Government commits to resolving water challenges

Friday, August 26, 2022

While acknowledging the challenges facing his department, Water and Sanitation Minister, Senzo Mchunu, says his department is hard at work to ensure that not one of them will remain unresolved.

The Minister made the commitment during a media briefing in Pretoria on Friday to mark one year since he took over the water and sanitation portfolio. Mchunu said while the department strives each day to ensure that South Africans are provided with access to water and basic sanitation services, it is not an easy undertaking.

“There have been many hurdles we’ve had to jump over, many bottlenecks we’ve had to undo in order to realise most of the gains we have made to date.

“We do, however, want to state that notwithstanding the progress, we still have a long way to go but understand us to be ready for the task and dedicated to serving the citizens of South Africa,” Mchunu said.

Mchunu said one of the first priorities was stabilising the department, which resulted in the appointment of Director-General, Dr Sean Phillips, who started his duty on 03 January 2022.

The department set about ensuring that all senior posts are filled, and including the Chief Financial Officer, Deputy Director-Generals for Corporate Services, Water Services Management and Regulation, Compliance and Enforcement.

“When doing so, we took a stern decision that we would employ people who are fit for purpose – with the necessary qualifications, skills and capabilities. I am happy to report that with all of these senior posts filled, the department is fully functional,” Mchunu said.

He outlined progress in Water Resource Management and Water Services Management, the two main streams the department comprises of.

“On Water Services Management, we have several projects throughout the country and others in conjunction with neighbouring countries at various stages, aimed at ensuring water provision and water security. We have said on a number of occasions that we have prioritised Water Services Management while continuing to keep focus on Water Resource Management,” the Minister said.

The  context in which prioritisation has taken place included incomplete projects that must be completed as soon as possible; addressing the problem of incapacity in municipalities to deliver on water and sanitation services; desperation of communities for water; storms in KwaZulu-Natal and the drought in Gqeberha; lack of resources; and old and dysfunctional infrastructure.

A process to reconfigure water boards is underway and substantial progress is expected to be made by the end of the year.

The Minister explained that the aim is to use water boards, via directives, as one of the delivery mechanisms for water and sanitation to communities, with limited differentiation between bulk and reticulation.

Upscaling partnerships with private sector

The department is also working with the private sector, where traditionally it has been via tenders. However, he said, they are currently working on upscaling partnerships with the private sector.

In achieving this, the department has established a National Water Partnerships Programme and Water Partnerships Office in the Development Bank of Southern Africa.

The Water Partnerships Programme will run five programmes, including non-revenue water, management contract, wastewater treatment, water re-use, and seawater (desalination).

“We have partnerships with the private sector that have already worked out, with Lebalelo Water User Association, Ivanplats Mine and with regards to the Vaal Gamagara project.” –