Three weeks of dry taps came to an end for the Aliwal North community in the Eastern Cape after rainfall in Lesotho trickled down, bringing relief for thousands.
Drought conditions reached a critical point in the Joe Gqabi District after water supply ceased after the Orange River dried up. The river is a major supplier for Aliwal North.
On Monday, however, a storm in Lesotho saw water begin trickling down into the Orange River to the Aliwal North area, bringing much needed relief for residents.
Speaking to News24, Jakkie Van Zyl, spokesperson for the Aliwal North Business Forum, said the community was shocked when the Orange River stopped flowing.
“It is just something that no one could have imagined. There was no real preparation for something like this, which made it a disaster when it happened. For three weeks,water supply virtually stopped. It is absolutely terrible.”
According to Van Zyl, people began to feel the stress of the situation.
“It became all about survival. We were lucky that the farmers close to town came to our rescue, supplying us with borehole water. It was a tremendous relief for us all.”
Van Zyl added that while there were no recorded incidents of violence during the water shortage, there were reports of vandalism in townships, with two water tanks and taps vandalised.
“We are in the process of requesting the department of water and sanitation to negotiate with the Lesotho government to open the Katse Dam in their country to bring us some added relief. We do not have a dam in Aliwal, so we rely on flow of water.”
Municipal spokesperson Fiona Sephton said 90% of taps now had running water.
“The storm in Lesotho brought the much needed supply into the Orange River. There has been amazing work by the community coming together during these hard times. From farmers to business people, the community has been taking control of the situation and not just sitting back.”
Sephton also confirmed isolated incidents of vandalism.