Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, says the launch of the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan, is an important part of ensuring everyone in the country has access to water.
Participating in the State of the Nation Address debate in the National Assembly on Wednesday, Sisulu said various stakeholders in the water sector, including agricultural unions, made inputs to the master plan launched in November 2019, and were all in agreement that “water for all” is a vision that must be realised.
“We regard our master plan as a transformation charter for the water and sanitation sector. This is our attempt at addressing the disparities of our past, giving direction to where we are going and ensuring that the disadvantaged are given priority.
“Large sections of our people in the rural areas go without water for weeks, further entrenching the divide between those who have had, those who have and those who continue to wait,” Sisulu said.
The Minister said the creation of the National Water Infrastructure Agency will sustain and improve the performance of all strategically important water supply systems in regions where water security is at increasing risk.
She said the agency will work jointly with municipalities, water boards, financial and mining institutions, and the agricultural community.
The Minister further reiterated her commitment to turn around the Department of Water and Sanitation.
She said a fully-fledged disciplinary committee is working hard to investigate and root out any maladministration, fraud and corruption, and to also look at audit findings and any other misconduct related matters.
“The department is winning its legal cases one at a time, and has adopted a culture of zero tolerance for corruption,” she said.
With regard to COVID-19, Sisulu said the pandemic has highlighted the challenges of access to water and sanitation in South Africa.
However, the Minister said in partnership with water boards and municipalities, the rollout of emergency water provision gave communities in disadvantaged areas access to clean water.
Sisulu bemoaned the disruption of the water projects and waste water treatment plants due to vandalism of infrastructure.
She encouraged communities to report any vandalism and look after assets installed by government to ensure provision of essential assets.
SA still remains a very dry country
Despite all the good rains in some parts of the country, which resulted in improved water levels in national dams, the Minister warned that South Africa still remains a very dry country.
She urged communities to continue to save water.
“The investigations into innovative ways of using groundwater, desalination and cloud harvesting will continue in order to augment water in the country’s reserves,” Sisulu said.