By Neo Mathibe
Maseru is the capital city of Lesotho. It is made up of suburbs occupying the rich, townships, peri-urban and, well, rural communities inhabited by the rest of the populace.
As is to be expected, the latter are perpetually struggling to access the basic services, and can only dream of the amenities enjoyed by their affluent counterparts.
One of the villages lagging behind in the race for modernization is Ha Ramorakane on the outskirts of the city. Located a stone’s throw from the beautiful Masowe 3 suburb, it is a 30-minute drive from town on a hostile gravel road.
On one fateful morning, one of the villagers, Mookho Rakhare went up the hill to draw water from a local well. This is where all the residents of Ha Ramorakane come to fetch water because this is the only source that never runs dry. After filling her bucket, lunging it up to one of the villagers, she turned around to see a snake twirled up right behind her in this cave-like claustrophobic spring she gets her water from everyday.
Luckily, she escaped unharmed. But this highlights some the challenges that voters and taxpayers endure in this day and era, and the dangers they face on a daily basis in their quest to access the basic and vital commodity that is water.
In an interview with theReporter, Chief Sekhofa Ramorakane said they have far too many grievances, but their greatest concern would have to be lack of access to basic services. They have had no water supply for ages due to antiquated infrastructure that is also in a state of disuse.
To add to aridity, members of the neighbouring Qeme and Ha Hlalele communities vandalized reticulation pipes delivering water to Ha Ramorakane, and stuffed them with garbage. This meant water could no longer run to their taps.
“The last time we enjoyed a reliable supply of water was during the reign of Dr Leabua Jonathan; that was back in the 1970’s and 1980’s.”
Under the circumstances, the only course open to Ha Ramorakane was for the residents to solve their water problems by building their own water pumps. They contributed to build these pumps, but they have since aged and stopped, and need maintenance.
Another dejected villager, ‘Matankiso Lebeko, had this to say: “We do not have water at all, for both drinking and cooking. It is a big hustle for one to get water here. The well that we get water from, that happens to be the most reliable in terms of water supply, is up that hill.
“Just getting there is hard, let alone negotiating your way downhill with a bucket full of water on your head. We need all the help we can get when it comes to the issue of water, because water is life and we don’t even have drinking water some days. How are we expected to survive without water and drinking insanitary water that could be contaminated?”
The residents understand that ‘water is a source of life’ and without it they are doomed. And now, against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, this village and other smaller ones that fall under it face a particularly daunting challenge, with few if not non-existent options. Covid-19 safety protocols require to one wash their hands regularly, so without water it is evidently not easy for the residents of Ha Ramorakane to guarantee their safety.
According to Chief Ramorakane, “governments have come and gone. We have had different leaders and yet not a single one has addressed our predicament. Not a single Prime Minister has looked our way since Leabua Jonathan. I wonder if there will ever be a day when a government official decides to visit us and address all these matters. We have absolutely nothing, no roads, no water and no clinics.
“We have four water sources somewhere up the mountain, but they were vandalized. We also have eight pumps that we build ourselves but they are dysfunctional”
On the other hand, the chairman of the Ha Ramorakane water committee, Lebohang ‘Mui, announced during a village gathering that the issue was being attended to already.
According to ‘Mui, this was communicated to him by the Rural Water Supply (RWS) department following a recent visit by the minister of water, Nkaku Kabi and his deputy, Lepota Sekola at Ha Hlalele. At these meetings, the minister promised that the ministry of water would respond to their crisis of water shortage.
‘Mui disclosed that the committee was in the process of compiling lists of households that do not have access to water, as requested made by RWS. This, he said, will enable RWS to effectively plan its water supply projects.
This was corroborated by one of the water committee members, Tsielo Khabo, who said: “I can confirm that this is already in progress because I am the one going around the village to every household recording their information and filling out the allocated forms. As soon as we leave this meeting I will be carrying out the same duties, visiting more households and seeing to it that everyone has been included.”
Strangely enough, the villagers said they were in the dark about the minister’s visit to the neighbouring villages, insisting such a visit was never communicated to them. However, local community councilor Klaas Bosman, did confirm the veracity of the information communicated by the committee members, that minister Kabi had indeed visited the area a while back, and had even overseen the surveying of the area with the help of the council and the committee.
In yet another strange twist of events, when asked why the council had not done anything to help address the village’s developmental concerns, Chief Ramorakane likened local government councils to toothless dogs because they do not have planning or implementing powers.