Three residents of Hanthabalala, Mr Thomas Ratombo, Vhamusanda John Makamu and Mr Patrick Rambau, standing next to one of the dysfunctional boreholes. Photo: Thembi Siaga.

Residents of Hanthabalala forced to drink from dirty river


The residents of Hanthabalala village are struggling with a severe water shortage that has persisted for over 15 years, forcing them to use dirty, contaminated water from a river. Several dysfunctional boreholes and a lack of viable alternatives force the more than 4,000 households to travel several kilometres to fetch water from a nearby river.

The scarcity of water has also impacted the staff and learners at the Vari Primary School, where six boreholes are yielding no water. Ms Josephine Lugaga, a parent, told Limpopo Mirror about the daily struggles to collect water. “We are forced to come here [the stream] because we cannot afford to buy a container of water for R5, as we are unemployed. We hope the government intervenes before we get sick of cholera and other diseases,” she said.

Mr Patrick Rambau, another resident, explained that the boreholes had dried up. “Currently, we are facing a month without water. The community members are forced to fetch water from the river, a source shared with animals like cattle and donkeys,” he said.

Ms Bridget Nakedi, chairperson of the school governing body, explained that several attempts to convince the municipality to address the issue had failed. “We are hoping that the Department of Education will assist us with water before pupils get sick,” she said.

Vhamusanda John Makamu said that he had taken his complaints about the community’s water to the Vhembe District Municipality (VDM), to no avail. “We have one incomplete borehole project that was started two years back, but it is being vandalised. We were promised that they [VDM] would provide us with water tankers, but until today, we haven’t seen them in this community or at the school,” he said.

Limpopo Education spokesperson Mr Mike Maringa denied the allegations and claims that the school only receives water from the community for roughly two hours per week. “They also had an agreement that the government will bring water tankers if there’s no water. They are exaggerating, and they have never been without water," he said.

Mr Matodzi Ralushai, VDM’s spokesperson, said that all boreholes were functional at the final handover. “The dysfunctionality is due to vandalism and cable theft, and we plan to prioritise urgent maintenance for dysfunctional boreholes,” he said.


News in brief - Date: 24 February 2024

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Thembi Siaga

Thembi Siaga started as an intern during 2021. He assisted with video photography and editing. He also produced numerous small documentaries, focusing on the Vhembe region and its people. Currently he works as a freelance journalist, covering stories in the Elim area.

Thembi studied at the Tshwane University of Technology, where he completed his diploma in Journalism in 2021.