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Water woes haunt city residents

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

MASERU — For seven days the taps in Maseru were dry.

Four other districts outside the capital were in similar dire straits.

No wonder there was palpable relief across the city when supplies were finally restored last Saturday.

Natural Resources Minister Monyane Moleleki profusely apologised to the nation for the crisis in a press statement.

“I regret the inconvenience that this disaster has caused to the public of the city of Maseru and other towns.

“My office and the Management of Water and Sewage Company (Wasco) will do all in their power to prevent occurrence of such situation in future,” Moleleki said.

While Moleleki was apologising for the “inconvenience” residents of several suburbs in Maseru say they have lived without water supplies for years.

It is a problem we have since learned to live with, they say.

Those who have been badly hit are people staying in Ha-Mabote and Naleli, two working class suburbs north of Maseru.

Water cuts have become so regular that they have grown used to scrounging around for water.

Villagers say the water taps that have been installed in their yards have become symbols of modernity that serve no real purpose.

They told the Sunday Express that they sometimes go for weeks without water supplies putting the health of their families in danger.

The situation sometimes becomes so desperate that villagers have to drink water from unprotected ponds.

Sometimes they queue for hours to draw water from a broken pipe.

Just to get water for the day has become a real struggle, they say.

One needs strong arms to draw the water and carry it for some distance back home, they say.

‘Maitumeleng Tsibela, 60, from Ha-Mabote says it has become more difficult to get water over the past few months.

Tsibela says the wells are gradually becoming “war zones”.

As desperation mounts, quarrels have been quick to erupt between villagers.

Tsibela says people start queuing at the wells as early as 4am.

They bring as many containers as they can to collect as much water as they can.

Too often quarrels erupt when people want to fill all their containers without considering others.

“Some people are so selfish. What they want is to fill their containers with water. They fill several containers and don’t care if other people waiting behind them get water,” Tsibela says.

“Quarrels start when people refuse to compromise. People have become so desperate that they can get violent.”

Halioe Molefetsane, 28, says the water crisis has been a permanent feature in the village ever since she was a little girl.

Molefetsane says it is bewildering that the problem has still not been resolved two decades later.

“There has always been poor water supply in our village,” Molefetsane says.

“The government knows that we have water problems but nothing has been done. Some of us have taps in our yards but they are useless.

“We go for weeks without water. Yet we continue to make our monthly payments to Wasa,” Molefetsane says.

Another villager ‘Mathabo Mphakalasi, 68, says the shortage of water has badly affected her business.

Mphakalasi uses clay soil to mold beads that she sells for a living.

She says she needs plenty of clean water to soak the clay and polish the beads.

But she says production has not been as good as she would have liked.

“We are not able to do anything because we do not have water. I need a lot of water to produce the beads.

“My children applied for a tap connection to make things easier for me. But now the tap is there but it has not been useful,” she says.

When the Sunday Express visited Mphakalasi at her home on Friday she had just produced just a handful of beads.

She says she could produce more and earn more money had it not been for the shortage of water.

“Our lives are on hold. My daughter has not been able do our laundry for a very long time.

“Our houses have been destroyed by the rains in the past weeks and we are not able to repair them because we do not have enough water,” Mphakalasi says.

Some villagers say they have lost faith in the government’s willingness and ability to sort out the water crisis.

They say they had begrudgingly come to accept their misery.

One of these is Bokang Moliela who was doing his laundry near one of the wells in Ha-Mabote.

Moliela says he does not care where the water comes from and whether it was clean or not “as long as they have something to drink and wash with”.

“What does it help to wonder where the water comes from? No one is going to do anything anyway. If this is how we should live we should just accept it,” Moliela says as he throws away dirty washing water not very far from the uncovered well.

“We are lucky no one has died because of the gems from the water,” he says.

The situation in Ha-Mabote and other villages in Lesotho is a bit of a contradiction.

While Lesotho exports water its own people are scrounging around to get access to clean drinking water.

One researcher, David Bennett, says the “water crisis in Lesotho is only been getting worse”.

There are moves however to resolve the long-standing water problems in Lesotho.

The Lesotho Lowlands Water Supply System has promised that the Metolong Dam project will be an answer to the water problems and will see water being pumped to various suburbs of Maseru and Roma.

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