Icon's exile town's residents cry for water

The Free State town where Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was banished for nine years has little time to reflect on the Struggle icon's legacy.

Instead, residents of Brandfort - a small agricultural town about 60km northeast of Bloemfontein - are preoccupied with matters of service delivery.

On the eve of the first anniversary of Madikizela-Mandela's death, Sowetan visited the township where the elderly and the young queued up from morning with buckets waiting for a water truck to deliver the basic need to the community hall.

The area had been without water for two weeks, according to locals.

Pensioners Lidia Mathopa, 75, and Seipati Thlabathlaba, 60, were queuing at 7am.

"When Winnie was here [in the 1980s] we had water, electricity and food," Thlabathlaba said.

Other elders shared the same sentiment.

At another spot not all those who waited for the tanker returned home with water.

The disappointed residents walking back home with their empty buckets, and said the truck had very little water.

Lerato Modise said the last time they saw the water truck was the previous Sunday.

"The truck skips two to three days... we never know when it will come," she said.

"We didn't receive any communication except an initial announcement saying we should collect water, because the taps would be closed. That was two weeks ago."

Another sore point about Brandfort is the piles of rubbish left uncollected.

Kgauta Pule, a resident, angrily warned that the community would get to a point of no return with its frustration.

"There's no service delivery here. This is infuriating and when the community gets mad, we are not going to vote."

One of the water truck operators said he got a schedule from the municipality on which areas to attend to.

"On Fridays everybody knows that I check to see if there's any funerals and I send water there first because it is needed," the operator said.

"This water thing is now political; look, do you see any elderly people here? It's just young people looking for a photo opportunity.

"Elderly people go to the councillor to ask about water."

Ward councillor Tihedi Moahi refused to answer questions and instead directed Sowetan to the Masilonyana municipality spokesperson and the mayor.

He then went back to eating vetkoek and polony with his companions.

Municipal spokesperson Zongezile Ntswabule said the community had access to a WhatsApp group, Facebook page and are normally informed of service delivery interruptions via the radio and through public notices.

He said water supply to the town and Majwemasweu township was disrupted by the tripping circuit breaker at the local water treatment plant.

"When the pump station went dry, it overheated, damaging the bearings. New bearings had to be designed and refitted," Ntswabule said.

On a walkabout of the township, Sowetan heard from the residents about their expectations with the elections in May.

Sabata Mpopetsi, who stood out in his red EFF T-shirt, said: "Our leaders are selfish; they're only looking after themselves when it comes to the development and progress of this township.

"It is a very historical town but as you have seen the stadium is being constructed for the second time while the Winnie Mandela Museum has not started [despite two approved budgets in the past].

"The contractor will come and vanish, leaving the work incomplete. As you have seen, the stadium is incomplete."

"It might be over 25 years of democracy but for us poor people, we don't feel the democracy because they are just using us."

Moleboheng Mene said despite their problems they would still vote for the ANC.

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