ActionSA: Joburg’s water crisis a man-made problem, sparked by lack of foresight

A woman in green and black shirt

ActionSA Joburg caucus leader, councillor Nobuhle Mthembu. Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 12, 2024


ActionSA in Johannesburg has castigated the various administrations which have presided over the City of Joburg for lack of vision and investment in infrastructure, amid a water crisis which has left some residents without water for more than a week.

Speaking to IOL, ActionSA Joburg caucus leader, councillor Nobuhle Mthembu said the water crisis which has left frustrations boiling in South Africa’s economic mainstay is a result of poor governance.

“We are unequivocal in our assertion; we believe that water crisis that the city is encountering is as a result of administrations that lack vision. What we are experiencing today is the culmination of years of poor decision making and lack of political will,” said Mthembu.

Two power outages, including one caused by lightning, have affected the Eikenhof pump station, leaving residents of Joburg areas including greater Soweto, Roodepoort, Hursthill, Crosby and Brixton with intermittent water supply.

Thousands of people in Joburg have struggled with water supply for the second week. Picture: Supplied

Mthembu said despite the technical issues experienced, ancient infrastructure is at the heart of Joburg’s problems.

“Apart from the technical issues that have prompted the recent water shortage; we have an elephant in the room, which is infrastructure maintenance. This process cannot be ignored anymore and cannot be left to the next administration,” she said.

“Today, we are a city that cannot last one day or more, should we have any type of technical issues that affect water supply. Our population has grown tremendously since the dawn of democracy, yet the city didn’t see it befitting to increase the infrastructure capacity.”

Mthembu said her party has been advocating for the replacement of asbestos pipes across Joburg, with PVC pipes. She said the process has been happening at a snail pace.

“The city is currently spending R50 million per month for water tankers. We have been saying, why can’t we redirect this money to permanent structures such as reservoirs, water plant treatments upgrade and communal taps,” she said.

Thousands of people in Joburg have struggled with water supply for the second week. Picture: Supplied

“Joburg Water will need not less than R27 billion to address the infrastructure backlog; we need a decisive administration that is willing to take drastic decisions to ensure that the future of Johannesburg residents is secured.

“We must not be derailed by the technical issues that occurred now, we need to address the real cause of the challenge,” she said.

ActionSA Joburg caucus leader, councillor Nobuhle Mthembu. Picture: Supplied

On Monday, WaterCAN, a leading civil society organisation dedicated to ensuring access to clean and safe water, expressed “alarm” that the authorities in Joburg are struggling to resolve the dire water supply situation.

In an interview with IOL, Dr Ferrial Adam, executive manager of WaterCAN said the City of Joburg must not “play politics” around the supply of water.

Dr Ferrial Adam, Executive Manager of civil society organisation, WaterCAN. Picture: Supplied

“The water tanks being provided are not the solution. We need to figure out because we do not know how much government is spending on a water tank per day, we would love to have that information.

“The mayor of Joburg always says he is available and anyone can call him, but try finding his number anywhere online and let me know. The City must not play politics around water. Some of the responses we have been getting are very technical. They should just speak openly with people,” she said.

“The City should not wait for a disaster to happen. Why not have ongoing engagement with people rather than when something happens, then they come and give us political spin. That is the problem, that is why people do not trust what is being said.”

Adam added that the City must not seek to normalise the provision of water through water tanks to Joburg residents.