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By Marizka Coetzer

Journalist


Tshwane and department partnership key to SA’s water future

City-department deal signals dept's growing role in water sector, but the Rooiwal plant remains scandalous, and expert warns.


The deal signed by the city of Tshwane and the department of water and sanitation showed the department had been playing an increasingly stabling role in the collapsing water sector, said Anthony Turton, a scientist specialising in water resources.

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“This is largely attributed to director-general Dr Shaun Phillips, who has assembled a very strong leadership team and a serious indictment of what the department has become – particularly after Nomvula Mokonyane stopped regulating the blue and green drop reports and started protecting the municipalities that were performing badly to prevent a negative outcome at the voting stations.

“That’s not the role of a regulator, it’s the role of a political activist,” Turton said.

Turton was part of the South African Water Chamber which worked closely with the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) to call for an independent water regulator.

“The department cannot play and referee in the same game, but they are certainly players now.”

Turton said the Rooiwal wastewater treatment plant remained a scandal.

“It’s important for the public to know there was an enormous amount of skulduggery taking place on the procurement side of Rooiwal that deserves investigation. It has led to the loss of human life in the last cholera outbreak.”

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Turton said the future of the country includes large wastewater treatment plants being recapitalised through public-private partnerships and converted into water recovery plants for selling industrially processed water.

“The future of South Africa is increasingly going to rely on a dual steam reticulation economy where water of different purposes and prices are going be used for different processes.

“It doesn’t make sense selling everybody drinking-class water when you are going to flush it down the toilet,” he said.

The future of South Africa lies in strategic partnerships such as the one between Tshwane and the department, Turton said.

“We also need partnerships that rely on the private sector and public-private management of critical water assists, such as Rooiwal.”

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