Stalled Limpopo bulk water project leaves 100 homes without tap water

Community leaders say some households in Tshikota near Louis Trichardt have been without water for four years

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Elisa Nemutshili from Tshikota near Louis Trichardt, Limpopo, has to walk with a wheelbarrow and containers to collect water every day. The taps in her house have been dry for years. Photo: Bernard Chiguvare

  • Residents of Tshikota near Louis Trichardt, Limpopo are in the midst of a water crisis.
  • Some households get intermittent water from their taps but community leaders say the taps in about 100 homes have been dry for four years.
  • A bulk water project, launched in 2014, is expected to increase water supply to 39 villages and Louis Trichardt. However, the project has stalled.

Elisa Nemutshili, from Tshikota near Louis Trichardt, Limpopo, makes at least three trips a day with her wheelbarrow and two large containers to collect water from a communal standpipe about a kilometre from her home.

“We have taps but there is absolutely no running water. I do not know whether the water infrastructure is broken, or we have been forgotten,” she said.

On the day we spoke to 59-year-old Nemutshili, she had to make five trips because she had to do laundry.

“This has been my routine for more than four years. I have to make sure that there is enough water for the day before I run other errands,” said Nemutshili.

Tshikota has been battling with inconsistent water supply for years, while about 100 households have had no tap water for four years.

GroundUp previously reported on the R515-million Makhado bulk water project, launched in 2014. It was meant to be completed in 2017 but missed this deadline and others. In 2021, the deputy minister for water and sanitation had promised the project would be completed by December that year.

In September 2022, Limpopo Department of Water and Sanitation spokesperson Mamikie Moloto told GroundUp that the “estimated date of completion” would be March 2023 and that 90% of the work had been done.

In August 2023, Vhembe District Municipality (VDM) spokesperson Matodzi Ralushai confirmed that the project is still incomplete.

The bulk water project, which includes pipelines and a reservoir, is an extension of the bulk water supply from Valdesia to Mowkop in Makhado. It is expected to increase water supply to 39 villages west of Louis Trichardt, Louis Trichardt itself, and Tshikota. Millions have been spent but nothing has changed for Nemutshili and other households in Tshikota.

Those who can afford it, buy bulk water. But most residents wait in queues early in the mornings to collect water from taps supplied by boreholes.

Tina Mashimbwe said her taps have been dry since 2018. “I have no choice but to buy water from those who own boreholes.” She said some people charge R2 to fill a 25-litre container, which she refills about ten times per day as she is busy with renovations on her property.

Community leader Mathekgana Mahlatse said that residents have been complaining about water for a long time but to no avail.

“I have not seen VDM officials walking around Tshikota reading water meters for years but every month we are billed for water. How do they come up with the amount we should be paying every month?” asked Mahlatse.

Thabang Tlou, secretary of the Tshikota branch of the South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO), said, “We are not sure whether there are broken pipes that deliver water to recipients [who don’t get any running water] or if it is a form of sabotage as these pipes run through farms. VDM should find a permanent solution to end this water crisis,” said Tlou.

Ward councillor Joseph Sebola said, since taking office in 2021, he has raised the issue of access to water with officials at the district municipality.

“The issue of dry taps has long been there. I tried several times to raise it with VDM but up to now it has not been addressed,” said Sebola.

On the municipality’s assertion that water is being delivered by tanker, Sebola said they do not get any response from VDM when they request water deliveries. “We end up not requesting any more since we do not get responses.”

According to Ralushai the water supply system is currently not able to “address the huge demand until the Makhado water supply project is completed”.

Ralushai said if ward councillors requested water trucks these were made available.

Ralushai said Tshikota’s water supply needs will improve once the bulk water project is completed.

“Members of the community must also protect against vandalism of water infrastructure because it also affects water supply in their households including Tshikota. Fighting crime is a collective responsibility,” he said.

The Department of Water and Sanitation has not responded to our questions about the bulk water project for nearly two weeks.

TOPICS:  Water

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