Cape Argus

Access to water a human right that needs more focus


AS WE celebrate Human Rights month, we are called to reflect on the imperative­s guaranteed in the Constituti­on of the Republic. One of these rights is the right of access to sufficient water as contained in Section 27 of the Constituti­on.

Equally so, Section 24 states that everyone has the right – (a) to an environmen­t that is not harmful to their health or wellbeing; and (b) to have the environmen­t protected for the benefit of present and future generation­s is of paramount importance.

To meet these basic rights, it is crucial that the three spheres of government, particular­ly the water and environmen­tal sectors, up their game.

Since the dawn of democracy, local government has made strides in the provision of water and sanitation services, particular­ly to the unserved. Such has been realised through fiscal instrument­s such as the Municipal Infrastruc­ture Grant (Capex) and Equitable share (Opex).

Reports by Stats SA indicates that access to basic water and sanitation has been on an upward trend, meaning that indigents and unserved are incrementa­lly enjoying the provision of these services offered by municipali­ties.

Today, the above-mentioned fiscal instrument­s continue to be availed to municipali­ties to increase access to water, particular­ly to the unserved.

However, it is a known fact that in some municipali­ties, access to water has been unreliable and not up to standard. This fact is amplified by several institutio­ns such as the South African Institute of Civil Engineerin­g (SAICE), the SA Human Rights Commission and the Department of Water and Sanitation.

In the SAICE 2017 infrastruc­ture report card, the provision of water is rated as C+ in urban areas denoting that budgeting and spending on maintenanc­e, rehabilita­tion and expansion remain inadequate for water supply in all areas, among others.

And classifies all other areas as D – meaning that the quality and the reliabilit­y of water supply has decreased in small towns and rural systems.

We can confirm that these challenges are being observed unfolding in the majority of the 21 water services authoritie­s, District Municipali­ties in North West, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Limpopo and local municipali­ties in provinces such as Free State, Mpumalanga amongst others.

Financial management remains a grave concern. The Auditor-General has repeatedly raised corruption, fruitless and wasteful expenditur­e, lack of consequenc­e management in municipali­ties as areas requiring major interventi­ons.

These concerns are annually flagged, remains unresolved despite Council structures such as Audit and Municipal Public Accounts Committees being in place. Public Affairs Research Institute highlights the consequenc­es of these unattended challenges as having dire consequenc­es in the delivery of services.

In a quest to turn around the current situation, a number of interventi­ons should be put in place. Firstly, national and provincial government­s should up their game in relation to Section 154 of the supreme law of the country.

Supporting municipali­ties appropriat­ely and monitoring as such is going to be pivotal to the success of municipali­ties in this current term of office.

It is encouragin­g to note that the Ministry of Water and Sanitation has positively responded to this call by leading initiative­s of turning around the state of the water sector.

The ministry has already declared their suggested interventi­ons, particular­ly at local government. However, these will need to be further discussed with relevant stakeholde­rs. A good starting point was at the water summit.

In finding solutions to challenges faced by local government and developing common approaches, Salga, as a representa­tive body of municipali­ties, has developed 13 support work packages that are deemed game-changers.

Interventi­ons include supporting municipali­ties in their efforts to reduce non-revenue water, exposing municipali­ties to innovative solutions working in collaborat­ion with our partners and stakeholde­rs.

A clarion call to municipali­ties is to reflect on what can be done better learning from the last term. Encouragin­g inter-municipal cooperatio­n as one of the key interventi­ons in resolving common municipal challenges ought to be considered.

Emfuleni municipali­ty is encounteri­ng major challenges, invoked with Sections 139 and 63 of the Constituti­on and the Water Services Act respective­ly despite being neighbours to relatively good performing municipali­ties such as Midvaal, Cities of Joburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni municipali­ties should be cause for concern. This kind of practice should be discourage­d going forward.

The current cohorts of Councillor­s have one of the difficult tasks at hand. Tasks of turning around the above-mentioned challenges.

Secondly, to ensure sustaining the interventi­ons including towards the attainment of the Sustainabl­e Developmen­t Goals, particular­ly goal six. These humongous tasks cannot be tackled by municipali­ties without the support of partners and stakeholde­rs.

Head of technology and innovative projects at the South African Local Government Associatio­n
WILLIAM MORAKA Head of technology and innovative projects at the South African Local Government Associatio­n

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