Political parties have called for urgent intervention and tough action on municipal water authorities that are not doing regular water testing.
This comes after the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) revealed at a press conference on Friday that 14 water authorities in municipalities across South Africa did not provide any data on water testing for the 2021/22 financial year.
Leon Basson, DA spokesperson on Water and Sanitation said it was critical that all water authorities adhere to legislation in testing the quality of drinking water.
“The government and DWS cannot allow these municipalities to continue to supply untested drinking water to communities.”
Basson said the DA will support the change in legislation to allow DWS to withdraw a licence if the water authority does not adhere to legislation.
“The DA has been fighting for years now to implement the ‘use it or lose it’ principle. We can’t allow this situation to continue. Therefore, the minister must withdraw the licence of those water authorities and hand it over to accredited water boards to deliver quality water to communities.”
Rebecca Mohale, EFF MP who sits in the portfolio committee on water and sanitation, said the fact that 14 water authorities in municipalities had failed to provide data or evidence of water testing was a clear indication of negligence by the government.
“It is disheartening to witness a lack of proactive systems to ensure municipal compliance with work ethics, especially in critical areas like water service.”
Mohale said the party was calling for urgent action from the government to prevent members of the public from getting any water-borne diseases.
“The EFF emphasises the urgent need for a robust monitoring system that detects non-compliance before irreparable damage occurs, preventing fatalities and health hazards such as cholera due to governmental negligence,” she said.
The failure of local municipalities underscored a broader pattern of incompetence within the government.
“We find it unacceptable to witness a blame game between different spheres of government while the lives of the poorest masses, who cannot afford to buy water, are put at risk.”
It was crucial the ANC-led government take immediate, effective actions, not only in changing legislation but also in implementing practical strategies to enhance water service delivery, she said.
IFP spokesperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said the various water authorities operating under the umbrella of the national DWS was problematic for several reasons. “One being that each authority makes its own decisions on testing of water, when this takes place and where it is conducted. Therefore, the department itself is failing in its mandate to oversee and manage the 14 water authorities."
The IFP was calling for a single water authority to manage water problems in municipalities in South Africa.
“We believe that a single water authority should be established with clear guidelines and regular updates on the quality of water in our country. We cannot find ourselves in a situation whereby the standards are lowered or not even measured at all,” he said.
Hlengwa said the minister has a duty to ensure that these authorities in its existing form, work together to ensure there is a national standard for the regular testing of water quality.
Minister Senzo Mchunu said the department was considering various interventions, including legislation changes to improve water provision.