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'Raw sewage flows through the streets'

Northern Cape
Kimberley - Residents of Homevalley have said that incompetence by Sol Plaatje Municipality is forcing them to live in unhygienic conditions as raw sewage is running into their streets.

The residents said that three streets - Ivory Street, Cyntrex Street and Promon Street - have been flooded with sewage since November last year.

The nauseating stench is inescapable as one enters the area and puddles of sewage as well as diverted streams are visible in all the streets.

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A young child stands near raw sewage which overflows from drains in yard. Picture: Soraya Crowie

Community members said that they have had to live with the problem for the past six months.

They said that the problem was the result of the blocked manholes in the area.

“All the manholes in this area are blocked. The sewage from the blocked manholes flows into the streets and past our homes. We had to dig trenches in order to stop the sewage from running into our homes. There is not one person who is not affected by the problem, but residents with manholes in their yards are affected the worst,” the residents said.

Mieta Oliphant, whose home is one of the worst affected in the community, said that they had alerted the municipality about the problem many times.

To get to Oliphant’s home, located in Ivory Street, one has to jump over several sewage streams and puddles.

The family is quick to advise those entering the yard on how to step on the three bricks which have been laid out at the gate in order to avoid stepping into a puddle of sewage.

Trenches have been dug next to the house in order for the sewage to flow out of the yard, however, the dismal sight of used toilet paper scattered over the ground still remains.

The manhole is situated at the back of one of the two shanties that were built at the back of the house.

Human waste has become stuck in the overgrown grass around the manhole. Oliphant said that the problem poses a serious health risk to all living in the house.

“My children are coughing all day because of the stench and sewage. It is really tough to constantly keep an eye on them to make sure that they do not play in the sewage, as it is running right past the house."

“We also cannot sleep peacefully at night as the stench fills up the entire house, which results in us having headaches. The headaches are so bad that it feels like one’s skull is going to crack open.”

She added that the situation had made their lives miserable.

“The front yard is filled with sewage and we have to constantly clear the yard of all the toilet that piles up when the manhole overflows. We also have to put dry soil on the wet patches in the yard in order for us to move around."

“The shanties at the back of the yard get flooded often."

“It is an ongoing battle that we have been struggling with for many months and it is so disgusting to live under these conditions."

“We had to deal with this problem throughout the festive season and the Easter holidays. Those are times when most people have family visiting and celebrations. We, however, cannot have visitors as it is so embarrassing to answer when visitors question why we live like this,” said Oliphant.

She added that they were even unable to celebrate her grandmother’s 88th birthday.

“Our grandmother is celebrating her birthday today but we cannot even have a party for her. How would we serve people food in these conditions? Just entering the yard is a mission as one has to step on bricks to gain access into the yard. The older people we would want to invite would not be able to attend,” said Oliphant.

Other residents shared the same frustration as the Oliphant family.

Sarah Kock said that they have been “held hostage” by the sewage.

“There is sewage flowing in every street in this area. We are not able to move around freely as everything is soaking wet. Our streets look like the aftermath of heavy rain but the wetness is not rainwater."

“We are not able to enjoy life fully because of the stench and unhygienic conditions we live under. Everything and everywhere we go is contaminated. We might just die from an illness because of a problem that can be prevented,” said Kock.

“We have been calling the municipality and have informed them about the problem. The person who would answer the phone would just give us a reference number. Everyone in this area has a reference number. No-one, however, comes out to fix the problem. We are left in this disgusting situation.”

The ward councillor, Clifford Lewis, said that he has also tried to get assistance from the municipality, but with no luck.

“I sent numerous messages to the municipal employees and photos in order to solve the problem. I was also promised that the problem would be solved but nothing has been done,” said Lewis.

“The residents are expecting the councillor to provide services. The people do not blame the council but the councillor when they are not receiving the basic services they should get. I have sent several pictures to the municipal manager as well. Problems like these are painting councillors with a bad brush as people accuse us of not doing our work.”

Municipal spokesperson, Sello Matsie, said that they would attend to the problem on Monday.

“The main pipe, which connects all the houses in the area, is blocked and that is where the problem stems from. A team will be deployed on Monday (today) to attend to the problem. An excavator will dig up the broken pipe and replace it with a new pipe.

“The municipal manager was aware of the problem and has given instruction for the problem to be fixed. We apologise to residents for the inconvenience and request their patience as the team conducts its work in the area,” said Matsie.

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