Floods wreak havoc in Leribe

LERIBE — When all is well Matukeng village in Leribe district is a beautiful place to live.

The school and the clinic are not very far away.

The soil is rich and pastures are enough to feed livestock.

Winters are cold but not terribly so.

But sometimes nature turns against this quiet village.

For years now, the people have come to dread the dangers that come with heavy rains.

When heavy rains fall water flows from the Tsikoane Plateau into the village.

With no proper drainage system the water ends up in their houses. 

So every time it rains the people of Matukeng have to brace themselves for the worst.

Their homes are flooded and fields are submerged.

This is what happened to the Habasise family when heavy rains pounded the village — for days — last week.

This time not only did the water flood their home but it also almost swept away the family of five.

‘Matebello Habasise, her husband and their three children escaped death by a whisker last Saturday morning. 

We were caught unawares, Habasise says.

“We were still in bed in the morning when water started filling our house. At first I thought it was just cold wind. But when I reached out and touched the floor I realised that the house was flooded,” Habasise said.

She panicked.

Outside, the water had risen up to window level.

“We picked up the children and hurried to the main door but we quickly realised that more water was coming in.”

Habasise said by the time they moved to an unfinished room in the house the water had reached knee level.

First, the husband scrambled up the wall and then pulled the children to safety.

By this time Habasise, who had remained in the flooded house to help the children get to the father, had half her body under water.

“Water had risen up to my waist. I was scared. I struggled to catch my husband’s hand as he reached for me.”

Eventually he managed to pull her up.

“I could not believe my luck. If I was still down there I could have drowned,” she said.

They remained perched on the roof of their house until they were rescued by fellow villagers.

When this paper visited Matukeng on Tuesday, Habasise was still rummaging through the little of what was left of their belongings.

The family is now renting a house in Hlotse — a nearby town in Leribe.

“We are moving out. We cannot continue staying in this house.

“We experience this crisis every rain season but it has never been anything like this. We could die in here. This house is no longer safe,” she said.

There are other villagers whose houses were flooded in the same week.

They too are now scared to go back to their homes. 

“We are in danger. We could drown or our houses could collapse on us,” said ‘Mathabiso, one of the villagers whose home was flooded.

The problem is that people like ‘Mathabiso and Habasise don’t have a plan B.

“We know we have to move from here but where else can we go? We cannot afford buying sites and building from scratch. We are stranded,” ‘Mathabiso added.

The government is also overwhelmed by the flood crisis in Matukeng.

The Tsikoane constituency MP Khotso Matla, who is also the Assistant Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, said they still had to figure out how the people can be helped.

On Tuesday Matla visited the village to see how the people were doing after the Saturday floods.

“This is a crisis. The people are desperate. They need help. They say their houses were built when they used to work in the mines years ago and now cannot afford relocating and building new houses. So evacuating them is not that easy,” Matla said.

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