Community members at Nazareth in Umzimkulu, Southern KwaZulu-Natal (KZN),  have joined forces to bring clean water to their village. They are forced to collect water from nearby streams, sharing this water source with livestock.

Close to 800 households do not have access to clean water. Residents say service delivery is only delivered around elections.

The community say they have never had access to clean water. Buckets are placed outside many homes to collect precious rainwater. Residents say they have to wake up as early as 3 am to fetch water from the nearby river. Nontokozo Ndzimbovu is among those who make the daily commute, several times a day.

“We are really in need of water because sometimes you’ll come here to collect water and find that the water is dirty because the goats and cows came here before us to drink. But because some of us have walked a long distance, we’ll collect the water as dirty as it is and wait for the dirt to settle at the bottom before we can use it,” says Nontokozo Ndzimbovu.

Similarly, Ziningi Zulu says sometimes they have to pay up to R300 for a tractor to collect water at the Mzimkhulu River if the nearby stream has dried up.

“We do have a situation where the elderly only lives with their grandchildren who are at school during the day and they need water. They’ll come here and sit the whole day waiting to collect water and sometimes we can go back without because this place has dried out and in that case, we have to pay R300 for a tractor to go to Mzimkhulu River and collect 250L  for us; which won’t last more than two days.” says Zulu.

Mazulu Mankephi says communal taps were installed near her home, but that the water was salty and not suitable for drinking. She also laments the polluted state of the Umzimkhulu River.

“We at Mfulamuhle, we are near Mzimkhulu river where you sometimes see a dead body floating. People throw used pampers (nappies.) There are so many things, but the water is not clean. We would really appreciate it if there is a way for us to get clean water. Even if it’s just one tap that we can go to and collect clean water. We get clean water from the rain as it is raining now we have our buckets outside collecting rainwater. There were taps installed but the water is salty we can’t drink it.” says  Mankephi.

Fed up with their situation and with the help of local businessmen, the community has come together to effect change for themselves. Community leader, Bheki Dzanibe says plans are in place to build a tank around the stream, to retain clean water and to reduce collection time.

“For a long time, we’ve been suffering for water. We started to vote from 1994 until today we don’t have basic needs. People are struggling to get water. We don’t have clean and healthy water. The government is not trying to assist us so we are doing things our own way. Now as you can see we want to build a small tank here to reserve this water so that the community will be able to access clean water” says Dzanibe.

The spokesperson for the Harry Gwala municipality, Ndabezitha Tenza says the actual source of water for the area has dried up and that there is currently no alternate option. He says water tankers are in the area daily as an interim solution. This is despite none being seen on the day.

“As the municipality, we are aware of water challenges in the area of Nazarath, but we have intervened by providing water tankers the water tankers are roving around the day providing people with clean and drinkable water. The main challenge there is that our source is drying up, so we don’t have an alternative source of water in the area. So we are doing all the best to make sure that people in that area are getting clean and drinkable water.” says  Tenza.

The municipality further says that concerns around the water in Mfulamuhle that was reported to be salty has been tested and is fit for human consumption.