Water is not a supplement to our daily living, it is a necessity for existence. Unsurprisingly, the Department of Water and Sanitation is one of the most important core vehicles for the sustainability of the population of South Africa. Vast quantities of the country’s water services are under stress, dilapidated and insufficient. The dependency on water by all further emphasises the importance of taking no nonsense when it comes to protecting this vital resource.
One of the major challenges of late has been seen in the province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and parts of the Eastern Cape, where flood damage has exposed the inadequate attention to water infrastructure. However, KZN and the Eastern Cape are not the only affected provinces, in Gauteng it is reported that water leaks, due to poor infrastructure, result in the loss of more than half of all water. This loss is estimated to sit at approximately R500 million in one municipality.
Before the floods affected KZN, water infrastructure was already in a state of collapse.
Anyone who stands here today and claims that the problem with water infrastructure is as a result of the unforeseen circumstance of the flood damage, is attempting to mislead this House and the citizens of the country. The truth of the matter is that there was no maintenance plan for water reticulation infrastructure in KZN. There is solid evidence to support this, as the budget for KZN – and eThekwini in particular – was almost entirely spent on the operational requirements of the water reticulation systems.
The eThekwini Council had – before the floods – estimated that a plan to fix and upgrade the reticulation process, which includes everything from pump systems, down to the pipes, required a budget of about R1 billion per year, over a period of 10 years. This meant that a special budget – over and above general operations – was needed to adequately repair existing infrastructure, as their losses sat about 54% of reticulated water.
The IFP has in the past consistently raised the issue of the importance of water infrastructure in this House, and with the Department. It has, however, seemed to have fallen on deaf ears. In this very Parliament we asked whether an audit had been done on all the water infrastructure that needed repair in the country, and the Minister could not give us a definitive answer. Now that we are forced into action by a crisis, we have to accept any half-baked ideas on how to fix and repair our infrastructure, whilst balancing the ever-growing demand for and reliance on water. This Department should have seized the opportunity to draft a well-organised budget, which would address the flood-affected areas, and then move on to other areas that are in dire need of repair. Without a plan to address the glaring and frightening water infrastructure shortcomings in South Africa, it seems government is simply planning to fail the people of this country.
The IFP supports the Budget.
I thank you.