Updated 04 February 2016

Residents suffer as drought rages on

For thirsty Qwaqwa residents in the Free State, their next drink of water is more likely to come on wheels instead of from the tap as reservoir water levels run low.

As the country continues to weather the worst drought in more than a decade, low water levels in the Fika-Patso Dam forced local water authority Maluti-a-Phofung Water to stop pumping water from the dam in late December.

According to Maluti-a-Phofung Water Communications Manager Mpho Mabena, the dam supplies about 85 percent of Qwaqwa's water. 

Despite the deployment of 32 water trucks to serve affected areas, some residents continue to struggle for water.

In the immediate wake of the dam's closure, Qwaqwa residents initially turned to those in neighbouring Makwane about 10 kms away for help.

"For the first weeks that we didn't water, we started going to the Makwane area – where they still had access to water  – walking with buckets," said Qwaqwa resident Mpuse Mokoena.

Read: Lack of food security a threat to us all

With her home food garden wilting, resident Selina Modibedi said she has had to borrow from loan sharks to feed her family. In some rural areas, loan sharks can charge as much as 50 percent interest on informal loans.

"It hasn't been easy for us as I depend on my garden for food so that I can eat with my seven grandchildren," Modibedi said. "We don't have any spinach or carrots to eat."

"I had to go to the loan sharks to borrow some money so that I can buy food," she added. "The little water I get, I take some of it and pour in my garden so that my vegetables can grow."

Motseki Moloi said he is afraid he may watch his cows die during the drought.

"My cattle are suffering because there is no water and grass for them to eat," he said. "(It's to) the point whereby I have to take one or two buckets (of water) from my house to share with my cattle."

Following the receipt of four new water trucks in early January, local counsellors have urged the community to work together with the municipality. According to municipal Executive Mayor executive Vusi Tshabalala, the trucks arrived following an intervention by Minister of Water Affairs and Sanitation Nomvula Mokonyane and Free State Premier Ace Magashule.

Read more:

The three culprits behind South Africa’s weird weather patterns

Drought kills hundreds of chickens in Limpopo

Patients and staff stranded in KZN over water protests


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