Marti Wenger MP
DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs
The North Gauteng High Court has ordered the Chief Albert Luthuli Municipality to supply residents of Carolina with potable drinking water within seventy-two hours. It is a travesty that the issue even had to go to court in the first place.
Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, was quick to inform the media that the court order was not against her national department. But the very fact that the case had to go to court is demonstrative of a collective failure of water governance. Both the Department of Water and the Chief Albert Luthuli Municipality failed in their duties to secure the safe supply of drinking water.
In this regard I intend to ask the Minister what action she will take against the Municipality. It should not be left to community organisations to take the Municipality to court when it fails in its mandate. The national government itself should be laying criminal charges against municipal officials who repeatedly fail to deliver on their statutory water responsibilities.
In response to the ruling, the municipal mayor’s office reportedly told the media that they would check their finances before knowing whether they could comply with the court order.
But this is not about finance. It is about human dignity. I visited the area last week and was appalled at the apparent disdain with which the municipal authorities were attempting to deal with the water supply problems.
While the minister announced, in the wake of the ruling, that audit samples had arrived this morning which indicated that Carolina’s water is now safe to drink, it is not clear that any of the underlying structural issues have been adequately addressed. The purification plant can only cater for 3.5 megalitres of water per day whilst the demand is between 5-6 megalitres. That the water itself may be safe to drink doesn’t address the problem that sedimentation in the pipes contaminates the water. Scraping of the pipes is in process but this appears to be aggravating the situation.
Carolina, along with Caropark and Silobela townships, went without drinking water for six months. This is six months too long and we will be doing everything in our power to make sure this situation never recurs. In particular, we will be keeping a close eye on Chief Albert Luthuli Municipality’s capacity to monitor the structural problems and deliver water reliably. We will do the same with the Department of Water, which has a statutory regulatory role to play in ensuring that minimum standards are adhered to.