Govt's lack of water management main reason for disaster – AfriForum

Organisation says South Africa is now years behind schedule regarding construction of dams

Government’s lack of proper water management the main reason for disaster 

14 March 2018

The civil rights organisation AfriForum believes Government’s own negligence and incompetence are largely responsible for South Africa’s water problems, and not climatic factors as is currently being conveyed. This follows after Zweli Mkhize, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, yesterday declared the ongoing drought as a national disaster.  

Dr Eugene Brink, Strategic Adviser at AfriForum, says not only is Government years behind schedule regarding the construction of dams, but that too much water is also being lost due to the lack of maintenance. “Government’s transformation policy has led to essential technical and managerial skills in state departments concerned with water being lost. Approximately 37% of South Africa’s drinkable water is currently being wasted due to, among others, water leakages.”  

Persons with the required skills must be appointed on merit to tackle these problems. “The entire country’s social welfare and stability is at stake when it comes to water, and political games can simply not be played in this regard. Government had to make provision for a growing population’s water needs, yet the country is losing massive amounts of water and planned new dams are not being built.” 

According to Brink, the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) is the picture of poor management. In 2016/2017, the DWS incurred R715 million of irregular and more than R400 million of unauthorised expenditure. “Tender corruption is the order of the day and it most definitely has an impact on water supply.” 

Marcus Pawson, Head of Environmental Affairs at AfriForum, says that the country as a whole is already in a water crisis with the national demand of water currently only just complying with the national supply. The DWS is already five years behind schedule with macro projects to develop and further extend water schemes in Lesotho. 

“Any change in South Africa’s normal rainfall patterns will cause a water shortage. The DWS and Government in its entirety do not seem able to manage water to the benefit of the country. That is the result of the exodus of expertise during the past two decades and gangsters within Government misappropriating budgets to benefit themselves. Furthermore, Blue and Green Drop Reports were issued years ago, and the most recent reports suggested that drinking and waste water are in a pitiable condition at a lot of places,” says Pawson. 

Brink also questions the step to declare the drought as a national crisis while the dams in many provinces are full or fairly full. “Government must rather focus on the implementation of better policies and management mechanisms, because the country’s water problems are not a new crisis and climate phenomena are only a contributing factor.”    

The public is subsequently encouraged to join civil rights organisations like AfriForum. AfriForum and communities are successfully placing pressure on many municipalities to improve their water quality and supply, while an effort is also being made regarding self-management initiatives.  

Is your water clean? SMS the name of your town to 45354 and give AfriForum the mandate to test the quality of your town’s water. Each SMS costs R1.

Issued by Natasha Venter, Media Relations Officer, AfriForum, 14 March 2018