Councillor accused of punishing voters for choosing another election candidate
Willowfountain residents say they are being deprived of water
Residents of KwaPhupha in Willowfountain in KwaZulu Natal have been short of water for three months. They accuse ward councillor Sibusiso Mkhize of punishing them for favouring another candidate in the local government elections in August.
The communal taps in the KwaPhupha settlement have run dry since February and the single water tanker which supplies water to hundreds of households is not enough, say residents. They have to hire cars to fetch water for them.
Residents say Mkhize, who is related to former KZN premier and ANC treasurer Zweli Mkhize, was made aware at a community meeting in February that they intend to vote for another candidate in the August elections, Thabiso Mofokeng.
Since then, they say, Mkhize has neglected them, only paying attention to the area he lives in, Esitobhini Esikhulu (Big Stop). Residents who spoke to Ground Up said people living there did have water.
But Mkhize denied giving any area preferential treatment. “The whole area of Willow is having a problem with water because of the drought. There is no political agenda with the water problem,” he said.
“It’s people who are pushing their own agenda saying that I treat other areas as special. There is no politician that cuts off water, it’s the drought that we are faced with. The other thing is that some people have illegally connected water to their households and that causes a problem.”
Many residents are pensioners who live with their grandchildren.
The water problem had started after the community meeting in February, said resident Sebenzile Khumalo . “We went to the ward councillor and reported that we are struggling with water and we need his assistance. He did nothing about that but what we know is that in his area people do have water. He doesn’t call or attend meetings to address us about this water problem. Ever since the meeting in February, he has never called us for any meeting.”
“We are forced to hire vans or private cars to fetch water for us,” said Khumalo. “Most of us are unemployed and we don’t have that money so it’s very difficult. You can’t have R100 everyday to pay for hired cars. People who are most affected are the pensioners. Most of them are unable to pay for cars and we end up sharing available water with neighbours,” said Khumalo.
When GroundUp visited the area two residents were returning from the water tanker with water and others with empty containers. One young mother, Thandiwe Dlamini, said her two children went to school without taking a bath.
“We are now used to re-using water. We wash clothes and use that water for other things. We are lucky that we are using pit toilets, not the ones that are flushed.”
She said community members had been to Mkhize’s house. “They were carrying sticks and demanding answers. It was only that one day where the water truck came in the afternoon. After that we went back to the same old life of no water. He has officially neglected this area. It’s because of being transparent about who we want as ward councillor. We need change and with him being the ward councillor that will not happen,” said Dlamini.
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