Mail & Guardian - - Cabinet Report Cards - 2017 Grade: n/a 2018 Grade: (The depart­ment is in an F state, but Nk­winti de­serves a C for try­ing hard to turn things around)

Raw sewage is flow­ing into rivers. The army has been de­ployed, dur­ing peace­time, to fix this cri­sis. Chil­dren are dy­ing be­cause they fall into pit toi­lets. Up to 20-mil­lion people don’t have clean wa­ter. The spe­cial in­ves­ti­gat­ing unit has wa­ter of­fi­cials in its sights and is lay­ing crim­i­nal charges. There are about 900 va­can­cies in the depart­ment.

By any mea­sure, the wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion depart­ment has failed to do its job. Catas­troph­i­cally so. In the past fi­nan­cial year, it couldn’t ac­count prop­erly for about half of its R17-bil­lion bud­get.

Lit­tle of this can be blamed on its new min­is­ter, Gugile Nk­winti. He in­her­ited what he told Par­lia­ment was “a mess”. Wa­ter af­fairs has had a decade of mis­man­age­ment and qual­i­fied au­dits. Nk­winti’s pre­de­ces­sor, Nomvula Mokonyane, in­ter­fered in ten­ders and left a depart­ment with­out long-term plan­ning. Un­der her ten­ure, a sys­tem of loot­ing and pa­tron­age in the wa­ter sec­tor was per­fected.

This started at a municipal level, where of­fi­cials would steal the bud­get for op­er­at­ing and main­tain­ing wa­ter and sew­er­age plants. These sys­tems soon fell apart. Raw sewage be­gan to flow into rivers. People be­gan to protest. Na­tional gov­ern­ment then de­clared an emer­gency and in­ter­vened, by­pass­ing stan­dard pro­cure­ment pro­cesses. Ten­ders went to com­pa­nies that do­nated to the right po­lit­i­cal party. This is why, af­ter R5-bil­lion has been spent, people in Giyani in Lim­popo still don’t have clean

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