Avatar photo

By Cornelia Le Roux

Digital Deputy News Editor

Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu appointed acting minister of agriculture

Mchunu will fill the vacuum left by Thoko Didiza who has been appointed as National Assembly speaker with immediate effect.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed Water Affairs and Sanitation (DWS) Minister Senzo Mchunu as acting minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development.

“The appointment, which takes effect immediately, follows the election by the National Assembly of Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza as Speaker of the National Assembly,” reads a statement by the Presidency. 

The Presiency has not yet announced who will be filling Mchunu’s shoes as DWS minister in the interim.

Senzo Mchunu addresses water woes at conference

One could easily be forgiven for thinking that Ramaphosa’s ministerial move might have been met by a sigh of relief by Mchunu amid growing concerns that South Africa is facing a water crisis.

The country has been plagued by water shortages and challenges for several years.

Just last Wednesday, Mchunu spoke at the opening of the Water Institute of South Africa conference in Durban.

Municipalities must stop asking for billions − Mchunu

The minister told the media that the government does not have the billions of rand requested by municipalities to improve water supply, and local governments need to work with what they have.

He said the time has come for municipal heads to stop hammering on the fact that they have inherited aged and poorly maintained water infrastructure.

“They must now stop talking about needing R30 billion, or asking for R130 billion they are never going to have… Municipalities need to stop telling people about how much they need, they must tell people how much money they have for this year and how much they are dedicating to water,” Mchunu said.

ALSO READ: Limpopo in the ‘middle of a water crisis’ – Zibi

He added that 80% of income generated by municipalities from water sales was not reinvested back into water infrastructure, and this needed to change.

“At the moment, money that gets collected by municipalities from water doesn’t go back to infrastructure renewal… It goes to other things like salaries and fleets and the remainder goes to water.

“We want a turnaround where most of the money goes to water, and the remainder goes to the municipal manager for other needs.

Private providers and the ‘Sanral of water’?

Mchunu called for the seventh administration to ensure increased private sector participation in water provision, stating he had laid the foundation for the involvement of water providers during his tenure.

In April, presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya revealed that Ramaphosa has set up a task team − headed by Deputy President Paul Mashatile − to address water-related challenges.

According to him, plans were underway to develop a central body “like a Sanral of water” that will work on the planning, design, and building of water infrastructure across the country.

“It is a matter the president is attending to, and it is a matter he considers a crisis that needs to be addressed expeditiously.”

ALSO READ: Criminals hit water plant hours before minister’s visit

Thoko Didiza: From Minister of Agriculture and Land Reform to Speaker

Didiza took the seat of the Speaker during the first sitting of parliament held at Cape Town International Convention Centre on Friday, 14 June.

The new Speaker − who is a member of the African National Congress − received 284 votes against Economic Freedom Fighters’ Veronica Mente’s 49. 

“I also commit that I will work with all the parties, led by their whips and representatives, to make sure that we conduct the business of this parliament in a manner that indeed reflects the will of the people of South Africa,” Didiza said.

The Democratic Alliance’s Annelie Lotriet was elected deputy speaker after securing 273 votes.

NOW READ: New speaker thanks DA, IFP for backing her election

For more news your way

Download our app and read this and other great stories on the move. Available for Android and iOS.

For more news your way

Download our app and read this and other great stories on the move. Available for Android and iOS.