Durban - The drought may be having a devastating impact on land, livestock and people, but it has brought out the humanity in South Africans.
Not only has the public come forward, donating bottles of water to the Our Water/Project Thirst initiative, but the private sector, such as Independent Media, Shoprite and Checkers, has pulled together for the benefit of society.
That was the view of Mluleki Ndobe, mayor of the Harry Gwala District Municipality. He was speaking at the first distribution of water donated by the public and the Shoprite Group in KwaZulu-Natal in Highflats.
Boreholes have been the only source of water for the people in this area.
Those living in the nearest town of Ixopo have also had to revert to drawing underground water, with the Ixopo Dam as good as dry at 17%
The town has long since been an economic hub, but Highflats, which is mainly farmlands, is fast catching up.
“The more shops are built here, (the) more people come to work and hence we see more and more people living in the informal settlements around (the CBD),” Ndobe said.
The municipality has had to bring in water tankers from Umzimkhulu to ensure its citizens do not go thirsty.
“This is a costly exercise, but we are working on a more permanent solution,” Ndobe said.
A permanent solution would be most welcome for the residents of Mshay’azafe informal settlement, a stone’s throw from the Highflats CBD.
Street sweeper Nonhlanhla Shabalala, 49, lives with her three children and mechanic husband in a one-roomed mud dwelling at Mshay’azafe.
Her eldest daughter, Nompilo, 15, has to join the long queue at the dripping tap which is the only source of water for this community.
The 40 litres of water she received from Our Water/Project Thirst would at least give her clean drinking water for a week, she said.
On Tuesday, her children helped Shabalala carry home one of the 5l bottles of water from the War Memorial Hall where residents had gathered to collect the donated water.
They had to stop every few steps to change hands as the water proved too heavy for them. But it was easier than lugging 20-litre buckets from a spring in a forested area when the communal tap – connected to a neighbouring farm – was turned off at the weekend.
It is to help people like this that the Shoprite Group in KZN had got involved in drought relief, said KZN spokeswoman, Pinky Naidoo, who was at this first delivery to see for herself the smiles and relief as she helped hand out bottles of water.
These smiles were familiar to Gift of the Givers’ Salim Sayed.
Since last year, he has been involved in drought relief around the country as well as bringing aid to communities in other disaster areas around the world.
“The smiles never fail to warm my heart,” he said.