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‘No one is paying attention’: Ejikeni community in KZN without water for 8 years

Residents of Ejikeni in Ndwedwe have told Eyewitness News they’re forced to source water from contaminated ponds and storm water drains at great risk to their health.

Sibongile Mthembu, a resident of Ejikeni in Ndwedwe, has had to collect water from contaminated ponds for eight years due to a lack of running water in the area. Picture: Nkosikhona Duma/EWN

DURBAN - A KwaZulu-Natal community is pleading with the government for decent services after years of neglect.

Residents of Ejikeni in Ndwedwe - a mostly rural and poor local municipality - have told Eyewitness News they’re forced to source water from contaminated ponds and storm water drains at great risk to their health.

Water supply to Ejikeni and neighbouring communities stopped eight years ago because of dilapidated infrastructure.

Incomplete projects that have turned into so-called white elephants include untarred roads and unused bridges.

And it doesn’t end there.

Ejikeni resident and local activist Zibonele Ngcobo said access to water was their biggest challenge.

“Since 2012 we’ve been facing a huge challenge here locally. There’s no running water to our local taps. While there are taps in our houses, they just stopped the running water without informing us and we don’t know why,” said Ngcobo.

Eyewitness News watched as community members collected water from a pond located in a field grazed by livestock.

It’s been like this for a long time, but according to Mayor Nkosinathi Chili, complaints by residents are politically motivated.

“In this democratic dispensation, there are still people who drink water contaminated by urine and share it with animals? I don’t believe that because there are trucks. Maybe trucks are not enough in providing people with water, but if there are challenges, they must talk to the councillor.”

‘NO ONE IS PAYING ATTENTION’

The residents of Ndwedwe Municipality - where Premier Sihle Zikalala was born and raised - say they’re disappointed that to this day they have to resort to desperate measures to access services like clean water.

They’ve told Eyewitness News they still have to collect water from flea-infested ponds and storm water drains after supply to several wards was cut in 2012 because of aged infrastructure.

“Our roads are in a terrible state, but no one is paying attention. We also share water with livestock. The water is muddy and flea-infested, but no one is helping us.”

Bhekokwakhe Cele - a subsistence farmer in the Ejikeni area - is disheartened and frustrated that eight years on not much has changed for his community.

Echoing his concerns is Sibongile Mthembu, who tells Eyewitness News that poor access to clean water and a lack of other basic services is driving young people out, worsening the situation.

“Poor development in this area is causing our children who work in the city to despise coming back home.”

Even though water tankers are being provided, residents say this happens only once a month, which is barely sustainable.

Meanwhile, the Ilembe District Municipality - which oversees operations in Ndwedwe - as well as Umngeni Water claim they’re working on infrastructure development projects.

Last month Zikalala launched a multimillion-rand road construction project in Ndwedwe which he said would unlock economic opportunities for the community.

But there’s deep scepticism, given the years of long neglect of infrastructure which led them to this point.

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