Communities in Mzinyoni near Jozini in KwaZulu-Natal are facing a possible humanitarian disaster as they are forced to take what little water is left from a dam in which cattle carcasses lie rotting.

“The Mzinyoni Dam has shrunk to such an extent that people can no longer draw water from it and the elderly, out of desperation, are wading waist-deep into thick mud to try and trap fish, the only thing they can find to eat,” said the Siyazisiza Trust’s KZN provincial manager, Justin Bend.

“Cattle are dying at a horrifying rate, with many trapped and dying in the thick mud at the edge of the dam – from which people are still extracting water to drink,” Bend added.

He said people in the area were getting sick from drinking the water, which fuelled fears of a cholera outbreak, Zululand Observer reported.

Since 1987 the Siyazisiza Trust has been working in rural areas including Jozini, Nkandla, Ulundi and Nongoma, focusing on food security and craft projects.

“About 30% of our projects are dormant owing to the lack of water,” said Bend.

He also said the Mzinyoni community, with whom the trust is currently working, has had no running water since 2010 and municipal water tankers fail to deliver to this remote area.

“Our and all the other vegetable gardens in the area are no longer producing the crops that are so desperately needed by local people,” Bend said.

Meanwhile, business owners in Ladysmith have warned that the continued effects of water-shedding – a result of the drought – to establishments in the Danskraal industrial estate could cost jobs in both the short and long term.

“We are talking about 4 000 jobs here, a weekly salary bill of over R8 million that will be lost to the Ladysmith economy,” Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce & Industry president Mike Wood said.

While the job losses are not imminent, some factories are able to carry their workers through the period, absorbing the losses in production, while others have already begun to put staff on short-time, Wood said.