Sehla­bathebe: A for­got­ten trea­sure

Sunday Express - - NEWS -

SEHLA­BATHEBE in the dis­trict of Qacha’s Nek is a na­tional trea­sure — or it should be — ow­ing to the in­ter­na­tion­ally-renowned Sehla­bathebe Na­tional Park which is one of the few na­ture re­serves where lo­cal and for­eign tourists can view dif­fer­ent species of an­i­mals.

Sadly, the area which is the home of long-serv­ing for­mer premier, Pakalitha Mo­sisili, long de­gen­er­ated into a back­wa­ter where grind­ing poverty is com­pounded by the acute lack of ba­sic ser­vices in­clud­ing bad roads, lack of elec­tric­ity, in­ad­e­quate health and ed­u­ca­tion ser­vices.

The Sun­day Ex­press re­cently vis­ited the area and the com­mon thread in all the con­ver­sa­tions was the seem­ingly un­end­ing plight the locals have to en­dure be­cause of poor ser­vice de­liv­ery.

It does not mat­ter that the area is home to the long-serv­ing for­mer prime min­is­ter who re­mains the leg­is­la­tor for Tsoe­like Con­stituency de­spite his party’s loss in the 3 June 2017 gen­eral elec­tions.

Dr Mo­sisili has been a leg­is­la­tor since the 1990s but this has not en­sured smooth tarred roads in place of the parched gravel roads that can be im­pass­able in the rainy sea­son.

This has not re­sulted in greater ac­cess to piped wa­ter and elec­tric­ity for many peo­ple.

In­stead, the faces one meets are faces of woe and de­spair, weighed down by the un­re­lent­ing poverty. There is talk that crime is es­ca­lat­ing due to high lev­els of un­em­ploy­ment.

The bumpy roads have made travel to Qacha’s Nek town a night­mare. One has to wake up as early as 4am to pre­pare for the road trip which is at least four hours long be­cause of the poor state of the roads.

The return trip is equally a night­mare and one would curse their ances­tors should they miss a ve­hi­cle while hik­ing be­cause most trans­port op­er­a­tors shun the area on ac­count of the state of the roads.

There is never a chance to re­lax and savour the trip and those who are in­dis­posed due to stom­ach ail­ments are ad­vised against trav­el­ling un­less it is ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary.

They risk em­bar­rass­ing them­selves as the bumpy ride could ac­tu­ally pre­ma­turely in­duce the call of na­ture which would not be ideal when in the com­pany of oth­ers on the jour­ney.

Vis­i­tors to the Na­tional Park also have to think long and hard be­fore un­der­tak­ing the trip be­cause of the poor road. In view of this, it is highly likely that the coun­try is los­ing out on for­eign cur­rency due to the fail­ure to ad­dress the road sit­u­a­tion.

One of the com­mu­nity mem­bers, Ma­likopo Mo­hapi, be­moaned the lack of trans­port and the gen­eral state of the area.

“This is our ev­ery­day sit­u­a­tion and although we try, one can never get used to this,” Ms Mo­hapi said, adding, “It’s not easy and very un­bear­able as we find our­selves trapped in this area all our lives”.

Ms Mo­hapi said they only had one clinic which was of­ten con­gested due to the short­age of health per­son­nel.

“The lack of pub­lic trans­port and bad roads also plays a part in the fail­ure to ac­cess the health ser­vices.”

She also said that wa­ter was scarce and there were days when there was noth­ing com­ing through the taps due to the low ca­pac­ity of the wa­ter tanks.

“When that hap­pens we have no choice but to re­sort to spring wa­ter or fetch wa­ter from the river for wash­ing”.

An­other vil­lager, Male­ba­mang Le­bofa, said the lack of elec­tric­ity cre­ated a dark­ness which pro­moted crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties, adding they lived in fear of theft of their prop­erty.

She also said that stock theft was com­mon in the area.

The com­mu­nity called on the govern­ment to re­mem­ber them in their strate­gic plans for devel­op­ment be­cause they were fed up of their sta­tus as the for­got­ten ones de­spite be­ing cit­i­zens and voters.

“It’s also very surprising for this area to be for­got­ten like this when it has the most pop­u­lar tourist at­trac­tion,” Ms Le­bofa said.

An­other vil­lager, Nongu­l­u­lane Hu­lane said poverty had pushed many peo­ple into neigh­bour­ing South Africa to look for jobs.

“There are no jobs here such as the work for food or cash which we used to have.

“It’s not good for us to al­ways been seen cross­ing to a for­eign coun­try to seek for jobs be­cause our own coun­try fails to cre­ate em­ploy­ment for us. Some peo­ple even die there,” Ms Hu­lane said.

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