More than 120 residents of Hadino Hishongwa location in the mountainous area behind Goreangab in Samora Machel constituency are forced to drink wastewater that is not fit for human consumption.
This is due to lack of water points and unaffordable and inaccessible prepaid
cards (water tokens) in the area. The disgruntled community members also say they are now “victims of the City of Windhoek’s failure”. There is a sense of hopelessness among the group we followed to the river to collect the day’s water passing under a locked farm gate.
They draw water from a river that flows from the Goreangab sewage dam, but they also fear for their safety as they are trespassing on private land. To compound their fear, Samuel Jusias, a community leader told New Era the residents’ health is at stake as they always have stomach problems because they drink and cook with contaminated water.
The community includes 46 families who were placed there by the City of Windhoek on 28 December 2021.
“We are fully aware that this water is dirty and not fit for human consumption. But we have no option and in fact, we have a traditional way of treating the water to be clearer, a bit safe and not create stomach problems most people have been experiencing all these days,” said another resident.
The residents said they now pour ash on top of the water in the container as a treatment, and after three hours the water is clear, as the dirt settles to the bottom of the bucket.
They explained although the majority had been staying there for the past six to seven years, they were lucky that during Covid-19, there was free water for them.
“Now that the Covid-19 is no longer there, the City of Windhoek decided to close the tap and made it mandatory that only those with water tokens can fetch water. We have tried our level best to apply for the cards, however, they have changed the requirements,” said one of the residents, Gideon Kristo.
The residents said although the tap is approximately 800 metres away, they would try to go fetch water as was the case in the past but now they do not meet the requirements of getting the water tokens.
One of the requirements that prevent the majority from getting the tokens is the erf number issue.
“They put that requirement and forget that they did not give the people they brought here erf numbers. Now we are here suffering. The City of Windhoek failed dismally to allocate numbers on time when they had that operation two years back. But now we are the victims of their failure,” said another resident who did not want to be named.
After receiving numerous complaints from the residents, a community leader decided to go to the community development office in Katutura to find a solution.
“I went to that office and those workers told us that they do not know the difference between those who have been there before and those who just came. We suggested to them that we must register the numbers of the shacks that are already there to make it easier for them to allocate numbers so that people will get water. They refused and said they will find time to come. I went there again with another community leader and we left without any solution. People are suffering and now they resorted to risking their lives in going to someone’s farm without permission to fetch water,” said a furious Jusias.
He said residents are frustrated, as they do not get satisfactory answers from the offices.
Another resident who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the residents have become the victims of political infighting in the city.
“When people are fighting there at the council, we are the ones suffering. Now imagine, even allocating of number for one to get water has become an issue. We are no longer getting the attention we were getting before the election. We are suffering here. Now the mothers are forced to go buy water from residents to make milk for their babies as they are more at risk. This is unacceptable,” he said.
Residents are also frustrated with having to walk long distances to apply for token cards in Wanaheda.
Jusias added the cards have also become very expensive as price increased from N$150 to N$300.
“They are saying there is no money to bring services to us yet they are expecting us to get money to buy a token that increased with 100% without consulting us through community meetings,” he lamented.
Constituency councillor Nestor Kalola told New Era the municipality needs to improve their process of providing water to the people.
“Those people have no water. It is frustrating to see fellow human beings drinking dirty water like that. If you ask around the relevant offices, you do not get satisfactory answers. We do not know what to do anymore. This situation is not good at all,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the city’s spokesperson Harold Akwenye confirmed the municipality’s knowledge about the community and the water situation in the area.
“These people were moved to that area as part of the controlled entry project. They were moved because of them occupying land illegally or road reserves. A water point is available; unfortunately, it is about 600 metres from where they live. Surely, as a caring council, we are looking at ways to make their lives comfortable and dignified where they are currently settled,” he explained.
“What should be clear from the beginning is that this is not a relocation but a placement of people who wanted to erect structures in the informal settlement through the controlled entry. Most of the people placed there are from groups that were camping in various areas. With controlled entry, a person would settle in an existing informal settlement as is, meaning that there are people who settled there before them. The request for the extension of water lines and more standpipes have been forwarded to engineering services for implementation.”