State views water as ‘commodity’ - SAHRC

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Government is not protecting water as a basic human right, the SA Human Rights Commission said on Tuesday.

“...water is viewed mainly as an economic good or commodity by government departments and the private sector,” a SAHRC report on water and sanitation in the country, released in Cape Town, said.

“The result is that most of South Africa's water is used by business, especially agribusiness, mining, and other industries, at a relatively lower cost per kilolitre than poor households.”

In addition, the provision of water and sanitation was not approached on a human rights basis.

“This relates to the principles of transparency and public participation in the delivery of basic services and access to information.”

Government had also failed to budget appropriately for these basic services.

“The report highlights systemic failures in governance and budgeting, particularly in the implementation of and spending on projects,” the executive summary said.

“These failures point to the need for government to evaluate the current models of governance and funding.”

During hearings held on water and sanitation around the country, people had also claimed corruption had played a role in the lack of service delivery.

The areas worst affected by a lack of water and sanitation were poor black households.

“Those areas which lack water and sanitation mirror apartheid spatial geography,” the SAHRC said in its findings.

“Former homelands, townships, and informal settlements are the areas in which communities and schools, who are black and poor, predominantly do not enjoy these rights and many others.”

The lack of sanitation often led to other human rights being transgressed, including the rights to dignity, education, health, safety, and the environment.”

While nationally access to acceptable levels of water stood at 85 percent, in some provinces, like KwaZulu-Natal, 14 percent of people had no access to water at all.

Over 70 percent of South African households had access to acceptable levels of sanitation.

For the Eastern Cape, however, 12.5 percent of people had no access to sanitation.

The commission decided to investigate the state of water and sanitation provision in the country following two probes into the building of unenclosed toilets in Makhaza, Khayelitsha, in Cape Town and in Rammulotsi in the Free State.

Both the City of Cape Town and the Moqhaka municipality were found to have violated the rights of residents to dignity, privacy, and a clean environment. - Sapa


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