Budget Vote Debate: Incompetence to blame for FS water crisis

James Letuka MPL

Free State Provincial Legislature

Note: This is an extract of a speech delivered by James Letuka during the Budget Votes debate in the Free State Provincial Legislature today. 

Honourable Speaker,

The water crisis in many municipalities within the Free State is shocking. Is it a norm in the Free State for communities to be expected to live without water? Is it acceptable that the total of 26 Free State towns fail to uphold their constitutional mandate to ensure safe and sustainable water supply to our people? This is indicative of the ANC’s total disregard of the welfare of our people.

The water crisis in the Free State continues to deepen with 26 towns regularly experiencing water disruptions. The town of Springfontein was left without water supply for almost four weeks due to broken pumps. The Kopanong mayor, Mr XT Matwa, blamed the procurement process for the delay in repairing the pumps.

On 30 September 2013 the DA lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission to investigate the Free State Provincial Department of Cooperative Governance Traditional Affairs and Human Settlements in its failure to effectively manage fresh water resources, maintain existing and establish new water infrastructure and failure to implement measures to alleviate the water crisis in the province.

It is totally unacceptable that 26 towns within the Free State experience short supply, suffer from water disruptions, or only have access to water that is unfit for human consumption. The towns are the following:

Honourable Speaker,

Why is the Free State awash with sewerage? You can go to anyone of the 39 towns and you will be greeted by sewerage in the streets. Waste water treatment plants are not functioning properly due to poor or no proper maintenance and as a result sewerage flows into the rivers.

The Causes for this sorry sad state of affairs are:

  • No proper planning done to ensure that there is enough water for towns;
  • There is no qualified and experienced management and engineers;
  • Incompetent and untrained staff;
  • No proper maintenance of the infrastructure.

More importantly Free State municipalities could not manage to spend R88.5 million of their Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) funds. Some of these problems could have been addressed.

Honourable Speaker,

The question may be asked, why this horrible and frightening picture of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs? Part of the answer is found in the Auditor General’s report that says:

  • Only 9% of the Local governments reflect good leadership.
  • In 73% of municipalities, officials lack appropriate competencies.
  • All municipalities have no consequences for poor performance and transgressions.
  • There is a 69% vacancy rate and instability is prevalent.

Failure on the part of municipalities to collect R5.4 billion household debt, as revealed by the answer to a written question we submitted through the NCOP to the previous Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Mr Lechesa Tsenoli.

If a Municipality is not able to collect and manage revenue properly, it cannot deliver services effectively.

The Free State will not achieve clean audits in local municipalities until senior management is stabilised but it would appear that the ANC is set on destabilising local government by not creating a stable senior management and appointing qualified and competent individuals.

What about the completion of the more than 8 500 homes this department committed to complete and hand over by the end of the previous financial year? At Jaggersfontein and Ezenzeleni houses still remain incomplete. But MEC Zwane’s mini-Nkandla mansion stands tall in a sea of poverty in Warden.

When will more than 5 000 title deeds be handed over to beneficiaries? This executive talks about economic empowerment, but they use the building of houses and title deeds for their own political ends.

Honourable Speaker,

This department under the leadership of MEC Mlamleli seems to be working towards keeping the people of the Free State thirsty and homeless.