Lebaleng residents live in cesspools, risking disease

UNHEALTHY: The residents of Makwassie near Wolmaransstad have lived with raw human waste on the streets of their township for many years
UNHEALTHY: The residents of Makwassie near Wolmaransstad have lived with raw human waste on the streets of their township for many years

THE streets are overflowing with raw sewage that puts residents' lives at risk.

But the Dr Kenneth Kaunda district municipality says a contractor who was paid more than R1-million to fix the problem has done a good job.

This in spite of the glaring rot in Lebaleng township in Makwassie in North West.

District spokeswoman Wendy Sokupha said the contractor completed their work and did a fine job.

"Mohokare and Tsolo streets problems have been addressed. The appointed contractors were Bakgeni Civils (and not Bagane Civils) at a total contract amount of R1.479-million and not R10-million as alleged," said Sokupha.

But spokesman for the Maquassi Hills local municipality, Gontse Maruping, said the previous contractor, Bakgeni Civils, had been dismissed as their work in the township was substandard.

Maquassi Hills falls under Dr Kenneth Kaunda district municipality.

Sokupha insisted that "the contractor completed their scope within time and budget and were properly issued with completion certificate certified by the appointed engineer on the project."

She said in Tsolo Street, "a contractor named Dovetail did the maintenance work and completed it also successfully at a total budget of R2.4-million."

However, the picture in the streets of Lebaleng is one of dire need for rehabilitation.

Most residents say they suffer from respiratory diseases as a result of sewage flowing down their streets and into their properties.

Asthmatic resident Elizabeth Nkafu, 65, said "the stench makes it difficult for me to breathe. It is worse when it is hot."

Provincial health spokesman Tebogo Lekgethwane said: "We can confirm that some of the diseases the clinic dealt with raised suspicion about the environment patients lived in.

"Some patients were treated for asthma."

His observation is in contrast to the promises made by the Maquassi Hills local municipality two years ago that the problem would be resolved "in three months".

In its 2014 report titled Water is Life - Sanitation is Dignity: Accountability to People who are Poor, the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) warns that people such as those in Lebaleng, who are exposed to open sewer spillages, face great health risks from inhaling the polluted air.

A 2012 ministerial sanitation task team report on Maquassi Hills local municipality put part of the blame on residents .

The report says residents have the habit of throwing trash into the sewers through open manholes, resulting in blockages.

It also noted that the area was predominantly made up of poor families who were unable to afford toilet paper and therefore used harder material to wipe themselves. The report said this also led to blockages.

A foul smell lingers in the air in the township.

Whenever residents flush their toilets, they have soil ready to cover their waste which is washed out of the pipes into the yards.

More than two years later, nothing much has changed and residents say they have lost hope.