion at the Tutume Sub-district council, whose aim would be to force WUC to assess some boreholes in his area with a view of reviving them to supply water in his area.  “ I am convinced that the boreholes if revived can offer a short-term solution to our water challenges,” he said.

During his address to the residents Molao said that the government would soon begin an infrastructure project to end the water crisis in the North East and Tutume Sub-districts in the long-term.

“We have secured a P300 million loan from the World Bank. The loan will be used to construct infrastructure meant to improve the water supply this year.

We have identified the contractor but we are waiting for the World Bank to satisfy itself with the contractor we have chosen.

Once that process is over the project will start. If everything goes well the ground breaking for the project will be the end of the year,” he said.

Molao stated that the infrastructure that would be used to source water from Ntimbale dam to the affected villages would take approximately 17 months to complete. Unfortunately, his promise comes at the height of concerns about the incessant acute water shortage in the area. “ We are also in the process of engaging lawyers to help us get back one of the boreholes we have leased to an individual in Goshwe.

Government tried to engage the individual directly but our efforts did not bear any fruits,” he said adding that should efforts of the government succeed the water crisis in the Mafungo/Hubona and neighbouring areas would be relatively lessened in the short-term.

Despite Molao and WUC officials saying that the government will soon start a massive project to address water challenges in the Tutume Sub-district and North East one thing became apparent after the meeting, that residents were unrelenting in expressing their displeasure with the authorities for not responding to their situation with speed.



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