Eastern Cape villagers promised water in 1998, still waiting

Over R23 million spent and the bills keep mounting, but the taps stay dry in Flagstaff villages

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Photo of a standpipe tap
Taps installed years ago in Siphaqeni have never had water. Now they have been stripped by copper thieves. Photo: Yamkela Ntshongwana

Villagers in Flagstaff , Eastern Cape, still have no piped, clean water, though taps were installed in their villages five years ago.

‘’They use our water dam to draw water for the town for their rich people and bypass our villages, leaving us sucking thumbs like fools,” says Siphaqeni village resident Mandla Gogo.

Gogo, who was born in the village, says that whenever there are elections the Ingquza Hill Local Municipality promises them tap water, but it has never materialised. He says four water pipes have been laid underground but are not in use.

When the villagers enquire at Ingquza they are referred to OR Tambo District Municipality.

Gogo said around 1998 the villagers were told to make a once-off contribution of R10 per household for water taps. They did so, but nothing happened.

Then in 2015, the district municipality appointed Ludumo Trading to install taps, but the taps have never worked.

In the years since then, some of the taps have been stripped by copper thieves.

“We don’t blame them [thieves] because these taps have been standing dry and we don’t know what is going to happen,’’ said Gogo.

Villagers fetch water from Nqandulo Dam about two kilometres away. They get up very early, before livestock reach the dam.

According to OR Tambo District Municipality communications manager Zimkhitha Macingwane, Ludumo Trading was appointed to install 80 taps in Siphaqeni and Bhalasi, but because villagers demanded more, they installed 64 taps in Siphaqeni (instead of 60), 43 in Bhalasi (instead of 20), and 15 in Ngqandulo. She said Ngqandulo was not in the original budget, which escalated to R23 million from the original R19 million.

The budget had included the building of three reservoirs, but not the pipes, which had already been laid. Now Eskom was in the process of providing electricity upgrades to supply enough power to pump water to the community, she said.

Macingwana could not say when the taps would have water. She said the municipality was recommissioning material to replace what had been stolen during the long delays. The pipes already underground also had to be refurbished.

Ward 9 Councillor Kholiswa Vava (ANC) said the community was angry. He said the company had left the project unfinished and had also failed to pay some of its workers.

Eight workers claim they were not paid what was due to them.

“All of these unpaid workers are in my village, and some are my neighbours I face every day. I promised that as their councillor, I will resolve this matter,” said Kholiswa.

Luzuko Mthyolo of Ludumo Trading refused to answer our questions.

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TOPICS:  Government Water

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