By Gcina Ntsaluba
In the heart of KwaZulu-Natal’s Zululand district, high up in the valleys and mountains, rural settlements nestle. They’re cut off from a vital necessity, access to water.
In a province where many rural communities have no access to running water, the people of KwaNsinde tribal authority – ordinary village folks with little or no education – still rely on collecting water from the rivers as their main source of supply.
Two years ago the local chief, Mr Nyawu, thought that the hard lives of the people of KwaNsinde would change for the better after the government gave them free tanks in which to store rain water.
Nyawu, who accompanied Corruption Watch on a site visit around the village, said the project had brought a lot of joy to the villagers, and put smiles on their faces.
For the first time in their lives, they were going to be able to fetch water from a tap instead of walking kilometres to the nearest rivers to collect water.
Poor installation work endangers a laudable project
Not long after the installations were done, the villagers realised that there were problems with some of the tanks because they had not been installed properly.
And in some cases they had already fallen over because of poor workmanship. Corruption Watch received a tip-off about the project, and decided to investigate.
Villager Mahlomla Ngomezulu said his tank was mounted so low to the ground that he could not even use the tap. Ngomezulu said the tank stood on a sand and gravel mound, rather than a concrete slab, to ensure it stood steadfast.
“My tap is so low that my bucket does not fit. I had to dig a hole directly underneath the tap so that I could use my jug,” he said.
Ngomezulu’s neighbour Talima Mabika, who lives with her grandchildren, told CW that her tank had to be moved from where the installer had initially put it because it was falling over. Her tank was also mounted on a sand and gravel stand.
Mabika said no inspections were done on her tank after it was installed. “They never came back to see if it’s working fine. They don’t really care much as long as the tank is delivered,” she said.
The 80-something Mabika said there were many households that experienced similar problems with the tanks. But because they do not know who to report to, the villagers felt helpless.
In addition to Zululand, CW’s field trip also extended to other areas such as kwaNongoma and Amajuba district, around Newcastle, where similar problems were observed.
The trip raised more questions than answers – about good governance and the management of projects of this magnitude and importance.