Dispute over Limpopo clinic site halts project

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Plans to build a R20-million clinic near Lebowakgomo in rural Limpopo have stalled due to a disagreement over its location. 

Mining company Sibanye-Stillwater took on the project in 2019 after the communities of two rural villages, Dithabaneng and Makurung,  requested a larger facility to serve the growing population.  The Dithabaneng Clinic currently serves five villages.

A site for the new clinic was chosen near the high school in Makurung, but Dithabaneng village residents have proposed a different site.

Headmen at odds over clinic location 

Makurung Village headman Percy Shogole say the site makes the most sense.  It is also the location chosen by the traditional authority.

“We are not going to agree to this unfairness. The site next to the school is convenient for both villages, no argument about that.”

Trevor Mphahlele, the spokesperson for the Mphahlele Traditional Authority, which oversees Dithabaneng and Makurung villages, confirms that the site next to Thagaetala High School in Makurung is the approved location.

“It is central for both villages. This is the site where we gave the mine the go-ahead to commence with construction.”

But the headman of Dithabaneng Village, Mogalatjane Mphahlele,  says their proposed site is not far from the current facility.

”We opted for a nearby site that was a playground.  But now, as the project should kick off, here comes certain individuals from Makurung demanding the clinic to be moved to their village.”

Villagers frustrated over clinic dispute

Meanwhile, residents of both villages are frustrated by the delay.

Shadi Mmuroa of Makurung village says, “I prefer a big clinic here in Makurung. But I do not support the delay in the building of a new clinic. I think two new clinics, one for each village, could save the situation.”

Sello Ntsoane, a resident of Dithabaneng village, expressed concern that the mining company would walk away from the project due to the disagreement. “Whichever village hosts the clinic does not matter to me. Our villages are not far apart, and we are all under the senior Mphahlele royal traditional leadership. I dread to see the mine stepping back because of our bickering over a site,” Ntsoane says.

Another Dithabaneng resident, Hlapogadi Mekgolokwane, says they desperately need a larger clinic that offers more services and privacy for patients. “My problem is when you have to explain your illnesses, answering questions from nurses while other patients easily hear the conversation. I don’t care whether the clinic is in Dithabaneng or Makurung village. It must be up to standard and not very far away”, Mekgolokwane says.

Construction stalled until dispute resolved

Thabisile Phumo, the spokesperson for Sibanye-Stillwater, says they can’t start building until the two villages resolve their dispute.

“The intention was to complete this clinic this year, but it will now depend on the resolution of the dispute,” Phumo says.

She says once the building is complete, the mining company would hand it over to the Limpopo Department of Health to run.

Mediation efforts fail

Limpopo Health Department spokesman Neil Shikwambana says efforts to mediate between the villages have so far failed.

“The dispute has brought the project to a halt. And unfortunately, we cannot dictate where the clinic must be built. The final decision lies with the community, and the onus lies with them,” he says. –Health-e News

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