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EC municipality provided one tap for 1,000 desperate families — and it’s been dry for seven years

EC municipality provided one tap for 1,000 desperate families — and it’s been dry for seven years
Kwanele Mahlukwane fetches water from a spring early in the morning so that he does not have to compete with livestock for water in Ngcisininde Komkhulu village in Ngqamakhwe, Eastern Cape. (Photo: Manqulo Nyakombi)

Villagers of Ngcisininde Komkhulu near Butterworth say they have given up asking their councillors for help.

The only tap ran dry seven years ago in Ngcisininde Komkhulu village in Ngqamakhwe, about 35 kilometres from Butterworth in the Eastern Cape.

According to residents, the last time they had piped water was in 2016, when a construction company building a school in the area installed a standpipe connected to a windmill.

“I’m not lying when I say that we last had clean [tap] water in 2016, after we begged the contractor to install a standpipe for us. Unfortunately, the water only came out for few months and the tap went dry,” says villager Luyanda Gciyane.

He said the standpipe was shared by 1,000 households, who are now struggling to get water.

There is an old tank from the 1980s that used to supply water but the villagers say it broke in 2005. For years they asked the Amathole District Municipality to please repair the tank, but nothing was done.

GroundUp met Kwanele Mahlukwane fetching water with a bucket from a natural spring about a kilometre from his home in upper Ngcisininde.

“The issue of lack of water in this village is long, and we no longer bother the ward councillors about it,” he said.

Mahlukwane said one had to come very early in the morning to get clean water at the spring, before livestock arrived.

Ngcisininde Komkhulu is one of the oldest villages in Ngqamakhwe. Most residents we spoke to said they have been living there for more than 40 years. Many villagers are elderly and depend on social grants. Some villagers have managed to buy rainwater tanks, but the last good rains were in February and their tanks are dry.

Ward 18 Councillor Lunga Dyantyi (ANC) said since he became councillor in October 2021, he has been begging the Amathole District Municipality to address the issue. He said the majority of the village households are without water, but not his entire ward area.

District municipal spokesperson Nonceba Madikizela-Vuso confirmed that parts of Ngcisininde Komkhulu have no working water infrastructure.

She said the Ngqamakhwe Regional Water Supply Scheme, which is at a planning stage, will resolve this. She gave no timelines.

Madikizela-Vuso said the municipality had taken over the water services from the Department of Water Affairs in 2006. After an assessment was done in 2008, an infrastructure refurbishment programme was developed and funding secured.

In 2015, two wind turbines were installed to pump water for the community. Currently, only one wind turbine is running. Madikizela-Vuso said “work was afoot” to get the other turbine back into operation.

She said, “The area in question is supplied through the wind turbine which feeds an elevated tank from which water gravitates to the standpipe. So we have two standpipes in the village with only one currently running.”

GroundUp could not get an explanation as to why the standpipe is dry and why it cannot be repaired while the villagers wait for the water project to be completed. DM

Ngcisininde Komkhulu

The standpipe in Ngcisininde Komkhulu village ran dry seven years ago. (Photo: Manqulo Nyakombi)

First published by GroundUp.

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