Well diggers were warned - Shilongo

19 June 2019 | Local News

A report compiled by Ohangwena chief regional officer Fillipus Shilongo has revealed that a team of well diggers were advised not to continue with their activities at Okatope, where tragedy struck over the weekend when two of them were buried alive.

Shilongo said the team leader of the diggers had approached Ohangwena constituency councillor Johannes Hakanyome's office for assistance with tools and equipment before the tragedy this past Saturday in which 29-year-old Kashima Junias Hauwanga and 36-year-old Jacob Hangula lost their lives.

The councillor's office had, however, not assisted the diggers and rather advised them that the soil in the area was not conducive to digging wells.

Hauwanga and Hangula were trapped in the six-metre-deep hole on Saturday afternoon and their bodies were only recovered on Sunday morning, after masses of sand collapsed on them while they were digging.

According to Shilongo, Fillipus Shaduka reported to local headwoman Frida Melila that he intended to dig a private well in his mahangu field and recruited four people to do so.

“The team leader of the recruited people approached the councillor's office for assistance with tools and equipment.

The councillor's office could not intervene since the well was an individual and private project, it rather advised them to stop such a well as the soil in the area is not suitable for wells. Unfortunately they did not adhere to the advice from the councillor,” said Shilongo.

He had urgently tasked regional director of water supply and sanitation coordination, Lazarus Shikololo, chief administrative officer for emergencies, Thomas Mwandingi, and control administrative officer for the Ohangwena constituency, Josephine Oiva, to find out what had transpired at Okatope.

According to Shilongo, Shaduka had reported to Melila that he intended to dig a private well in his mahangu field, which is about 50 metres from his house.

He then recruited four people from the surrounding villages to dig his well, so he could use the water to construct his house and for household consumption.

Although, the community claims the incident happened due to the severe drought and water shortages in the area, Shilongo said there are four government-installed water points within a 2km radius that can be used by people and livestock.

Water pressure at one of the water points has been low since the beginning of this month, which resulted in long queues.

Melila indicated there are also three operational traditional wells in the village.

“As per the assessment in terms of water availability in the village there are four water points constructed by the government within the radius of 2km and two of them have cattle troughs; one is in use and the other one is closed due to outstanding payment. “The nearest water point is in the radius of about 900m from his (Shaduka's) house.

According to the housekeeper they are not using that water point since they do have their private off-take in the house of Shaduka's father house, which about a 500m distance from his house (sic),” Shilongo said in his report.

“The water pressure at one water point is a bit low since the beginning of June 2019, which resulted in a long queue at the water points. The directorate of rural water supply and coordination team should do an assessment on the water pressure in the pipeline. Community members should be discouraged to dig traditional wells; (they should) rather apply for private off-takes.”

Shaduka and other community members told Namibian Sun that due to the drought situation, neighbours also do not want them to use water from their wells anymore and that is why people are making an effort to secure their own water supply.

Shilongo said there is a need refill the pit in which the two diggers died, as it may be life-threatening to human beings, especially children, as well as livestock.


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