As the world joins South Africa in celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela, on the 100th anniversary of his birth, the people of Mmangweni village are likely not celebrating.
Mmangweni village situated in the Eastern Cape Province in the Nyandeni Local Municipality between Mthatha and Port St Johns is a mostly rural population with little or no infrastructure. The mostly women-headed households of an increasingly ageing population rely on water from nearby streams, that are shared with livestock and often polluted. Collecting water remains a labour-intensive task where a single bucket carrying just 20 litres must be carried over a kilometre of rugged terrain and requires more than four trips to meet the daily water needs of a household.
According to Statistics SA 2011 census, only 2% of households in Nyandeni have access to clean drinking water and only 1% have access to sanitation. There is no doubt that the Father of our Democracy would view this as a betrayal of the Constitution that ensures everyone has access to safe water.
A documentary produced by Checkpoint and ENCA recently shared the story of the Mmangweni community who are taking the O. R Thambo District Municipality to court after failing to provide basic services. With the help of the Legal Resource Centre - a pro bono legal support service, the municipality has now been ordered to deliver water tanks with clean water on a weekly basis until piped water arrives. Even this has only reached half of the residents.
When questioned about the long-term infrastructure plans to provide the community with a sustainable water supply, the government failed to provide a date but instead eluded to a plan to connect these villages to the Mthatha Dam at some point. Piped water would be largely cost prohibitive for such an isolated community when a borehole or well could be more effective.
What struck me about the documentary was the incredibly vulnerable state of the population that is mostly elderly women who are forced to collect water by hand and manage their household chores single-handedly.
I have worked in rural communities for many years reporting on the effects of water shortages and seeing how boreholes and low tech interventions can make life easier, I want to encourage you to help me bring some relief to this community.
The Hippo Roller is a durable water drum with a 50 liter capacity that can be easily pushed on the ground. Even a child can push a full drum and so we are confident that the solution will suit the elderly too. It makes the labour of collecting water easier and can also double up as a storage tank to harvest rainwater. It is made from food-grade polymers that ensure no bacterial growth will contaminate the water, and best of all, it is a South African social enterprise - produced entirely in South Africa.
I have a started a Fundraiser Page on Give n Gain that aims to deliver 20 Hippo Rollers for the community and includes a budget for transporting the items from Pretoria to the Eastern Cape. One Hippo Roller costs about $120. Please share the link and help me make life a little easier for the grandmothers of Mmangweni who should really be sitting with their feet up enjoying retirement, rather than hauling water.
Remember Madiba’s words, “It always seems impossible until it is done.”