- KZN WATER INQUIRY REPORT6.46 MB
Municipalities and water service authorities responsible for water management in KwaZulu-Natal have violated basic human rights.
This is a key finding from the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) report – "KZN Water Inquiry" – which investigated the state of water and its management in the province between 15 August 2022 to 19 August 2022.
The inquiry was conducted in response to the current water crisis in KwaZulu-Natal, where almost all municipalities battle with infrastructure and general water delivery.
The SAHRC KZN provincial office had, since 2020, received more than 600 complaints regarding access to water.
The complaints relate to widespread water shortages in communities – in some instances, no access to water for more than seven days.
There were also issues of inconsistent water supply or water disconnection, lack of alternative measures, such as provisioning water tankers, poor water quality and polluted water.
"The commission finds that KZN municipalities, in general, and water service authorities, in particular, have violated residents' right to access clean drinking water," said commissioner Philile Ntuli, who outlined the findings of the investigation.
"This violation of rights is aggravated by the pervasive sense of neglect, disregard and, in some instances, contempt for people's suffering, and their attempts to engage with their municipality through officials and elected representatives," she said.
Ntuli said there were "profound violations" experienced by communities.
"This was evidenced by complaints tabled by residents and communities across the province and is indicative of systemic failures in water provisioning and the violation of multiple human rights."
People still drinking alongside animals
Another commissioner, Chris Nissen, said municipalities were reluctant, slow or not able to respond to the complaints the SAHRC had lodged.
"Such was the case here in KZN, where we find some people even drink water with the animals. We are very concerned that we have more than 600 complaints. We cannot be 30 years into democracy and still planning for infrastructure year by year."
He said water tanker services had also become a profit-making scheme by municipalities.
"They spend more money on procuring tankers than fixing the infrastructure. There is still a large disparity between rich and poor areas.
"If you go to wealthy areas, there is no aged infrastructure and they have access to water. But in the poorest of the poor communities, they do not. There is no excuse not to have access to water for poor communities."
Detailing the many recommendations, Ntuli outlined that the SAHRC called for a strengthening of local accountability measures for water boards.
"This can be done by entering into service level agreements with local industry, to guarantee the reliability of water provision."
She said the SAHRC report also recommended that water boards urgently address emerging corruption related to the water tankering and overtime system.
"They should also investigate allegations of damage to infrastructure and manipulation of the tender mechanism," she added.
When asked how the SAHRC would hold the government to account on their report, Nissen said they could take legal action, but would also not hesitate to approach President Cyril Ramaphosa's office for assistance.
"Our recommendations should not just be noted, but taken seriously. The problem with politicians and government officials is they have abandoned the Batho Pele principles."
He said the SAHRC "will not just end here, we have the mandate to monitor and take action".
"This is a serious matter and process. When officials listen to what we have to say, they must realise we will monitor them, and if need be, go to the Presidency and say this is a serious thing. Municipalities and government departments are obliged by law to cooperate with SAHRC."