Last month, South Africa’s Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation announced that it is distressed that the local government sphere is not fully exploiting the potential available in public–private partnerships to find solutions to the constraints of provision of water. The announcements was made by the committee following the conclusion of a week-long oversight visit to the North West.
“It is astonishing that municipalities in the North West have not fully harnessed the potential partnerships with mining houses in order to speed up service delivery to our people,” says Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation chairperson Mlungisi Johnson.
He adds that the committee has, therefore, instructed the resuscitation of stakeholder relationships between municipalities in the area and mining houses in the platinum belt to ensure the delivery of the constitutional right to water for the country’s people.
One of the major challenges that hamper service delivery in relation to water and sanitation is the lack of skills at municipal level. This is an area where mining houses can assist municipalities, especially because they have mastered complex water use systems that can be replicated at municipal level.
“Mining houses can also assist with capacity building and skills development of technical expertise at municipal level, which remains a huge challenge for municipalities currently,” emphasises Johnson.
Ultimately, the delivery of services is dependent on government and the private sector working together to ensure that there is effective delivery of services to the people, especially the poor and the working class. The committee has also called for clear forward planning from municipal level to national level to ensure water security in the country.
C;ear forward planning will also reduce the use of water tankers to service people in distressed areas at exorbitant prices. “While the committee understands the need for short-term intervention driven by tankering, it dissuades municipalities from overreliance on this intervention because it is not sustainable, is extremely expensive and the quality of water delivered cannot be guaranteed,” he says.
While the committee acknowledges the critical role of commerce in the overall economic growth of the country, it has called for a scientific study to assess the extent of water use by water-intensive businesses in relation to access to water and sanitation services for the people. The committee considers it unacceptable that, while businesses consume up to 60 Mℓ of water a day, communities close by do not have water.
In line with the committee’s resolution for a need to set timelines on all interventions, the committee has set a month for the establishment of stakeholder relations structures between municipalities, water boards and mining houses, action against water polluters, the drafting of water development plans and the conclusion of the roll-out of planned interventions to ensure service delivery.