Lubombo Regional Officer leaves residents dismayed
The dispute over the multi-million development project pioneered by SWADE to draw water from Simoyini area at KaPhunga all the way to Mamisa under Sithobela Inkhundla for agricultural purposes seems far from over.
A fortnight ago, the Observer on Saturday reported that angry residents of Simoyini halted this project and told the contractor Stefanuti Stocks in front of police officers to pack their tools and vanish from the area arguing that they were never consulted by theSwazilandAgriculturalDevelopment Enterprise (SWADE) when the project was initiated last year.
Work has already been halted in the area while officials from SWADE with the assistance of Shiselweni Regional Administrator (RA) Themba Masuku are doing all in their power to restore peace and understanding in the area for the project to resume.
Theproject,KaMambapotablewater supply scheme, is part of the Lower Usutu Smallholder Irrigation Project (LUSIP)IIthathascommencedearnestly in the Lubombo region.
Following a visit by the Shiselweni RA a fortnight ago where the residents told him in no uncertain terms that he should stop meddling in issues touching on the Lubombo region, they were this Thursday left in dismay after officials from the Lubombo Regional OfficebasedatSiphofaneniAdministrator denied them a chance to voice their concerns pertaining to the project to them.
In what they had thought was a meeting where they would all have a word with the officials from the Lubombo RA,theresidentsweretoldinnouncertain terms by the officials that the meeting was not for them.
LedbySeniorRegionalOfficer(SRO) identified as Masuku the officers in thecompanyofthosefromtheMinistry of Agriculture, SWADE and the European Union (EU) cut the meeting short telling the residents that they had come to meet only three families that are directly affected by the project.Thatis Gogo Tsikatiwhosehomestead is just next to the project’s reservoir, Liah Mbonane whose homestead graves were affected by the project as well as a Dlamini whose homestead was affected by rock-falls during the construction of an access road towards the source of the water.
After the meeting was cut short the fuming residents then resorted to seek an audience with the Lubombo RA so that their matter reaches its finality.
The fuming residents of Simoyini feel they are being robbed of their natural right to water from a little stream that runs in their area with its source also in the area as the water being drawn from Simoyini to benefit another community elsewhere would render them without adequate supply of water.
They feel that under the current circumstances they are not guaranteed that the water to be taken to Mamisa will be the surplus from the stream whileadequatewaterwouldstillremain for their consumption.
They have further complained that the contractor has decided to instal big pipes that will draw more than adequate water from their only source of livelihood for their agriculture while they have also destroyed their fields and graves while installing the pipes to draw the water.
This remote area is made of about 300 homesteads.
The residents have openly demanded that before SWADE resumes the project that appears to be about 70 percent complete to the naked eye, they should first construct a dam for them within the stream so that water can be adequately harvested before it is then taken to Mamisa.
TheyhavealsodemandedthatSWADE should also leave their area with clean potable water by enacting taps in each homestead.
During a recent meeting, the residents openly directed expletives at the Shiselweni RA blaming him for coming from the Shiselweni region to impose the project on them without the necessary consultations as they accused him of signing a document that the project should continue without ironing out very key issues with them.
Even this, Thursday they appeared ready to make their case heard until they were denied a chance to make any submissions before the government officials present on the day.
DEJECTED: Senior Reporter Bodwa Mbingo conducting an interview with some of the dejected residents.
OFF-LIMITS: These residents were pictured leaving the meeting venue after the government officials cut it short.
EMENENI: More residents pondering on the next step.