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Municipalities water crisis’ weakest link – Mchunu

Minister says problem is not scarcity but supply lapses

Water tankers distributing water to residents of South Hills in Johannesburg.
Water tankers distributing water to residents of South Hills in Johannesburg.

Minister of Water and Sanitation Senzo Mchunu has put the country’s poor water supply to households on municipalities, charging that the country has enough water for its citizens. 

Speaking during the ANC NEC meeting press conference in Ekurhuleni on Sunday, Mchunu blamed municipalities for poor water provision to communities, which has hit many provinces, especially Gauteng. 

“Even though SA is a water-scarce country but we just have enough water available [at damns and rivers] and we are stable. There word “crisis” doesn't apply – but because of climate change there are dangers here and there and to mitigate those we have augmented the water resources as a safety measure.

“Where there is a problem is at water provision level, also known as water reticulation, to your homes. In terms of the legislative architect, that duty falls into local government [municipalities]. As we all know, municipalities have been declining lately in terms of providing water and other services to communities. With that decline, it’s clear that water provision is going to suffer, and what we are doing is to ensure that the decline of water services in the municipalities doesn’t affect the water source,” said Mchunu.

Minister of water and sanitation Senzo Mchunu.
Minister of water and sanitation Senzo Mchunu.
Image: GCIS

He said that his department had engaged with municipalities and the department of co-operative governance and traditional affairs  to help waterboards work beyond water reticulation. He said last year they started upskilling workers at various municipalities in Gauteng to help them manage their water better, especially during upswing of water usage, which was detected in August in Gauteng. He said they had also been involved in trying to eradicate illegal water connections and introduced water shifting. 

Mchunu said his department was in talks with Emfuleni Municipality and their objective was to allow their municipality to procure a waterboard that would also be responsible for water reticulations into homes. 

“We will give the providers licences to deal with water reticulation and comply with certain standards, and as soon as their service deteriorates we will withdraw the licence and then we will look for another service provider,” said Mchunu. He said this arrangement would be extended to KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga with the aim of turning the situation around. 

Mchunu’s announcements came at the back of criticism he received from Johannesburg mayor Kabelo Gwamanda, who blamed the department of incompetence that has seen the country's taps run dry. 

“The minister of water and sanitation [Mchunu] has a responsibility to supply bulk water and the current disruptions indicate a monumental incapacity to do so. He should be best advised to urgently attend to matters within his area of responsibility and to avoid creating dramatic smokescreens to shield the incompetence of his officials and entities,” said Gwamanda two weeks ago.

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