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The Federation of Unions of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) calls on the government to urgently address the water quality crisis in Hammanskraal, North of Pretoria following the deaths of 15 people and the hospitalisation of dozens of others. The national, provincial and municipal government entities responsible for the safe supply of water to this area must hang its head in shame for continuously failing to address the crisis which has been common knowledge to all South Africans for over a decade. In 2019, the SA Human Rights Commission declared that water in the area was unfit for human consumption, with politicians in tow making several undertakings to address the calamity.
However, as we have now come to learn, very little positive outcomes emanate from such commitments. Now, the residents of Hammanskraal must pay the ultimate human price and are dying as a result of a government which is not bothered by the distress of its citizens. We will in coming days hear similar reassurances, which we have little faith will come to fruition. We call on civil society organisations to explore legal recourse to compel the Tshwane Municipality to fix the collapsed water infrastructure system in the area. Albeit that this is not the ideal solution to every crisis we face as a nation, evidence has proven that the government is unwilling to function outside of litigious processes at great cost communities and organisations.
The crisis in Hammanskraal is also a demonstration of a failing state. That in 2023, South Africa is experiencing a Cholera outbreak is a fact that must sent shivers down the spines of all South Africans about the government’s incapability and unwillingness to prioritise its mandate.
Last year, the SA Institute of Civil Engineering, the country’s industry body for civil engineering professionals again raised the alarm in its Infrastructure report card. It found that less than half of water supply systems, at 48% were in the low-risk category, that 18% were in the medium risk category, 11% in high risk and a whopping 23% were found to be in the critical risk category.
This means what is happening in Hammanskraal could easily take place in any other community which fails to meet the acceptable water quality standard. “The fact that 34% of systems are in the high and critical risk categories is of great concern,” read the report. These findings were published publicly for all to see. This included the government principals and officials responsible for the provision of clean drinking water in line with the country’s constitutional requirements. Yet, it was still not a crisis enough for communities such as Hammanskraal to be afforded urgent intervention.
The report also showed that one third of all water supply systems have no mechanism to sound the alarm when there is life-threatening microbiological contamination in the drinking water. The government can spare us its remorse performances and immediately address the crisis if it cares about the health of South Africans.
FEDUSA sends heartfelt condolences to the families of those who have unnecessarily lost their lives due to the failures of leaders in government and wishes the sick, a speedy recovery.
Issued by FEDUSA