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By Getrude Makhafola

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‘It’s a sin to not provide water’ – Minister Mchunu tells summit

Mchunu said people had no access to water, and have to drink from the same streams along animals.

Officials were not appointed to dwell on problems but to deliver clean drinking water to communities, Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu said at a summit held in Midrand.

The water and sanitation national summit started on Friday and will conclude on Saturday.

Residents in many municipalities were forced to source water from animal drinking streams, said Mchunu.

“It’s a sin to not provide people with water and to instead listen to grievances while people que and drink the same water as donkeys and cows drink…dirty water. There is nothing civil about that, we have to fix that in an equitable way. 

“We were appointed to provide services and we are paid for that, not to describe a problem. The president wouldn’t have appointed us just to keep saying there is no water and that infrastructure is leaking..it cannot be, we have to rise to the occasion.” 

Outlining the state of the country’s water supply, Mchunu said municipalities were losing up to 60% of water due to dysfunctional infrastructure, low budgets and poor skills.

ALSO READ: Water, sanitation dept looking for solutions ahead of two-day summit

The average loss reported was at 40%, while very few municipalities reported a lower 26% loss of water.

South Africa has 5 641 dams and of those, 323 are owned by the department. At least 86 are owned by other government departments such as agriculture and land reform. Water boards own 121 of the water dams.

The current arrangement between water entities and municipalities could be the cause of supply problems the country was experiencing, Mchunu said.

“The general practice over time is that entities are responsible for bulk water supply while local government is responsible for reticulation.

“This may explain backlog we experience, which may have become a crisis as it were. This is what we have to attend to directly and right away.”

ALSO READ: Polokwane faces water crisis ‘due to operational challenges’

While struggling to ensure adequate and consistent water supply, consumption in South Africa is at 221 litres per capita per day compared to the world average, which is at 123 liters.

That meant that South Africa’s water demand far exceeded supply, said Mchunu.

“We find that sometimes dams are full, but the taps are dry…we may have water in rivers and dams but have water services in other streams that is not reaching communities.”

Regarding sanitation, the minister told delegates that government doesn’t have a national framework on sanitation.

“We do not have norms and standards, and so there is a lot that goes into sanitation that lead to spillage in tons across the country. What is unacceptable is having sewer spillage all over – during the day and at night you smell it from your bedroom even with windows closed….that is unacceptable.”

Several provinces still use the bucket system. Free State led with 10 000 buckets, followed by Eastern Cape’s Gqeberha with 9 000. Northern Cape has 5 000.

“There is unknown number of buckets in Mpumalanga and in Cape Town, Western Cape. Also, we have pit toilets, but pit toilets have colour and class generally in the country, and are also geographical,” said Mchunu.

The third category in sanitation are communal toilets, mostly in informal settlements.

Some informal settlements, the minister said, looked poised to become “permanent informal settlements” as they remained the same decades later.

“Human Settlement Minister Kubayi will be with us, but shouldn’t we try to make sure just settling anywhere is curtailed? It makes it hard to provide services… it remains a moving target that one can never overcome.”

Delegates will break into commissions and come up with solutions to water and sanitations problems.

NOW READ: Billions spent on water projects, but Limpopo villages still dry

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