Mashatile leads a task team to address water crisis

Deputy President Paul Mashatile said they are addressing water challenges. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

Deputy President Paul Mashatile said they are addressing water challenges. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

Published Mar 28, 2024


Deputy President Paul Mashatile says he has been appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa to lead a task team on the water crisis in the country and one of the urgent priorities was to fix ageing infrastructure.

The task team will meet immediately after the Easter holidays and identify areas that are severely affected by water shortages.

However, Mashatile said one of the proposals on the table was that national government must take over where municipalities are failing to deliver water services.

The deputy president also said the department of water and sanitation has already allocated R10.1 billion to municipalities through the regional bulk infrastructure grant, R4,6bn through the water services infrastructure grant and R1.4bn through the municipal recovery disaster grant to address water challenges.

Ramaphosa said Mashatile will chair the task team. The president also appointed Minister of Water and Sanitation Senzo Mchunu, Minister of Human Settlements Mmamoloko Kubayi, Minister of Electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Thembi Nkadimeng, and Minister of Police Bheki Cele as part of the task team.

He said the minister of police was roped in because in some instances water infrastructure was damaged. Ramokgopa was part of the task team as municipalities sometimes cannot pump water because of lack of electricity.

Mashatile was answering questions in Parliament when he was asked about the water crisis and how government planned to address it.

He said the task team was proposing that national government must intervene when municipalities were failing to deliver water.

“I am not saying this task team will be a panacea for all the things, But it’s a good start. It’s a high level team that will move to provinces and municipalities. We have agreed with the President that where municipalities are not succeeding, we should do so as national government. Not to take over their functions.

“For the sake of the people to receive these services, we must intervene directly. I know sometimes councillors don’t like that in their areas, they say it amounts to taking away their responsibilities, but we have decided that where we think it is necessary to do so we will do so in order to ensure that our people receive the services that they need to receive,” said Mashatile.

He said Ramaphosa asked him to lead the water task team as this would allow national government to keep the water crisis on its radar.

They are working on a schedule in terms of the areas they will visit.

There was no time to waste and the task team will begin its work immediately.

“We will start our work immediately because the President appointed us (on Wednesday). I have already asked my head of office to start looking at the dates and looking at where we should go first.

“You may argue honourable Tamarin Breedt we start in the Free State, but there were big challenges in eThekwini and recently in Gauteng. Immediately after the Easter holidays the team will meet and start visiting various areas throughout the country to intervene as the president has requested,” said Mashatile.

He said from their visits in some of the municipalities they realised some of the challenges are about lack of maintenance and dilapidated infrastructure.

Municipalities would need to repair ageing infrastructure. This is one of the issues on top of the agenda of the task team.

They need to fix the infrastructure as a matter of urgency,

The grants that have been allocated to municipalities have to perform that function.

Mashatile said municipalities have complained they do not have money to fix the water infrastructure, but the department of water and sanitation has given billions in grants to fix water infrastructure.

“Government continues to support municipalities to address water infrastructure through regional bulk infrastructure grant and the water services infrastructure grant. During the 2023/24 financial year the department of water and sanitation allocated R10.1bn to municipalities through the regional bulk infrastructure grant and R4.6bn through the water services infrastructure grant.

“In addition to that an additional budget of R1.4bn has been called what we call the municipal disaster recovery grant. That is for the 2024/25 financial year. This will fund repairs, reconstruction of the municipal infrastructure, particularly that was damaged by the floods in 2023.”

Mashatile said they will start visiting the affected after the Easter holidays.

But this was an urgent issue as many municipalities have water challenges.

However, he pointed out that where necessary national government would have to intervene directly to ensure there was no shortage of water supply in municipalities,

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