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flood of despair

By Cecil Motsepe | Jul 06, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

WELCOME to Itsoseng, a flooded village where residents bury their dead in their backyards because the cemetery is surrounded by water all year round.

WELCOME to Itsoseng, a flooded village where residents bury their dead in their backyards because the cemetery is surrounded by water all year round.

Many Itsoseng residents who used to have decent homes were forced to abandon them to live in shacks on higher ground in nearby villages.

And those who stayed behind have to use gumboots to get around the village near Hammanskraal, which has been flooded for the past 20 years.

Unlike their counterparts in the floating villages of southeast Asia, the folk here don't have access to an everlasting supply of fish. These people are farmers and their fields have been submerged.

While Thai and Vietnamese inhabitants of floating villages can whizz around in boats; in Itsoseng villagers use boots to plough through smelly, muddy water to the main road, where they catch public transport to the dry outside world.

"This water comes from Bon Accord Dam in Pretoria and was channelled to pass through Mabopane and Mmotla villages.

"The government channelled it here after Mmotla's residents lodged a complaint," said ward secretary Nelson Kgwele.

Hapless residents could do nothing but watch in despair as their fields were submerged.

Their fields are now covered by reeds and aquatic grass and the old village sports ground is now home to water birds such as flamingos.

And visitors must constantly swat flies, mosquitoes and other insects that thrive in the water and mud.

The Sowetan team found scores of abandoned homes disintegrating under the water.

The Ikokotleleng Middle School had to close its doors as villagers migrated elsewhere.

"Our kids are forced to attend school in other villages," said Kgwele.

The flood problem has persisted since 1988.

He says the villagers have complained countless times to the Moretele municipality and the local government department but that nothing has been done.

The elderly Phineas and Merriam Gwebu had to postpone their son's wedding last year.

"Everything had to be put on hold because our house is flooded," says Gwebu.

His son Vusi is frustrated.

"We postponed the wedding until this September because I had hoped the problem would have been solved by then."

Moretele municipality spokes-person Abel Malebye acknowledged that he has received complaints from Kgwele.

"We are talking to Bojanala district municipality to assist us with resources.

"We will also engage our counterparts in Tshwane."

Malebye also acknowledged that the cemetery problem was a serious one.

"According to our culture relatives have to be buried next to one another. They can't be scattered."

But 21 years after flood waters first inundated this forgotten rural village, nothing substantial has been done to relieve the residents' plight.


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