Gauteng and NW Province

Water crisis a ‘mammoth problem’

Edna Molewa says government has both the resources and will to act on SA’s water crisis.

Alex Eliseev | 11 months ago

JOHANNESBURG – Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has described South Africa’s water emergency as a “mammoth problem” which is receiving a “mammoth response”.

Molewa was responding to an investigation by Eyewitness News which spanned all nine provinces and revealed the extent of South Africa’s water emergency and the growing pressure on government to deal with it.

Canvassing communities across the country has exposed claims of corruption, pollution and fortunes being made by those selling water or taking over the duties of municipalities.

EWN’s investigation also cast the spotlight on a booming industry surrounding the sale of clean drinking water.

The minister says government has the resources and the will to act and can improve on communicating its successes.

“The problem is mammoth but we also have mammoth responses, which I don’t think most of our people know about.”

Molewa says a new team has been assembled to communicate better and make sure interruptions are dealt with.

The two major issues identified are co-ordination between tiers of government and the role of industry which consumes the vast majority of the country’s water supply.

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) says government must prioritise people’s lives especially the poor.

The commission says if the state can build World Cup stadiums it can deliver water.

Apartheid geography and migration patterns play a role, but at the heart of the water crisis is a breakdown in co-ordination and oversight by government as well as a failure to plan and maintain infrastructure.

From townships outside Cape Town to Nkandla and Soweto, communities have told stories of waiting almost an entire day to fill up water buckets.

According to the latest census figures, nine out of 10 South Africans have access to tap water.

But the reality on the ground paints a very different picture.

The last seven years have seen a dramatic drop in how communities perceive the quality of their water.

Millions of people don’t have access at all while others report queuing for up to ten hours to get a single bucket of water.

Two weeks ago, four people protesting for water were killed in Mothutlung near Brits.

Pregs Govender, Deputy Chairperson at the SAHRC, says South Africa has the ability and money to fix these problems and must do so urgently.

“It [government] actually has to respond to the needs of the poorest people in the country. Our Constitution is very clear; dignity is inherent for every single person.”

Municipalities have had to bring in private or semi-private contractors to deal with water problems and these deals are worth millions of rands.

The commission is due to release a landmark report on the water and sanitation situation later this year.


Water is indeed a problem at the moment and there isn’t MORE water available than a century ago, let alone all the corruption etc taking place. It’s disgusting, but a fact (unfortunately). Rather harvest your own water and go off the grid during the rain season. Those odd few dry months during Gauteng’s dry winter months are well worth it and our system is designed to ALWAYS have an emergency supply of back-up water.

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