Mpumalanga Municipalities Grapple with Water Crisis and Service Delivery Challenges

Mpumalanga municipalities in South Africa struggle to provide basic water services, with residents facing prolonged water outages. The crisis highlights broader service delivery challenges and the need for infrastructure investment and governance reforms.

Trim Correspondents
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Mpumalanga Municipalities Grapple with Water Crisis and Service Delivery Challenges

Mpumalanga Municipalities Grapple with Water Crisis and Service Delivery Challenges

Municipalities in Mpumalanga, South Africa, are facing significant challenges in delivering basic services to their residents, particularly in the area of water supply. The water crisis has been a persistent issue, with residents in various municipalities dealing with dry taps for months despite the government's promises to address the problem.

The South African Human Rights Commission recently held a workshop with experts to discuss potential solutions to the water crisis. However, residents believe that the situation has only worsened, with the Verulam Water Crisis Committee escalating the matter to international organizations like Amnesty International and WaterAid. The committee has accused the government and eThekwini Municipality of human rights violations due to their failure to provide adequate water services.

The eThekwini Ratepayers Protest Movement has also criticized the government's lack of action, stating that water outages have increased, and the municipality is merely applying temporary fixes instead of addressing the underlying infrastructure issues. The South African Human Rights Commission and the eThekwini Municipality did not respond to requests for comment by the publication deadline.

Why this matters: The ongoing water crisis in Mpumalanga highlights the broader challenges faced by municipalities across South Africa in delivering essential services to their citizens. The failure to address these issues has significant implications for public health, economic development, and social stability in the affected communities.

ActionSA, a political party led by former Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba, has accused the ANC government of failing to address the water crisis, which they claim is "entirely avoidable if it had not been preoccupied with looting our country." The party has proposed a plan to solve the crisis, which includes appointing engineers and project managers in the Department of Water & Sanitation, investing in technology, reducing demand and increasing supply, and identifying and addressing water leaks.

Water Crisis Response: The government has announced plans to spend R80 billion to deal with the water crisis, and Deputy President Paul Mashatile has called for the situation to be "depoliticised." The water crisis is expected to be a central issue in the lead-up to the upcoming general election on May 29, 2024.

Service Delivery Challenges: In addition to the water crisis, municipalities in Mpumalanga are also grappling with other service delivery challenges. The Emfuleni Local Municipality has spent over R20 million paying employees who were on suspension over the last four years, including a petrol attendant and a driver who have each been paid more than R1 million since being suspended in 2020. These prolonged suspensions have hindered service delivery, and the money spent on suspended employees could have been used to improve services for residents.

Challenges in Fund Recovery: Municipalities are also struggling to recover funds that have been spent irregularly. Malusi Mhlongo, the head of Legal in the eThekwini Municipality, has defended the city's inability to recover these funds, stating that it is legally impossible to do so if the municipality has not suffered any damage. The municipal public accounts committee has revealed that many reports of recoveries are impossible due to the cases being more than three years old, highlighting the challenges municipalities face in ensuring compliance and rooting out corruption.

Water Infrastructure Crisis: Minister of Water and Sanitation Senzo Mchunu has admitted that despite R60 billion in grants being allocated to municipalities every year to maintain water infrastructure, the water crisis has deepened. Mchunu attributed the limited progress to a lack of skills, lack of maintenance of the water infrastructure, and a weak billing and revenue collection system in municipalities. He emphasized that while financial support is necessary, structural reform of the municipal water services function is also required to address the declining water infrastructure and wastewater services.

Key Takeaways

  • Mpumalanga municipalities face water crisis, with residents experiencing dry taps for months.
  • Residents accuse government of human rights violations due to failure to provide water services.
  • ActionSA proposes plan to solve crisis, including appointing experts and investing in technology.
  • Municipalities struggle with service delivery challenges, including paying suspended employees.
  • Minister cites lack of skills, maintenance, and weak billing as reasons for deepening water crisis.