Last month, the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) held a workshop in which issues pertaining to water and sanitation policies, illegal connections and the implications thereof, water tariffs and billing systems, as well as water restrictions and licensing, were presented.
The workshop was attended by the Etwatwa Water and Sanitation Forum, in Ekurhuleni, where it outlined daily challenges within the community it represents.
Setting the scene for the workshop, DWS water sector support deputy director Fikile Mokonoto said forums across the country were being established to be at the coalface of development issues in communities and to work speedily to address challenges relating to water and sanitation.
He added that members of the forums had a responsibility to work together with the public to ensure that they were informed about what government is doing and what it plans to do. “The forums’ existence is to plug the void between government and the public.”
DWS water policy deputy director Tenda Rasikhanya gave a detailed presentation on the department’s policies, cautioning that, at some point, the forums would have to take unpopular decisions.
“Sometimes decisions that have to be made will be unpopular, but then you will have peace of mind knowing that those decisions are based on the Constitution as the supreme law of the land.”
He adds that it was helpful for members of the forum to understand that the departmental policies were meant to fix the imperfections of the past and to chart a way forward towards a transformed society.
Rasikhanya, however, advised during the workshop that, given the limited resources, government had to take reasonable measures to progressively achieve its goals, calling on the members of the forum to communicate this to the public.
Mokonoto also made a presentation on behalf of DWS’s planning and information division and informed the forum about the lifting of restrictions in Gauteng, highlighting the important role the forum had played in urging the public to use water sparingly.
Forum member Mandla Dlamini said it was clear that the forum had a lot of work to do, given the number of pressing issues that came out in the workshop. Among others, these included paying for access to toilets in public spaces and local malls.
“As a forum, we need to have a consolidated list of activities, which must include the plans of the department and those of other important stakeholders, such as sewage treatment company East Rand Water Care Company, so as to make an impact on the community,” Dlamini concludes.