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