Dept. of Water & Environmental Affairs: Clean water not their problem

THE Department of Water and Environmental Affairs is passing the buck on who should be responsible for providing communities with clean drinking water.

water quality south africaIts spokesman, Mava Scott, yesterday argued that the constitution placed the responsibility of providing water services to communities on local municipalities, not on Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, or her department.

Mr Scott was replying to Democratic Alliance (DA) deputy water and environmental affairs spokeswoman Marti Wenger’s warning that “all indications are that the controversial water quality problems in Mpumalanga town Carolina are the tip of the iceberg” and that ratepayers in towns in the Free State and Limpopo were gearing up to go to court to demand access to clean drinking water, just as their counterparts in Carolina had done.

“Louis Trichardt (in the Makhado municipality in Limpopo) has been without water for two months now. Ratepayers in Louis Trichardt and parts of the Free State are reportedly preparing to go to court to demand improved water access.

“In addition, Hoedspruit, Boskbokrand, Brandfort, Winburg, Soutpan, Verkeerdevlei and Marquard have all been left without clean water for significant lengths of time this year. “The question is: what is Minister Molewa’s plan to prevent further problems and to ensure potable water is delivered to these and other towns across the country that face severe water shortages?” Ms Wenger asked.

Carolina has been without a steady supply of drinkable water since mid-January, when acid mine water polluted its chief water supply, the Boesmanspruit Dam. Gauteng North High Court Judge Moses Mavundla last week ordered the Gert Sibande district municipality to provide Carolina — home to about 17000 people — with water within 72 hours. The municipality has applied for leave to appeal, arguing that the order should have been made against the Chief Albert Luthuli (Carolina) local municipality.

Mr Scott said it “boggles the mind” why the DA and “some people in the media” ignored the local municipality’s constitutional responsibility to ensure an adequate and sustained supply of water to the communities they served. “The tendency to interpret the constitution selectively does not help the situation because the fact of the matter is that ultimately the constitution places the responsibility on local government, whether the DA likes that or not.

“Even with the issue of the district municipality, it must be clear that they do not have the responsibility to be a water service authority and thus cannot be joined or ordered to supply water to communities.”

Legal Resources Centre attorney Naseema Fakir said the Gauteng North High Court had not yet set a date on which a judge would hear the centre’s and Lawyers for Human Rights’ argument that Gert Sibande municipality’s appeal against a court order that it provide potable water to Carolina and Silobela and Caropark townships should not suspend the order. Ordinarily an appeal against a court order suspends the order until an appeal ruling is made.

Source: Business Day (By Sue Blaine)

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