Minister pledges water support to munis

“Consumers don’t know about and aren’t interested what the different spheres of government are responsible for; they just want water.”

Minister of Water and Sanitation Senzo Mchunu said this during an address at the Water Institute of Southern Africa (WISA) Biennial Conference & Exhibition on Wednesday, 28 September 2022. The event at the Sandton Convention Centre was attended in person by more than 1200 delegates and another 400 online. WISA has a member base of around 3300 from varying disciplinary backgrounds within the water.

Mchunu said while South Africa isn’t facing an immediate water crisis, South Africa is a water scarce country and water can’t be used recklessly.

Mchunu said the focus of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has so far been exclusively on bulk water resources management, depending on the declining capacity in municipalities to deliver water to consumers.

“We will now shift our focus and balance our attention to across the entire water value chain,” Mchunu said. “As DWS we can’t just point fingers at municipalities because consumers don’t know about and aren’t interested what the different spheres of government are responsible for; they just want water. So where there is no water, DWS will assist without disrupting the powers delegated to the municipality.”

Mchunu said there needed to be a change of culture in municipalities so that failure to deliver was seen as an anomaly, not as the norm.

“In addition, transformation in terms of water rights is still an imperative to ensure that no one is left behind. We however can’t do this alone; we don’t have the necessary finances, knowledge and skills to do it alone. We therefore welcome the private sector to partner with us,” said Mchunu.

Dr Lester Goldman, CEO of WISA, said, “The time for pointing fingers is over, and we can no longer wait for someone else to come up with a workable plan. We have to do work ourselves and do so collaboratively.”

Goldman said as the water sector they had found ourselves off-course when measured by the lived experience of the residents of Southern Africa and the economic activities that support them.

“It is up to each and every individual role player in the water sector to take responsibility for changing the current course and navigate towards reaching Sustainable Development Goal 6: providing clean water and sanitation services for all,” Goldman said.