The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) led by Minister Senzo Mchunu will this week host another water service delivery summit to “talk” about the issues and challenges affecting municipalities.
But civil society is tired of words with no action.
The water services authority summit will take place from Thursday to Friday at Emperors Palace in Kempton Park, Johannesburg, according to DWS.
This is the minister’s second summit within a space of two months, with the last one held in the eThekwini Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal in December, staged to “talk” about water issues affecting the decaying metro.
The summit will focus on the blue, green and no drop reports, which are compiled by DWS and measure performance statistics of municipalities with regard to water service delivery.
Municipalities are judged on numerous factors, ranging from the quantity and quality of water they supply, to the level of upkeep and development of their infrastructure.
Besides DWS, the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) as well as provincial and local government heads will be in attendance.
“The summit will be attended by representatives from the 144 Water Services Authorities across the country and will deliberate and review the reports as released in December,” DWS said.
According to a summary of the 2023 Blue Drop Report, 85% of drinking water systems across South Africa are “in an average or better infrastructure condition”.
The DWS No Drop report found that non-revenue water usage had increased sharply, and urged municipalities to address issues around this, which include fixing leaks, addressing illegal connections and poor billing and revenue collection.
During a live broadcast on Newzroom Afrika, DWS Director General, Dr Sean Phillips spoke about some of the areas of focus the department planned on exploring during the two-day event.
Phillips said that there will be no participation from civil society or ordinary citizens and will only include internal officials from state departments.
But the exclusion of everyday people from major discussions has become a problem, as they struggle with the issues that senior government individuals decide over, causing a communication delay with regards to problems and solutions, according to ratepayer associations in eThekwini.
Minister Mchunu’s previous summit in uMlazi was too little too late, according to civil society, as the water problems in the City of Durban have been widely publicised, but have fallen on deaf ears.
To add insult to injury, a month later, Mchunu went on live television and blamed some of the water challenges in Durban on the City’s poor governance, despite sitting next to Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda and smiling just weeks before.
Chairman of the eThekwini Ratepayers Protest Movement (EPRM) Asad Gaffer said if the government put the same effort and resources into addressing water problems that it did into arranging summits and meetings, municipalities would be in top condition.
“This is a show. They spend money driving, flying and hosting these events just to talk, but we need implementation of plans, not talks. All the government does is talk.
“They have these events and invite people who have no idea what’s actually going on and how to fix it and then make decisions for us.
“They put so much effort into these events, if they used that to address service delivery issues, our city would not be in such a pathetic state,” Gaffer said.