Sharing water with animals a norm for Ngcobo residents in Eastern Cape

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Residents from over 100 villages in Ngcobo, in the Eastern Cape, are forced to share drinking water with animals. This after a project meant to supply them with water ground to a halt when nearby villages demanded electrification.

The Chris Hani District Municipality spent over R400 million installing water pipes, taps and two water treatment plants that were never used.  Frustrated residents are now calling on government to finish the project.

The water project at Ngcobo started in 2012 and was completed in 2015 for villages including Sinqumeni, Gqaga and Ntsinga. However, access to clean drinking water remains a challenge and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shine a spotlight on this dire need.

Residents have accused the government of negligence as they are forced to drink polluted water with animals. Elders Nokwezi Dyani and Nowebile Mbayise share their daily challenges.

“They completed the water project years ago but we have never seen even a drop of water. When fetching water here, you must remove the rubbish because it’s polluted. We are using this water to drink,” says Dyani.

“Pigs, horses drink here, we even find dead dogs here. We are pleading with government to assist us. We don’t benefit anything from voting, we just want clean water,” adds Mbayise.

Electrification of the water treatment plant a challenge

While the installation of the water project was completed, the electrification of the water treatment plant to supply the water has become a challenge. A local farmer Mbijana Kotyi says the water project would also offer relief to farmers.

“We have land to farm but we can not use it because we don’t have water. Many of our children are unemployed but we have a farm that could be productive.”

Local chief Daluxolo Jezile says some residents depend on community members with boreholes for assistance.

“People responsible for this project left many years ago. They installed pipes and water tanks but nothing happened after that. Why can’t communities be assisted like before with farming equipment so that people benefit from farming?”

The Chris Hani District mayor Wongama Gela says the municipality is in discussion with villagers and Eskom to complete the projects and provide villages with electricity.

“Similar challenges were again experienced in another area in a village called Mbabakazi where residents also demanded electrification of their area. As a result, the project stalled since then as the engagements did not yield any results. As I said the municipality as well the local municipality, we are in constant engagement with affected communities to resolve these issues but these engagements are not where we would want to go ahead with the electrification of those plants.”

The residents have raised concerns about the state of the water infrastructure as it shows signs of decay.

Peddie residents receive boreholes

Meanwhile, Gift of the Givers has provided a short-term solution by sinking boreholes in Peddie, in the Eastern Cape.  This as access to clean water remains a huge problem in rural Eastern Cape.