“Everyone has the right to have access to sufficient food and water.” Powerful words that can be found in Chapter Two of our much-celebrated Constitution. Another powerful sentence is: “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.” This is a resolution of the United Nations general assembly - adopted on 28 July 2010 – and therefore also binding upon the Republic of South Africa. This despite the current ANC-run government not being too serious about international obligations.
It is a good thing that the South African Human Rights Commissions (SAHRC) KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Water Inquiry is 155 pages long. This makes it difficult, or even impossible, for Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube to tear it up today – like she did with the petition from Ugu’s long-suffering residents several years ago when she was MEC for COGTA. The energy she expended tearing up that document was the most we ever saw from her on that ongoing water crisis, manmade by this ANC-run government.
Access to water, is a basic human right. There are Members in this House who will focus on the past speak angrily about the Apartheid government’s planned water discrimination in only ensuring water delivery to the white minority in our country. And they will not be wrong. Prior to 1994, that evil is exactly what happened. Or they will jump up and down shouting about Cape Town and day zero, fully ignoring that that water crisis was due to a drought. Not even the ANC can accuse the DA of preventing the rain from falling. The fact is that it was the timely intervention and hard work by the DA-led Western Cape government that prevented the taps from running completely dry in the province’s cities and towns.
The reality is also that the SAHRC KZN Water Inquiry does not deal with these issues. It deals with what our people are facing today and that is the fast-decreasing quality of water provision in our province. This debate is not the time for the ANC to attack the opposition, shout about racism, capitalism or any other strawman they care to erect today. This debate is about acknowledging the problem and telling us what they are going to do about it. The DA does not want to hear more about KZN’s Water Master plan- a plan we have heard about for four years with no evidence or results. A bit like Santa Claus, you hear about it, but you never actually see it. To date, all that has happened is that COGTA has sunk a few boreholes, many of which are unusable for various reasons.
The Premier must rise to the occasion today and show KZN’s people the way forward and out of this crisis. The SAHRC report is damning. Even the word crisis is not strong enough. She must tell us what she is going to do about the mafia-state our province has become. She must tell us what is going to be done about corruption relating to water tankers in our province, identified within the SAHRC report and mentioned as part of a 2020 report by Corruption Watch and the Water Integrity Network.
This report speaks about how tenders for water tankers, and even water tanker drivers themselves, use tankers as ‘get rich quick’ schemes, while the people suffer. There is more than enough proof of that these tenderpreneurs, with ANC contacts, go so far as to vandalise water infrastructure to ensure the ongoing use of their tankers. What is this government doing about it? Will criminal charges be laid against drivers who are charging people R300 to fill their water containers? What will this government do about the ongoing failures of district municipalities to provide safe drinking water to residents?
The SAHRC report makes 12 recommendations to KZN’s COGTA department and the portfolio committee. These relate to implementation - ranging from a special grant for upgrades and rehabilitation of water infrastructure - to developing a tracking mechanism to monitor municipality performances, to enacting a state of disaster in certain municipalities.
The third recommendation to COGTA is “Where appropriate, invoke powers in terms of Section 139 of the Constitution, to put municipalities under administration for failing to deliver water”. The DA does not expect any action from the MEC of Inaction, Bongiwe Sithole-Moloi when it comes to this critical recommendation. Since taking up her role as MEC in May, she has done nothing about invoking Section 154 intervention in eThekwini. This means that - like water in a tap in Ugu – nothing will ever come.
It is clear from the SAHRC report that KZN’s district municipalities, and its metro, eThekwini are failing in providing a basic human right – water - to our people. The question is: Will the MEC intervene? Will she intervene in places such as Ugu, uThukela and the Jozini area - where water crises have been long ongoing with no help from either national or provincial governments? Will she intervene in eThekwini, where there are areas within Inanda, Ntuzuma, KwaMashu (INK) where residents have not had water for years and where water tankers only arrive occasionally? Will she intervene over the North Durban suburbs that had no water for more than a week after - according to the Metro’s Head of Water Services – someone closed a valve and they didn’t know where it was?
The reality is that this ANC-run government is not serious about providing water to KZN’s people. If it was, it would not have appointed the leader of a small one-man political party that kept them in power in eThekwini to the board of Umgeni Water? If it was, then the various water crises around our province would not have gone on for so long.
It is not only KZN’s municipalities that need to be put under administration – the entire province needs to be. This ANC-run government has closed the taps to our province – blocking not only water services but jobs and numerous other opportunities. But hope is around the corner in the form of a DA-led government in KZN. Next year, the people of our province will reopen these taps and rescue our province at the ballot box.
Issued by Martin Meyer, MPL - DA KZN Spokesperson on CoGTA