SA water, service, health, security risks rising
A 2012 SA Water Research Commission (WRC) study reports on rural and urban water services and social protest case studies in North West, Western Cape and Limpopo provinces.
SA government response to protest from business, labour and social groups, was to disengage from citizen groups or to shift blame, the study found.
“The result is a self-reinforcing cycle which leads to poorer delivery, because officials are even less willing to communicate with the public or co-operate with each other… it has increased frustration within a public that sees long-standing problems going unsolved.
“Finally it has led to disregard for law, and in some cases violent protests by people rebelling against a system they do not feel respects them.”
Sannieshof residents in North West province do not have adequate access to water. Local infrastructure has not been properly maintained for years. There is no proper water and sanitation plan.
Since 2007, quality of water in the area is heavily impacted on by unmanaged raw sewage, amid allegations of inadequate operation of an oxidation pond.
A resident in Pelindaba in North West province said: “There are black elements in the water that comes out of the communal tap and the water is smelly sometimes”.
Sewage into groundwater
Some water services management institutions acknowledged that some sewage seeps underground and affects groundwater in the area.
Pelindaba people get water from communal taps or stand pipes. Pelindaba had three working taps to service 600 households, and water access was worst in early 2012 than ever before, the scientific SA WRC study found.
The system broke down as a result of lack of maintenance by the municipality. Houses tend to have internal or yard taps and toilets as well as electricity, while informal settlements are generally lacking toilets and electricity and rely on communal stand pipes for water.
In Western Cape province there has been fast and extensive growth of Khayelitsha informal settlement since removal of influx control laws in 1986. There have been attempts since democracy in 1994 to provide formal access to water, housing and other services, but rapid growth of population in Khayelitsha outstrips municipal services. Most people use buckets as toilets.
In Muyexe village in Giyani area, Limpopo province, some RDP houses have no water. Women typically fetch water from streams, at great health risk due to livestock and washing water use, or wait at taps or water truck points into the night at safety and security risk from crime and animals.
Civil protest remains unorganised and sporadic, raising state concerns about potential riots. Water supply is more problematic in rural areas, the study found.
Water needs expressed and prioritised by some communities, were not similarly prioritised or funded by municipalities. There were discrepancies between population and water use data at all planning levels and real data at micro levels.
At Cala in Eastern Cape province, respondents cited lack of institutional financial, technical and skilled human resource capacity as key constraints to addressing water scarcity and use.
• WRC Report 1940/1/11 SOCIAL WATER SCARCITY AND WATER USE, by Barbara Nompumelelo Tapela of the African Centre for Water Research (ACWR), is available via Jay Bhagwan, director of Water Use and Waste Management at the SA Water Research Commission, on email@example.com
Prepaid meters and privatisation opposed
The WRC report on water services problems and protest, follows other sporadic public protest against public services privatisation, symbolised by installation of prepaid water and electricity meters in some metro urban areas.
Outsourcing of aspects of water supply, electricity reticulation, billing, parking, road tolling, traffic law enforcement, IT, telephony and health services to tenders, public private partnerships or private suppliers, is seen by some South Africans as signs of a predatory state in service of ruling elites and privilege ‘chartered’ business.
Increasing legislation and onerous regulatory burdens on general business, meanwhile, have met with criticism from business and industrial organisations, who point out that while some legislation is necessary, some legislation merely generates paper work, while poor enforcement raise more risks than deregulation would.
Mining giant Anglo American CE Cynthia Carroll at a major 2012 mining conference, called on the SA government to enforce current legislation more consistently, instead of drafting yet more legislation to shift more social responsibilities to employers.
PHOTO: A water treatment plant component of Erwat in Ekurhuleni metro. While most of South Africa’s water supply infrastructure is adequate, with expansions to the Lesotho Highlands Water Project dams, pumping and piping network being planned, pollution threats to streams, rivers and groundwater are rising due to population pressure and failing sewage infrastructure.
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