(25 January 2012)
Their life is now nomadic. They travel long distances literally on a daily basis not in search of pastures or fertile farming lands like the Masayi or the San communities of yesteryear. Theirs is the quest for access to clean water and basic health facilities. Unlike the Masayi and the San who used to settle where they have found their pastures and arable lands, the people of Ward 4 in Matobo have to comprehend the scorching heat and rough terrain to and from the sources of water and health.
Access to Health
Villagers who spoke to Habakkuk Trust during the advocacy workshop conducted at Edwaleni primary school on Tuesday revealed that they travel upto 30km to access the nearest clinic as there is no such facility within the ward. ‘Some villagers die before even reaching the clinic as it is far and there is no easy access to transport’ revealed Mrs. Gracious Ncube, a village secretary. Another lady villager who is a village health worker explained that maternal health is heavily compromised as some pregnant women need specialist attention during delivery.
The Councilor of the ward, Councilor Sibangani Ncube also explained that people living with HIV and AIDS are facing a great risk as ‘some of them need counseling but they are not able to access such services’. To evade defaulting, most of then ask the Councilor whenever he is going to Maphisa Centre to refill their Anti-Retroviral Therapy.
Access to water
Villager also lamented lack of government efforts in addressing their water needs. A village head who spoke on condition of anonymity complained that ‘since independence we have been reporting to the relevant authorities year in and year out that access to water is a major challenge in this area, but they have done literally nothing about it’. Reports from all the seven villages in the ward revealed that there are few boreholes and dams in the area. Most of the boreholes were drilled long back and the dams have now silted. ‘It’s true most of the boreholes in this area are actually older than me hence the incessant breakdown,’ explained the 37 year old Councilor.
Sibonisiwe Ndlovu from Mashumba village explained that the village used to survive from a borehole within a nearby school but since the borehole has now broken down, the school is at the brink of closure as teachers are complaining of uninhabitable conditions.
Issues of access to water and health are not only peculiar to Matobo ward 4 only. Habakkuk Trust has in the past 6 years been assisting communities in Gwanda, Tsholotsho, Mangwe, Matobo and Bulawayo to advocate on such issues. Major advocacy successes have been realized in some areas, though more holistic and permanent solutions need to be implemented. The Policy dialogue meeting on water that was held in Mangwe in December 2011 resolved that there is need of a comprehensive national water policy guarantying every citizen access to accessible clean water on a daily basis. It was also resolved that Matabeleland South need to be declared a water shortage area and adequate government resource allocations and special measures be availed to solve the problem.