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EDITORIAL | Minister Mchunu’s hollow promises don’t hold water

Ideas

EDITORIAL | Minister Mchunu’s hollow promises don’t hold water

Access to clean water is a basic human right, so why do millions of South Africans still not have it?

Editorial

Water and sanitation minister Senzo Mchunu used World Water Day on Tuesday to tell South Africans how serious the government is about creating affordable and reliable access to clean water. His words will mean nothing to the more than 5.5-million SA households that do not have access to drinking water. The SA Human Rights Commission’s Andre Gaum in the Sunday Times (https://www.timeslive.co.za/sunday-times/news/2022-03-20-the-big-five-of-human-rights-problems-in-sa/) at the weekend reminded us that access to water is one of our five basic human rights “challenges”. At the heart of it, he said, is “poor infrastructure and the maintenance thereof” — a simple service delivery function. If only it were as simple as it seems.

As Mchunu was talking about water being a fundamental human right — “water is life, water is a necessity” — residents of the Ugu district in KwaZulu-Natal were interviewed about living without that right for the past 14 days. A Ramsgate guest house owner told Sunday Times Daily the private delivery of water had cost their business R12,000 for the month of March.

The water woes on KwaZulu-Natal’s south coast go way back and no amount of protesting or pleading has made any difference. Last month premier Sihle Zikalala put water provision at the top of his government’s priority list but residents have yet to see any improvement. Fixing the problem won’t happen overnight but that’s because maintenance has been lagging for a very long time...

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