Better life is still a dream for villagers

Sowetan visits the village of Muyexe in Giyani, Limpopo

In his first state of the nation address in 2009, President Jacob Zuma announced his intention to develop Muyexe in Giyani, Limpopo.

He identified the village as a presidential nodal point that needed urgent service delivery intervention.

Muyexe, first on his priority list, was promised job creation, a tar road leading to the village, water provision, renovation of schools, building of a hospital and community centre, creation of a community garden project and other projects that would improve the lives of residents.

But three years into his term, little has been done to improve the lives of villagers as the initiative has been hit by allegations of poor management and fraud, as well as water shortages.

Yet, the president's Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal and the surrounding areas have seen much development in recent years.

In a response to a parliamentary question on the Nkandla-Umlalazi smart growth centre on September 13, Zuma highlighted development at 14 other presidential nodal points but failed to even refer to Muyexe.

To date 340 Muyexe villagers have been employed in the community workers programme, albeit on a temporary basis.

A sports facility and a clinic are still under construction.

There is also a post office and a satellite police station.

The 11km road leading to the village remains bumpy and rocky, and residents still have to queue to fetch water, which is only made available on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays on condition that there are chemicals to purify the water in the only reservoir servicing the village.

The upgrading has also not lived up to the expectations of the National Council of Provinces, its report has revealed.

The report highlighted The Macena Women's Garden project as a concern following a R1.3-million Old Mutual loan that the project got, but was later allegedly looted by a consultant who paid himself a R90000 monthly salary for six months before disappearing.

The project belongs to 36 women who sell their produce to the main retail shops and the community.

Project chairwoman Maria Ngobeni said they had not started paying back the loan despite being instructed by Old Mutual to pay R38000 a month. The women only get R1000 a year as a salary.

"This project is not worth all the problems it has brought," said Ngobeni at the weekend.

The report also slated the Muyexe water treatment facility, which had not been working for six months before the visit due to lack of electricity and chemicals to run the plant.

According to local chief Khazamula Maluleke, many households had to buy Jojo tanks to catch rain water.

According to the report, the building of the new hospital was interrupted by a shortage of water and the contractor abandoning the project. A new contractor was appointed in July.

Currently the villagers use an old clinic, which has five nurses and only operates on weekdays while a doctor visits fortnightly.

The clinic also has a shortage of medicine.

Local villager Margaret Chauke, a mother of four children, said Zuma's promises were lies.

"Zuma lied to us when he said he would improve our lives," said Chauke, who works as a volunteer at a home-based care project.

Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj directed enquiries about Muyexe to the rural development and land reform department.

Spokesman for the department, Mthobeli Mxotwa, confirmed that water was a problem in that village, "but we have made strides in terms of improving lives of people in that village".

He added the village was under a microscope as it was a flagship pilot site.

He said it would be "unfair" to compare Muyexe and Nkandla.

Elvis Masoga, a political analyst with the Centre for Dialogue and Policy Analysis, said: "Those millions meant to improve Zuma's security at his Nkandla homestead may assist in the rural development of the country and not only his property."

He said the perception was being created that the president was too focused on his homes at the expense of other people.

This article was first published in the printed newspaper on 28/11/2012