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SAHRC calls for more services in municipalities

A man walks through a sewage spill in Bekkersdal on the West Rand. Picture: Sharon Seretlo/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

A man walks through a sewage spill in Bekkersdal on the West Rand. Picture: Sharon Seretlo/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Jan 27, 2022


Johannesburg - The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has through its investigative reports found that there is a dire need to upskill and capacitate people working in municipalities.

SAHRC researcher for economic and social rights, Sinethemba Memela, said municipalities should not only employ people with the right skills but also people with integrity and commitment to serve in their community.

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She said in the National Development Act one of the goals includes the professionalisation of municipalities, which means municipalities are less partisan and more about hiring the right people with the right skills for the right jobs.

Memela was speaking during a webinar by the SAHRC and the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (Misa) on local government service delivery through infrastructure development and management.

“South Africa is a water scarce country and it has to adopt an approach to ensure constitutional guarantees to access to sufficient water for everyone is realised while simultaneously ensuring that scarce resources are well managed for the future generations,” Memela said.

She said a report by the Water Research Commission in relation to wastewater treatment found that the current state of wastewater treatment in South Africa is a matter of great concern – it has a detrimental impact on more than the health of both people and the ecosystem.

“It impacts the moral fibre of society leading to social unrest and even death. This is a matter that requires urgent immediate attention,” she said.

“The commission made similar findings in their investigating hearings and it concluded in its reports in Tshwane and Roodepoort in Gauteng, investigations that South Africa’s water resources should be declared a national disaster according to the Disaster Management Act,” Memela said.

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She said this data indicates that at district and local level access to water is low, particularly in poorer provinces, districts, and communities in former homelands.

Memela said there is a widespread defective or dysfunctional infrastructure resulting in sewage spillages into homes and into water sources which are a violation to human rights.

“This provision of water tankers has become a lucrative business in state employees which lessens the opportunity to provide water. It impacts on women and girls who then have to collect water and become some victims of GBV. It also impacts on vulnerable groups like people living with disabilities,” Memela said.

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She said the commission has conducted a number of enquiries and published a number of reports. A report between 2012 and 2014 conducted in all nine provinces by the commission had recommendations, including that national and provincial governments need to play an oversight role to monitor the progressive realisation of the right to water and sanitation.

Senior official in Misa, Pati Kgomo, said Misa’s role is to accelerate the provision of municipal infrastructure.

“Misa has undertaken the assessment of water and waste water treatment works in various provinces. Findings from these assessments indicate that more than 70% of the water treatment works are either in poor state or dysfunctional and require urgent refurbishment or upgrading,” said Kgomo.

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“There is a need for a dedicated programme in addressing the collapsing functionality of water treatment works in the country. The programme will be accompanied by training or deploying of artisans and process controllers in identified municipalities,” she said.

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Political Bureau