Water is a precious scarce resource protected by our constitution in South Africa. However we have seen how this right is violated in the areas controlled by the The Royal Bafokeng. The BuaMC community monitors from both Chaneng and Mafenya youth organizations chose to investigate the poor water quality and the Royal Bafokeng plans to introduce prepaid water meters.
Macharora community in the1800’s used and consumed river water from Kgetleng Inland River. In the 1900’s government boreholes were introduced at no cost. Much later there were more community boreholes erected for convenience, and then those who were able erected their own. In the early 1970’s the community of Mafenya developed. This inlcuded people from Chaneng and Rasimone. Due to population growth there was more need for water. Those who owned tractors or donkeys would deliver water around the community and charged for delivery. Prior to democracy the Royal Bafokeng erected a reservoir on Mafenya hill to introduce the tap water system with monthly billing. The tap water system took effect around 1994-5, now every household in both Mafenya has a water tap.
Prepaid water meters
The Royal Bafokeng Nation set up project no 615 to install prepaid water metres in all 29 Royal Bafokeng Nation villages plan. 20 000 water meters will be installed in a period of 3 years. Our attempt to get an interview with the Royal Bafokeng admin water department failed. Our calls did not go through, We conducted interviews with 128 residents . Most refused to be interviewed fearing victimisation from the tribal council. “Please do not mention my name, I am no coward I just don’t want to be sidelined when the mine hires or when I need help at Kgotla office”, one resident explaimed.
The community paid their water bills but started to stop making payments in the early 2000’s as they believed that the mining activities around the community compromised the quality of the water . They felt that the mines should pay for the community. Ofentse Ramalose expressed his view on the issue, “I personally don’t think we as the Chaneng community should pay for water because we are surrounded by mines.”
The community also faced a challenge of water cuts which normally lead to water coming back dirty or containing high levels of chlorine which causes diarrhoea. One resident who chose to remain anonymous explains “we sometimes suffer from diarrhoea when water comes out with a weird colour or white, we would fight over the toilet at times but because we cannot go the doctor to determine the cause we normally conclude by saying it might be the food we ate or the dirty water”.
The community had used borehole water when experiencing unannounced water cuts, the use of borehole water stopped when the department served the community with the report of the underground water testing results. In an email to the Chaneng Youth Organisation on the 11th of February 2011, Mr. Lloyd Bokaba, Directorate Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement at Department Water affairs confirmed that the water was contaminated: The Department said that it was still trying to determine the cause of the contamination. This could be from fertilizers and manure, animal feedlots, municipal wastewater and sludge, septic systems and mining which determine the cause of these elevated levels of nitrate. Probably another study will be conducted to determine whether the surrounding mines have a definite on the high nitrate concentration in the Village”
BuaMC is very unhappy with the fact that the Department has not done any more work on this issue. BuaMC has decided to do its own tests to determine the pollutants, how they affect the community health and determine who is responsible for the pollution.
By Lucia Sekete, Khumo Ntodi, Kagiso Morake Olebogeng Motene and Tshepang Molale (BuaMC community monitors).