Villagers whose taps have run dry have to share dirty water with lifestock and dogs. Photo by Mkhuseli Sizani

have a dream that one day South African politicians will find the courage to pull their fingers out of their butts.

I have a dream that one day our country will be governed by people who have the political will to execute plans that can make our lives a little tolerable. Not this bunch of capital fat-cats arse-lickers with rubbery backbones.

I am tired of the dirtbags whose only talent is to bury their heads deep in the sand, leaving their backsides swinging in the air, emitting stinking lies and half-truths.

Our government always prefers to be in denial when it comes to its policy failures and instead, opts to blame some imaginary mammoth organisational forces for its own-goals. We are governed by buffoons who always sing the denial hymn and lack the ability to properly engage in debate and break down when it comes to listening.

As far back as 1998, government was warned that Eskom’s capacity to provide electricity was in danger…nobody listened. For almost 14 years now we have had to endure rolling blackouts which are infamously known as load-shedding.

In a rare public admission in 2007, former President Thabo Mbeki said: “When Eskom said to the government, ‘We think we must invest more in terms of electricity generation’, we said no, but all you will be doing is just to build excess capacity. We said not now, later. We were wrong. Eskom was right. We were wrong.”

The next crisis that we may have to endure is water shortages, which some commentators say could be much worse than load-shedding. Our so-called leaders are in denial though.

The other day, I had the misfortune to listen to the Minister of Water and Sanitation, Senzo Mchunu, mumbling incoherently about the country’s water crisis and contradicting himself along the way.

Speaking in the trademark political forked tongue, Mchunu attempted to assure us that there is no water crisis in South Africa.

“On average, we are not in any crisis of water but I know that there are areas in the country that are either getting less than the required supply but, in some cases, no water at all.

“And as far as those areas are concerned, we may talk about a crisis in those areas where there is no water at the moment. But we need to avoid the exaggeration to say the whole country is going through a crisis,” Mchunu muttered.

Our ‘genius’ minister went on further to tell the nation: “The situation overall is, South Africa is a water-scarce country. In other words, South Africa has less water than it needs. If you lift your eyes and say, how much water do we have in the country?… it will always be less than the demand. But that does not mean we are in a crisis.

“If we manage the water that we have, the water that is available at the moment, we will continue. We will manage everywhere in the country. We will go on well.”

If what he said does not give an indication of a crisis, it means our minister’s well of reality has run dry.

Mchunu does not seem to care a drop of water that the reality that is looming large for the masses in small towns, rural areas and cities is that their own Day Zero is imminent and, in some areas, it has already pulled in.

This country’s developmental agenda will be properly served by making certain that there is reliable supply of water at suitable quantity and quality that is not risky to people’s health, livelihoods, growth and the environment. This calls for government to sharply focus on water security, not this nonsense of ministers wrapping themselves in a piss-wet blanket of denial.

Water security is indispensable for the socio-economic development of South Africa. This means there must be a reliable and secure water management system put in place URGENTLY!

Denial will never be a solution. Also, ignoring a problem and hoping that, just like a fart, it will disappear, is an act of monumental stupidity.

If you are a real leader, you have three important obligations:

• To craft a vision.

• Build alignment.

• Champion execution.

Corruption Watch and the Water Integrity Network released a damning report in March 2020, aptly entitled, Money Down the Drain: Corruption in South Africa’s Water Sector. The report examined the extent and drivers of corruption in the water and sanitation sector and made recommendations on actions that needed to be undertaken in addressing corruption and maladministration in the water and sanitation sector.

It drew attention to the extent to which corruption has become systemic, involving all levels of society and rife in both the public and private sectors. As per the report, while formal rules, policies and laws appear to be in place, in reality, informal rules prevail.

In its executive summary, the report said, “South Africa faces significant water challenges. Water is often not available where and when it is needed, or of the quality needed, due to unpredictable rainfall, limited infrastructure, the misuse of financial resources, and poor management – aggravated by corruption.

The impact of corruption in the water sector is measured in dry taps, lost jobs and polluted rivers. Many, particularly young children, old people and those with compromised immune systems have become ill from drinking unsafe water or their homes and toilets cannot be kept hygienic.

Corruption in the water sector has resulted in deaths.

This corruption extends from taps in rural villages to the systems that supply South Africa’s economic heartland. Village taps have run dry so that councillors and their friends could get contracts to truck water.

The construction of a dam to provide water to Gauteng has been delayed by years, in part because a minister sought to change procurement rules to benefit her friends.

In the Western Cape, the raising of the Clanwilliam Dam, which would create thousands of new farming jobs, has been delayed for similar reasons.

Companies have paid bribes to get business. Some have promoted unnecessary projects and claimed payment for work done badly or not at all, often colluding with officials who oversee their work.

Others, have monopolised specialist areas of work to grossly over-charge for their services. Individual households are involved through unauthorised, unmetered water connections, often made by the same plumbers who maintain the supply systems, using material from their workplaces.

These problems are aggravated by a failure to appoint competent people to do the jobs required and officials being pressurised by politicians and seniors to do the wrong thing – risking dismissal or worse if they don’t comply.”

In its March 2018 National Water and Sanitation Masterplan, the department said South Africa can avoid a projected a 17% water deficit by 2030 by taking bold action today. Mchunu, we are asking for BOLD ACTION now – not denials.

The master plan told us that South Africa faces a water crisis caused by insufficient water infrastructure maintenance and investment, recurrent droughts driven by climatic variation, inequities in access to water and sanitation, deteriorating water quality, and a lack of skilled water engineers.

This crisis is already having significant impacts on economic growth and on the well-being of everyone in South Africa. These impacts will be exacerbated if it is not addressed.

“In April 2017 14, 1 million people still used sanitation facilities below the Reconstruction and Development Programme standard. Only 10,3 million households (64%) have access to reliable water supply.

Approximately, 56% of the over 1,150 municipal wastewater treatment works and approximately 44% of the 962 water treatment works in the country are in a poor or critical condition and in need of urgent rehabilitation and skilled operators. Some 11% of this infrastructure is completely dysfunctional.

“Between 1999 and 2011, the extent of main rivers in South Africa classified as having a poor ecological condition increased by 500%, with some rivers pushed beyond the point of recovery.

“South Africa has lost over 50% of its wetlands and of the remaining 3,2 million hectares (ha), that is, one third are already in a poor condition.”

After 27 years in power, it becomes inevitable for any governments to lose touch with reality and the ability to listen to advice that is not kind to their ear. These lengthy unbroken phases in power have made the ANC develop an inability to listen and see, and… it has entrenched unaccountability.

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