Ramaphosa’s out-of-touch denial of water crisis risks a disaster greater than load shedding

Issued by John Steenhuisen MP – Leader of the Democratic Alliance
29 May 2023 in News

Note to Editors: A voicenote from the DA Federal Leader John Steenhuisen is attached here

In today’s Presidential Newsletter, President Cyril Ramaphosa has sought to downplay the state of South Africa’s water supply and infrastructure by stating that “water quality in South Africa is of a high standard”.

Aside from a dangerous denial of South Africa’s water crisis and the ANC’s role in it, this is also a gross misrepresentation of the facts which neither diagnoses the problem, nor seeks to address it.

It is this same denial of our electricity crisis that has South Africa on the brink of a national grid collapse.

The President cannot afford to bury his head in the sand on the state of South Africa’s water.

This is precisely why the Democratic Alliance is embarking on a national oversight campaign to address South Africa’s water crisis. We must urgently identify and address challenges to water infrastructure, supply, and quality if we are to avert outbreaks of disease and uphold our nation’s right to access to clean drinking water.

The Green and Blue Drop reports, from which the presidential newsletter cites various figures, also provides a damning indictment on the state of drinking water in South Africa which has dangerously declined under ANC governments across the country. President Ramaphosa fails to mention that these reports point out that in terms of the drinkability of water in systems across the country, 23% are in the critical risk category, with a further 11% and 18% in the high and medium risk category respectfully.

This would mean that close to half of drinking water systems in the country are at serious risk of collapse and pose a potentially mortal threat to the nation through the spread of disease and illness. Outbreaks of cholera in Northern Gauteng and the Northern Free State are not spontaneous events, they are symptoms of endemic corruption under the ANC which has diverted funds meant for water provision and infrastructure maintenance, into the pockets of ANC cadres.

President Ramaphosa will recall that then former National Minister of Water and Sanitation, Nomvula Mokonyane, presided over the R3 billion War On Leaks project in 2015 which, according to an internal departmental audit, did not address water losses in the country. The very same Minister is responsible for delaying the Lesotho Highlands Water Project to allegedly award contracts to companies she has relationships with, prompting a Public Protector investigation. This project cost taxpayers R26 billion, with no date of completion in sight. Where has all this money gone?

In the Western Cape’s recent devastating drought, water scarcity was exacerbated by bulk water projects which the National Department has still not, to this day, embarked upon. We now see in Gauteng that even while dams are full, the province experiences water shedding due to infrastructural neglect under the ANC. Ultimately, Nomvula Mokonyane broke this Department, abandoning it in a state of debt to the tune of R4,3 billion, leaving hundreds of contractors high and dry and unpaid. In typical ANC fashion, Mokonyane is immune to consequence as she is now the ANC Deputy Secretary General of the African National Congress.

Similarly in 2022, National Minister of Water and Sanitation, Senzo Mchunu, stated that debts owed by municipalities to national Water Boards were sitting at R24,57 billion. We know that ratepayers pay their due to municipalities, only for national service providers to be out of pocket. Again, the question must be asked: where has all this money gone?

It is high time that President Ramaphosa acknowledges that the corruption under his party and his government has stolen the money meant for water provision across the country.

The outbreak of water-borne disease we are currently experiencing is merely a symptom of a greater problem, and that is endemic corruption under the ANC. President Ramaphosa cannot deny this, and he cannot shirk the blame any further if we are to address South Africa’s water crisis.