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KZN municipalities violate the rights of residents to access clean water: SAHRC

The South African Human Rights Commission says KwaZulu-Natal municipalities have violated the rights of residents to access clean water. File image

The South African Human Rights Commission says KwaZulu-Natal municipalities have violated the rights of residents to access clean water. File image

Published Sep 19, 2023

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Durban — The eThekwini Municipality is among the municipalities that failed to provide the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) with more details referred to in their submissions and panel deliberations during the KwaZulu-Natal water inquiry.

The inquiry was held last year due to complaints from residents who claimed to have little to no access to water.

The SAHRC said the deadline for the additional details was on October 19, 2022. The report said key issues raised by complainants did not indicate the complete lack of provision of water, but rather lengthy periods extending to weeks and months during which water services were disrupted.

“Complainants express concern at the quality of water provided when services resume, and what they see as unfair billing practices during periods of no water provision, in the form of estimated charges, and continued billing. Residents who pay for water services are particularly aggrieved at not receiving water despite paying for this,” stated the report.

Furthermore, the report said a concern raised by residents in the eThekwini district municipality is that while it is reported that there is insufficient water to be piped to residents’ homes, water is still being delivered to certain communities through water tankers and standpipes. There are, nonetheless, insufficient water tankers to meet communities’ needs.

“Many complainants expressed dissatisfaction with the responses they received from their municipality when attempting to log water service delivery complaints or obtaining feedback on existing complaints, or information pertaining to when the water supply will resume,” said the report.

The SAHRC said it found that in KZN, municipalities in general and Water Service Authorities (WSAs) in particular, have violated residents’ right to access clean drinking water, as provided for in international, constitutional, and statutory provisions.

This violation of rights is aggravated by the pervasive sense of neglect, disregard and in some instances, contempt, for people’s suffering, and their attempts to engage with their municipality through officials and elected representatives.

The commission said it found that most components of the infrastructure used by the respective water boards have outlived their design life, with the entity largely operating with unreliable infrastructure, and failure of these components is imminent.

Moreover, the SAHRC recommended that municipalities engage with the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) and local councils on annual municipal infrastructure self-assessment findings, monitor the take-up of recommendations, and report to the commission annually.

The commission further recommended that the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) annually monitor municipalities’ implementation of Blue Drop and Green Drop report findings, including technical measures proposed, and report to the commission on an annual basis.

“Where appropriate, invoke powers in terms of section 139 of the Constitution, to put municipalities under administration for failing to deliver water,” said the SAHRC.

The DA uThukela chairperson, Thys Janse van Rensburg said the party in the province and in uThukela will closely monitor how the recommendations and findings of the report are implemented.

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