Limpopo Premier Stanley Mathabatha has admitted to parliamentarians that his government has failed to provide water to citizens for the past five years as promised.
Mathabatha, also provincial ANC chairperson, blamed a litany of external factors – including leakages in the bulk water pipeline, rampant vandalism, unpredictable load shedding, and deteriorating infrastructure.
He addressed members of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), who descended on the province on a fact-finding mission specifically focusing on bulk water and road infrastructure in conjunction with parliament’s National Provincial Week.
The NCOP’s permanent delegates to the province learned that a staggering 132,009 households spread across 192 villages and two towns within the Vhembe District currently rely on borehole water for their daily sustenance.
Vhembe District Municipality’s water services director, Wiseman Maluleke, told the delegation that there were currently 51 boreholes in operation.
He said these boreholes are strategically connected to an 8.1-kilometre bulk water pipeline, facilitating the transportation of raw water from the boreholes to the Nwanedi Water Treatment Works for purification.
“Clean water is then pumped from the treatment works to various reservoirs that are connected to reticulation systems in all the villages and the two towns,” he said.
This significant dependency on boreholes underscores their critical role in meeting the water needs of the local residents, who otherwise would have no option but to share water with animals. Maluleke said intermittent power outages disrupt the pumping and distribution of water, exacerbating the strain on the already fragile system.
Before the NCOP delegation, Mathabatha acknowledged the severity of the situation and recognised the potential consequences of prolonged water shortages.
“Let me briefly acknowledge that water has been our greatest challenge in this province. This is despite the amount of reticulation done by our municipalities. The higher challenge is, therefore, the [various] sources of water.
“In the past five years, we have seen bigger dams in Vhembe and Sekhukhune, for example, failing to reach the communities around them. With a growing population in our province, we are encountering more and even higher demand as far as water needs are concerned,” said Mathabatha.
It is not the first time that the pressing issue of water challenges in Limpopo has been brought to the forefront, with a particular emphasis on the disproportionate impact experienced by impoverished households.
Among these challenges are the difficulties encountered in agricultural activities, limited opportunities for income generation, and the escalating expenses associated with seeking alternative water sources and treatments. The adverse effects on agricultural activities have become increasingly apparent, posing significant hurdles for farmers and cultivators.
One of the major concerns is the significant time burden placed on women and children, who are forced to spend considerable time fetching water. This not only hampers their ability to engage in other productive activities, but also perpetuates gender inequalities.
During his State of the Province Address in February this year, Mathabatha promised Limpopo residents that his administration had placed water provisioning at the forefront of its agenda, emphasising the critical importance of ensuring access to clean and reliable water for all citizens.
He, however, also admitted that this was the same promise he had made the previous year.
“Last year, we presented a detailed report about progress and challenges regarding water supply in Limpopo. Major projects for water resource development will be implemented by the Department of Water and Sanitation, and these include the raising of the Tzaneen Dam wall, Olifants River Water Resources Development, Musina-Makhado Special Economic Zone (SEZ) bulk water supply, and Nandoni Water Treatment Works,” he said.