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The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) has noted with concern the outbreak of cholera in some parts of Gauteng and is calling on all levels of government to work together to stop the spread of this deadly disease.
This outbreak is a reminder that South Africa faces a water crisis that has been ignored for many years. The South African government has done a lot of work to extend access to water since the transition to democracy but very little has been done to improve the quality of the water available to an average citizen.
The lack of proper sanitation in many poor communities remains a big problem. The outbreak of cholera is a reminder that municipalities need to actively maintain their water infrastructure. We hope that the significant increases allocated for water infrastructure in the Budget and the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework will be spent efficiently.
The country suffers not only from water scarcity but also from water pollution. Mining provinces suffer from acid mine drainage and very little has been done to address these issues. The massive backlog in mine rehabilitation points to the need to ensure that the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy is adequately resourced to ensure compliance by the industry and that those mining companies which fail to uphold their environmental obligations are taken to task.
We call on the national government to take drastic steps to intervene and improve water quality across the country. It should not take an outbreak of a deadly disease for government to take the issue of water seriously in the country.
We expect the government to speed up the development of technology for water conservation and recycling. There is also a need to punish all those who are responsible for water pollution, especially big companies.
The government needs to fill the nearly 97 000 health worker vacancies if we are to be fully prepared to prevent, manage, and treat such easily preventable but deadly pandemics. The outbreak of cholera, measles, mumps, polio, and diphtheria, deadly pandemics that were brought under control in previous centuries with the development of vaccines and modern science, is a painful reminder of the responsibility of all citizens to not only think about themselves but also their children and society at large.
It is shameful that when the government has gone to great lengths to provide clinically tested and scientifically proven vaccines for these highly contagious and often fatal diseases, that some choose to ignore these and place the health of society at risk, in particular children, the vulnerable, and the elderly.
COSATU as a trade union federation guided by the principles of socialism, working-class solidarity, and science, will redouble its efforts to ensure all workers and their families embrace healthy lifestyles and vaccinate as per the Department of Health and World Health Organisation guidelines.
Issued by COSATU