The Limpopo provincial government and other relevant stakeholders failed to provide clean water to the communities because they were incompetent.
This is according to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) report released this week. SAHRC launched the investigation following several complaints by communities and concern groups accusing the municipalities of failing to provide clean, running water.
“Access to water is essential to everyone’s health, dignity, and prosperity. In recognition of the fundamental importance of water, the Constitution entrenches the right to have access to sufficient water.
“In recent years, SAHRC has received several complaints relating to the challenges of sufficient access to water in various districts in Limpopo province. Poor and/or insufficient access to water remains a significant challenge for many communities in Limpopo,” said Wisani Baloyi, SAHRC acting communications coordinator.
Baloyi said the commission started to investigate the water challenges in October 2021 after receiving an increasing number of complaints from members of the public regarding their lack of access to water.
He said SAHRC found in the main that most of the water services authorities were failing to comply with the Water Services Act 108 of 1997 as well as with the regulations relating to compulsory national standards and measures to conserve water, which provide for the minimum standard for basic water supply.
The Water Services Act is the primary legal instrument relating to the accessibility and provision of water services.
“The SAHRC, in its report, further found the following factors to be the underlying causes of water challenges in the province: lack of sufficient skills; lack of planning; and lack of proper execution of duties by water services authorities as required by the Water Services Act.
“The report also highlights how water services authorities fail to adequately spend grants allocated to them and how oversight bodies such as the Department of Water and the Department of Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements, and Traditional Affairs display a lack of consequence management towards those municipalities that are unable to provide water to vulnerable communities,” said Baloyi.
He said the report has already been tabled in the Limpopo Provincial Legislature’s portfolio committee on cooperative governance, human settlements, and traditional affairs to ensure that it exercises oversight.
He added that the commission will closely monitor the implementation of its recommendations to ensure that the right to access water in the province does not remain an illusory dream for many.
“The SAHRC reiterates that it is important for municipalities who are appointed as water services authorities to fulfill their crucial and direct role of providing everyone, particularly vulnerable communities, with access to water. This duty cannot be overemphasised in the context where South Africa is a water-scarce country rated amongst the top 30 driest countries in the world.”
The commission also found that Premier Stan Mathabatha’s office failed to monitor the provision of water by the municipalities.
To address the problem, it was recommended that the office conduct an assessment and evaluation of the provision of water in the province and develop and submit measures to effectively support the municipalities to ensure adherence to the Water Services Act and Compulsory Standards.
“This information must be submitted to the commission within three months of receipt of the report,” the report cited.
Provincial government spokesperson Ndavhe Ramukuela said they have noted the report.
“We acknowledge the great progress that has been made to make sure that many Limpopo citizens have access to water at a basic level since 1994. The report shows that 17 villages out of the total of 1210 villages do not have access to water. It is that backlog that the government has been fighting to make sure that all are covered,” said Ramukuela.
“Work will continue to close this backlog that is sometimes attributed to an increase in population versus the limited supply. The Department of Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements, and Traditional Affairs in Limpopo has in place programmes to support municipalities, especially those in distress. Matters raised by the commission will be looked into within the time frame that the commission has recommended.”