Living on muddy water
ON ANY given day the people of Carolina in Mpumalanga have different values from one another - but the water crisis in their small town has united them in a common purpose.
Everyone is affected by the water crisis - those who live in the township and those in town and big and small businesses.
Scores of people queue outside various points to draw underground water that is "purer" than the water from their taps at home.
"I drink this water without fear because I know it is clean," says Malihle Thwala.
Thwala, an adult basic education and training teacher at one of the local schools, lives in town.
She says: "There is no clean water for any (of us). The water looks pure but when you look closer you can see there are things moving in it. It starts to change colour.
"The colour changes quickly when you've added soap or bleach. It becomes brown and the particles in the water start looking like oil."
Thwala says she has to walk several hundred metres from her home to a fountain in the bush to draw water.
"Sometimes I am scared of walking into the bush so I wait next to the road until someone else arrives and we walk in together.
"I could get raped here. We are putting our lives in danger just to get some water."
When the problem started months ago residents discovered the fountain near residential homes in town and installed a pipe to make it easier to draw water.
Another resident, Yolanda van der Merwe, says: "The water from the tap in my house looks like dam water. For the past five months I have had to come here and draw water. It's time consuming but what can we do?
"This is horrible. Its only been going on for months but it feels like years. And its unfair because the municipality still charges me for water though I do not use it," Van der Merwe said.
In Silobela township little Nkosikhona Makhobane waits patiently for the man-made well to fill and uses a jug to scoop the water into a 20-litre bucket.
Next to him there are 20 buckets lined up to be filled with underground water.
A few hundred metres from where Nkosikhona is drawing water is the Silobela Islamic Centre. It is a cold afternoon and people in blankets are queuing outside the centre waiting their turn to get water.
Shockingly, Sowetan finds that a hose pipe is connected to the toilet but the people queuing outside do not know that.
Mussah Kaison, 24, the centre's caretaker, says he is letting people draw water from there only because he knows people are desperate.
"I will get into so much trouble," he says. - firstname.lastname@example.org
- This series of investigative articles was first published in the printed newspaper on June 1 2012