WINDHOEK – Thlabanelo informal settlement residents adjacent to the Goreangab dam have resorted to using sewerage water to wash their clothes and bath, and in some instances also drink the water because they do not have taps.
The water in Goreangab dam is so contaminated that most of the times even divers using diving suits are often reluctant to dive into the dam when they are obliged to search for the bodies of drowning victims.
The other reason compelling Thlabanelo informal settlers to drink contaminated sewerage water thereby endangering their health is because they have to walk for long distances of up to five kilometres to the nearest tap.
The Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) Secretary, Dr Elijah Ngurare and the Regional Secretary for the SPYL in Khomas, Paulus Emmanuel, revealed the plight of Thlabanelo residents to New Era yesterday after they camped at Goreangab dam last weekend.
“They drink it [sewerage water] often because [safe, clean] water is very far,” Ngurare said based on information provided to him by residents in the area.
Ngurare said residents often have to walk to Havana to draw drinking water.
“Our people on the ground are suffering,” said Emmanuel.
“It was not a good thing to see,” said Ngurare who also explained that people relieve themselves in riverbeds and in plastic bags in what is called ‘flying toilets’ because the plastic bags with faeces are thrown away at night.
New Era also visited Thlabanelo informal settlement yesterday and residents confirmed that some use sewerage water for their daily needs such as cooking because the distance to get clean water is far. Some people get water at Havana, while others have to walk or travel as far as six kilometres to get water.
“This is where I drink and take water for food because where I can get clean water is too far. I have to walk for about five kilometres. The water is very dirty,” said Jason Shaanika who lives in Thlabanelo. Another resident who was spotted doing laundry at a sewerage pond in Thlabanelo said he gets water to wash clothes and bath from the pond while he pays neighbours with cars to go and fetch clean water for him.
Further, Emmanuel said that residents have expressed a willingness to pay for clean and safe water and they have organised themselves as such. What is needed is for them to be provided with the water, he highlighted.
But the councillor of Samora Machel constituency, Absai Angula, when contacted on the matter disputed this saying it is “too far” for residents of Thlabanelo to walk with containers to Havana to fetch water.
Angula said: “Some people in Thlabanelo have water,” adding that those who do not have get water from nearby houses in the area.
Also, Ngurare and Emmanuel pointed out that students who live in the area are dropped at the four-way stop and have to walk a long distance to get to their houses which is not safe at night, considering that some of their evening classes end at around 21h00 in some instances.
“That is very risky,” Ngurare commented. Ngurare added: “The needs of our people are not insurmountable, all they are asking for are basic services.”
He said the sufferings of people in the informal settlements should be attended to as a matter of urgency, explaining that it is like a call of nature.
“When nature calls a person does not say they would attend to that call later,” he explained, stressing that the basic needs of people living in informal settlements should be met without any further delay.
A pledge was made during the weekend to donate a water tank to the community, the duo revealed.
In the long run, however, Ngurare feels government should look into the basic needs of these people such as the provision of water and basic sanitation.
He added that bringing change to informal settlements should be addressed holistically and everybody – government, private sector, civil society and so forth – should come to the rescue of these people.
“These are things that we should respond to collectively,” Ngurare stressed.
“It is not a good feeling. We cannot go to bed sleeping comfortably while our people and their children are subjected to that [lifestyle],” Ngurare stated.
“Slogans will not put bread on the table. If we say young people are the future of Namibia we must mean it,” he said, explaining that resources that would have a positive impact on young people’s future should be availed to them.
This is the second consecutive year that the SPYL camps in informal settlements to experience the life that residents live, as Ngurare explained: “We should not only go to them when it is election time.” He added that the majority of people in informal settlements are the ones who voted for Swapo and that part of the aim of the meeting was for the people to speak to them “uninterrupted” on the challenges that they have. More than 30 young people from the SPYL spent the night in the area on Saturday.
City of Windhoek mayor, Agnes Kafula, as well as some Windhoek city councillors were some of the people who joined the SPYL team although they did not sleep in the area.
Emmanuel said: “Some of them were surprised it was actually their first time there.” Efforts to get comment from Kafula yesterday proved futile.
By Alvine Kapitako