New partnership aims to resolve Tshwane's water crisis

Published Jun 12, 2024


Christopher Buda

The City of Tshwane is working hard to solve its long-standing water and sanitation problems by partnering with the National Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS).

This collaboration aims to address issues such as the polluted Hennops River, the troubled Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment Plant, and a lack of skilled workers.

City Manager Johann Mettler and Deputy Director-General for Water and Sanitation Services Dr. Risimati Mathye signed an agreement at Tshwane House.

This agreement focuses on planning and developing infrastructure, managing water resources, and training city staff.

Residents in townships like Mamelodi and Soshanguve have struggled with water shortages for years.

The situation in Hammanskraal became particularly dire last May when a cholera outbreak, linked to the city's poor water supply, resulted in over 20 deaths.

This tragedy highlighted the urgent need for improvements at the Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment Plant, which has left many residents dependent on water tankers.

In his recent State of the City Address, Tshwane Mayor Cilliers Brink promised that clean drinking water would be available by the end of the year.

He said, "I am confident that we are making good progress in restoring clean water to the taps of the people of Hammanskraal." Brink explained that a contractor had been hired to fix the Rooiwal plant and that, in the meantime, efforts are being made to connect Hammanskraal to the Magalies water system.

A report by Public Protector Kholeka Gcaleka in October blamed poor cooperation between different government departments for Hammanskraal’s water problems.

This new partnership between the city and DWS is seen as a key step in overcoming these issues.

Residents have mixed feelings.

Thabo Mokoena, a student at Tshwane University of Technology in Soshanguve Block L, said, "We have heard promises before, but I really hope this time they follow through. Access to clean water is a basic right, and it’s been a struggle for too long."

In Hammanskraal, Nokuthula Mbele, a long-time resident, expressed her worries, "Last year's cholera outbreak was a wake-up call. We can’t afford another tragedy like that. The water crisis here is a matter of life and death, and we need real action, not just words."

The partnership aims to provide immediate solutions like connecting to alternative water sources, as well as long-term plans like upgrading infrastructure and training programmes.

These steps are expected to help the city comply with new regulations and improve its ability to manage water systems.

Mathye highlighted the importance of working together, saying, "Addressing our major water challenges requires a collaborative effort between the city and key water stakeholders, and the DWS is one of those key players."

He added, "We have been facing significant water challenges which have been affecting some of our residents for a longer period, and some of these challenges can be linked to ageing infrastructure and maintenance challenges at some of our water treatment plants."

Mathye also expressed optimism about the partnership, stating, "We are pleased by the will and zeal that has been shown by the city in ensuring collaborative efforts and allowing us to work together in different spheres of government to ensure efficient services to the residents of Tshwane.

“It has always been our intention to work with local government across to capacitate them where we can, to achieve Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 6, to realise clean water and decent sanitation provision to communities."

The agreement includes plans for water resource management, infrastructure development, education campaigns, sharing knowledge, and exploring new water and sanitation technologies.

These efforts are in line with the Intergovernmental Relations Act, which encourages government departments to work together to provide services, reduce poverty, and develop society.

As the City of Tshwane and DWS collaborate, residents hope that these efforts will finally end the long-standing water crisis, ensuring safe, clean water for everyone and preventing future tragedies.