*Lepashe cut off as rivers overflow after torrential rains
A potentially tragic situation is rapidly developing in the small village of Lepashe, some 173km west of Francistown.
Nestled between the two rivers of Matsitama and Lepashe, the village, under the Tutume Sub-District, has been cut off from the rest of the country since Monday following recent torrential rains.
Lepashe, whose population is predominantly made up of Basarwa and stood at a little under 700 in the 2011 census, gets services from the villages of Mosetse, Dukwi, but primarily from Tutume.
However, when the rivers flood – as they currently have – accessing the village becomes a challenge.
With no bridges to bypass either river, it means one has to brave the raging waters in order to reach the settlement.
Speaking to The Voice on Wednesday, Village Development Committee (VDC) Chairperson, Gorataone Gasemotho admitted the lack of a proper bridge has been a big challenge for the village for as long as he can remember.
“The issue of the bridge has always been at the top of the agenda. Sadly the government has not done anything to address this situation. It is disheartening, especially during a time like this. You’d expect the government to come with a plan to help people across the river, but Lepashe people have been abandoned to fend for themselves!” he insisted.
Gasemotho revealed a Good Samaritan in the village has availed his tractor to help people cross the river to access much-needed services in Tutume.
“Funny enough, even government officials relied on the same tractor on Tuesday when they came to pay Ipelegeng workers,” he disclosed dryly, finding no humour in his words.
“It is bad and it usually takes a week for the river to subside. In the meantime, people have been separated from their livestock and their loved ones, because of a river,” Gasemotho told The Voice.
He further said he was worried about expectant women who were supposed to be transported to Tutume Hospital for delivery.
“They are stuck here. I’ve personally counted 12 women who’re all due. The clinic here doesn’t have a maternity ward and no ambulance can cross this side to help them. This means these heavily pregnant women may have to use a tractor to cross the river to find assistance. It is really a bad situation that needs immediate attention,” reiterated the VDC Chair.
“Lepashe is literally an island at the moment. Some tuckshop owners who had gone to buy stock are still stuck on the other side of the river, while some of us have to wait for the river to subside to check if our livestock survived the heavy falls,” continued Gasemotho, becoming increasingly agitated as he speaks.
For his part, Lepashe Councillor, Ntshima Mctean Jimane described the issue of the bridge as ‘a sensitive one’ for his constituents.
“I’m dealing with that issue as we speak. I’m supposed to meet with the Minister in the coming weeks, to find out why construction of the bridge has not started,” said Jimane.
The unimpressed Councillor revealed to The Voice that a tender for the construction of the bridge was flighted but later pulled down without any explanation.
“This means the project was allocated funds but the tender was never awarded. We’ve to get to the bottom of this as my constituents are suffering. This river (Lepashe) has been a menace for so many years. It should have been a priority before erecting streetlights in Tutume, including tarring the road. The council is paying lip service to the people of Lepashe,” maintained the irritable politician.
“Today we have a potentially tragic situation on our hands. We’ve heavily pregnant women, the sick and old who need medical attention in Tutume. They’re however stuck in an island and are at the mercy of a tractor owner. This is unacceptable!” fired Jimane.
With the heavy rains forecast to continue until a least the weekend, Lepashe’s plight is set to get worse before it gets better. For the village’s pregnant women, this could spell disaster!