Minister Senzo Mchunu Discusses Municipal Service Delivery and Key Projects

As part of National Water Month, Minister of Water and Sanitation, Senzo Mchunu, sat down with Kirsten Kelly to discuss the complexities of municipal service delivery, highlight key projects, and reflect on the significance of World Water Day.

Image: Ann Arbor Wastewater Treatment Plant West and East Plant Projects

Water for Peace: A Path to Unity

World Water Day, observed under the theme “Water for Peace” this year, promotes the idea of using water as a tool for fostering peace. Minister Mchunu shared his insights, reflecting on the dual nature of water—its calming presence and its potential for destruction.

“Water holds the unique duality of tranquillity and aggression,” he explained. “Many people find solace in the presence of large bodies of water such as oceans, lakes, or rivers. The gentle sound of waves or the stillness of a serene lake can induce a feeling of peace. Water always finds a way to flow towards gravity, changing form as it travels. This characteristic of water teaches us about sharing and managing resources collaboratively.”

Minister Mchunu emphasized the importance of using water to unite people and countries. He recounted his experiences at the United Nations Water Conference, where global leaders gathered to discuss water-related issues and solutions, fostering a spirit of cooperation and mutual assistance.

Transforming the Department of Water and Sanitation

Under Minister Mchunu’s leadership, the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has transitioned from focusing solely on bulk water and resource management to prioritizing water services management. This shift addresses the needs of communities demanding reliable access to potable water.

“People do not care what level of government is responsible for what portion of the water in the value chain. They want to open their taps and receive a constant supply of potable water,” said Mchunu. He highlighted the necessity of regulating, supporting, and intervening in municipalities where water and sanitation services are deteriorating, stressing that the department’s goal is to balance its priorities between bulk water management and water services management.

Addressing Service Delivery Challenges

Minister Mchunu outlined the challenges faced in delivering water and sanitation services, particularly the frequent leadership changes in local governments. He pointed out that the City of Tshwane had four different mayors in five years, while the City of Johannesburg had eight in the same period.

To combat these issues, the DWS is amending the Water Services Act to empower national government intervention in failing municipalities. The Water Services Amendment Bill, approved by Cabinet for public comment, includes a legal requirement for water service providers to have an operating license and strengthens enforcement mechanisms. This aims to ensure that Water Services Authorities (WSAs) provide water services to an acceptable standard.

Reforming the Sector

Minister Mchunu highlighted the establishment of Catchment Management Agencies (CMAs) and Water User Associations (WUAs) to enhance decentralized decision-making and involve stakeholders in managing water resources at a local level. He also discussed the role of the newly established Water Regulator Commission in guiding raw water pricing tariffs and attracting investors to the sector.

Key Water Projects Across the Country

The minister provided an overview of key water projects aimed at ensuring water security across South Africa. Some of the notable projects include the revival of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project Phase 2, raising the Clanwilliam Dam wall in the Western Cape, the uMkhomazi Water Project in KwaZulu Natal, and the Giyani Bulk Water Project in Limpopo. These projects are at various stages of development and are crucial for addressing the water needs of different provinces and municipalities.

Vision for the Future

When asked about his wish for the water sector, Minister Mchunu expressed his desire for a self-sustainable water and sanitation space with efficiently run systems and fair payment for services. He emphasized his commitment to resolving challenges and transforming the public sector to provide exceptional service delivery in water and sanitation, ultimately improving the lives of South Africans.

“In conclusion, I was not appointed as Minister to explain challenges; I was appointed to resolve them. South Africa’s water sector has the potential to compete with the best in the world. But this requires leadership. You need to be persistent, strong, listen to people, and be decisive. My plan is to transform service delivery in water and sanitation and transform lives in doing so.”

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