Water Affairs debate in SA parliament

Cape Town – AM Mpontshane MP: “Honourable Chairperson,

I am new in the portfolio of water and sanitation, however issues are not new to
me, neither are the people.

I live amongst the poorest of the poor and I know their daily struggles. The pictures of women carrying buckets of water on their heads, travelling long distances, are all too vivid in my mind. As a consequence, I will not theorise about their daily challenges and struggles.

The question is: what does this budget have for these people?

I note that the total for the 2014/15 budget is over R12 billion, which increases to over R17 billion for 2016/17. These figures will only be meaningful to the people once they have been translated into tangible projects, which are aimed at changing people?s lives for the better. Otherwise the much acclaimed “better life for all”, will remain an empty slogan.

Let me cite two examples to show how the department has failed in many instances to meet its obligations.

Firstly, the Shemula scheme in Umkhanyakude district. This scheme has become dysfunctional. The people in the area have not received any water from it for over 5 years now. Can you imagine what would happen in an urban setting if people didn’t have water for 5 years in their households? They would make the area ungovernable, but I am not advocating anarchy.

Why does the department treat people in the rural areas with such disdain?

Whilst we note that the amount of R603 million, which was introduced in the 2013/14 budget for the municipal water and infrastructure grant to eradicate backlogs in water and sanitation, will increase to R2.8 billion in 2016/17, without strong leadership and skilled personnel at municipal level, these budgetary increases will be meaningless to the people.

In the department’s annual performance plan, a mention is made of the Pongolapoort bulk water scheme which is under construction. This is an example of a project that has no time frames and is meaningless to the people who do not have water now. It is tantamount to a person who stays in an abusive relationship with the hope that one day, things will change.

This is how this government has treated people in the rural areas.

The other example of sanitation issues gone wrong, involves one room houses built in Mbazwana, under the umhlabuyalingana municipality. The toilets, which have non-working septic tanks, are inside the houses. The stench is more than hat of the pigs in one of the farms in the Northwest province.

These are just a few examples which need your urgent attention honourable Minister. Come and see for yourself.

As the IFP, we reluctantly support the budget.”