The coronavirus crisis has prompted health authorities around the world to remind everyone of the importance of regular hand washing using soap and water. For most people in South Africa that is easy to do. But for a great many it is extremely difficult.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) has many failures: pervasive corruption, state capture, tragedies such as Esidimeni, rampant crime, power blackouts, poor schooling, and bankrupt state-owned enterprises among them.
But probably the worst in terms of its effect on vast numbers of ordinary people across the land is its failure to ensure reliable supplies of clean water. This despite the fact that the Constitution states that "everyone has the right to have access to...sufficient food and water".
Hardly a day goes past without yet another report of people in villages in various parts of the country having to trudge from their homes to springs or rivers or dams to collect water which they then carry home in buckets on their heads or carted by wheelbarrow.
Frequently the problem is not a temporary breakdown, but one that has been part of their lives year in and year out. The daily drudgery of the quest for water no doubt consumes so much time and energy that there is little left for more than the odd protest.
If the words of the Constitution mock these people, so do the ANC's spending priorities. Last month's budget noted that the National Treasury had spent R162 billion over the past 10 years on "financially distressed" state-owned enterprises, with another R16.4 billion to be given to SAA alone in the next few years.