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Sihle Zikalala’s master water plan ‘holds no water for KZN poor’ - SAHRC

17 August 2022

Durban — The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has criticised the KwaZulu-Natal master water plan, calling it an ambitious document that lacked detail on how it would be implemented.

The commission was grilling new Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC Sihle Zikalala during the commission’s Provincial Inquiry on Access to Water held in Umhlanga on Tuesday.

Zikalala was responding to more than 650 complaints filed by residents in relation to the water provision by the provincial government.

Zikalala had earlier presented a master water plan to the commission, detailing the government’s plan to improve water supply to the residents, adding that by 2030 there would be universal access to water.

The MEC said by 2050 the plan would have been fully implemented and the system would be effective enough, adding that out of eight priorities the government identified water as priority number one.

Commissioner Tafadzwinashe Mabhaudhi who fired the first shot at Zikalala’s presentation said the government had never run short of a good plan, but the problem was always in the execution.

Mabhaudhi said the master water plan looked good on paper but for him, it lacked details of implementation. The commissioner said according to the policy people should not live without water for more than seven days but it had been heard that it took months to restore water.

Another commissioner Chris Nissen was not impressed with the plan’s timeline for 2050, arguing that by that time the people who need water now would have died.

Commission’s chairperson Philile Ntuli was blunter, punching more holes in the plan. She said if the commission had to leave after listening to the MEC’s presentation it would have left convinced that everything was on track because of the promising submission the MEC had made.

She said the plan was unrealistic and did not take into account that along the way there would be unavoidable challenges like natural disasters. She added that the plan also lacked details on how it would deal with poor administration, corruption and weak consultation with communities which were among issues picked up in a state of municipalities report.

Ntuli said in the same report it was stated that out of 54 municipalities of the province only one was stable and 11 were declared dysfunctional. She questioned how the province was going to achieve its master water plan under poor administration. She added that according to the plan the government would need R150 billion but nowhere in the plan does it say where the money would come from.

“In this province 50 of water waste management systems were found to be in a poor state which was regression because in 2013 there were 15 that were in a poor state. Did this plan consider these regressions? ” said Ntuli.

In his defence, Zikalala urged the commission to find time to visit some of the areas that were damaged and also help the government in educating people to stop building in low-lying areas.

He listed a series of challenges, including traditional leaders who allocated land to people in dangerous areas which ended up becoming the government’s problem after disasters.

Zikalala said that the provincial government had made some strides in taking the water provision from 2% to 78%, adding that many challenges were caused by the historic spatial planning of apartheid. The inquiry will sit until Friday.

Source: Daily News

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