The Free State town and its communities had been experiencing the full might of a severe drought since December, 2015. But now they have a reason to smile as help has been coming from a lot of sources.
A water drive that was started on Facebook as a simple plea by Caroline VAN Saasen a working mother from Middelburg has grown into a nationwide campaign organised by ordinary people on the social media.
“It has snowballed into something I never experienced in my life,” said Caroline van Saasen who was responsible for the drive on her Facebook page Water Shortage South Africa (WSSA).
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Van Saasen said she came up with the idea while going through Facebook during the Christmas holidays. She became more and more upset and disturbed by reports of people having absolutely no water after some parts of the country struggled with drought.
Thus, she came up with a simple idea to suggest to people during one of the country’s travel holiday periods to make space in their car trunks to allow them take a few bottles of water with them to drop off to people at the towns in need of water. People across South Africa responded positively and took up the challenge immediately.
This clarion call has grown into something so big that almost 19,000 people are involved in it. Yet Saasen refused to take credit for the campaign.
“At one of the drop-offs at Sannieshof a little boy walked over and downed a whole one litre bottle of water immediately. He had not had water for three days,”
“It is not me. There are 18 500 people behind this drive,” she said.
“It is not my project. It was just my Facebook page,” she said. “It is absolutely amazing.”
A volunteer on the Facebook page Ray de Vries said, “The beautiful thing about it, is it’s organic. It’s pure heart, it’s pure soul.”
Ray’s first delivery was “heart wrenching” according to him. He had delivered some water on New Year’s Eve to a home where 72 elderly people lived in Senekal in the Free State who had not had regular water supplies for 28 days. They did not even have any water to flush toilets at the home.
After dropping the water off, he went back to Gauteng for New Year’s Eve and discussed about where he had just been. “The next morning people got excited and drove 500 litres of water to Senekal.”
Also, several biker clubs have volunteered to make water drops in Senekal and surrounding areas to help people to survive the drought.
So far, 14 clubs have donated more than 2000 litres of water to the Free State towns, said the organizer Gerhard Schutte, of the Wild Hogs Bike Club, on Wednesday 13th January.
“I woke up with this idea that we as bikers needed to collect and donate water and I also asked other clubs if they were interested, and within hours they joined,” he said.
The defense force in Bethlehem, aid organisations and some people from other provinces also joined in delivering water to residents in Senekal.
The Setsoto local municipality was providing more than 260,000litres of water a day to residents, which summed up to 50 litres per household a day but the residents complained that 50litres per day was not sufficient for each household.
At least 12 farmers had been selling water to the Setsoto local municipality for 15 cents a litre since December. However, the farmers became concerned that their boreholes were running dry, and had reduced their output for sale.
Some bottled water were delivered to Free State communities affected by the drought on Wednesday by Gift of the Givers Foundation. “Today we are meeting with the disaster management team to determine which areas to focus on, but we want to focus more on areas that struggle to get water,” the foundation’s chairperson Imtiaz Sooliman said.
Sooliman said they would provide a water tanker for the area and more water would also be sent to QwaQwa.
Some residents expressed their disappointment and said if taps did not start running with clean water soon, they would not vote in this year’s local government elections.
“They want us to vote for them, but when we need help they don’t want to assist at all. We are not voting this year,”.
The drought continues.