Remarks by Premier of KwaZulu Natal Mr Sihle Zikalala During the Launch of UMshwathi Bulk Water Scheme by Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Hon. Lindiwe Sisulu

Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Hon. Lindiwe Sisulu;
MECs present;
Mayor of Umgungundlovu District Municipality, Cllr. Thobekile Maphumulo;
Mayor of Mshwati Local Municipality, Cllr. Mandla Zondi;
The Director-General of KwaZulu-Natal,
Members of the Media;
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;
Humble Greetings to you all!

Watering and growing the seeds of freedom and development

Minister Sisulu and your delegation, we wish to convey hearty welcome to you and your delegation to the beautiful and hospitable province of KwaZulu-Natal.

We cannot contain our joy with your work visit and the launch of this bulk water infrastructure here at Umshwati Local Municipality.

A hundred years ago, isithwalandwe and recipient of the national order of Imendi in Gold for bravery and the ANC’s first chief whip in the provincial legislature, umunt’ omdala Harry Gwala, the lion of the Midlands, was born in this municipality KwaSwayimane, Hannover.

In the year of the centenary of his birth, we could not have been more happier than to see our national government conclude the stressful and covid-19 challenging year than to officially launch this water revolution for the people of uMshwathi.

Thanks to the ANC-led government and your department Honourable Minister for hearing the cries of the people of uMshwati who are faced with the challenge of access to water given the decaying water infrastructure and its inability to meet the demands of a growing population, agriculture, and industry.

We are equally pleased as the provincial government with this mega project because in stating the priorities for the 6th Administration, we identified the delivery of basic services, water delivery in particular, as priority number one for the communities of KwaZulu-Natal. Such a project also goes to the heart of fighting hunger and unemployment which affect many of our communities in KwaZulu-Natal.

Honourable Minister, we have no doubt that this huge investments in water provision has an even deeper meaning for the people of Umshwathi and the meaning to our freedom and democracy.

I am reminded Minister Sisulu that this areas is part of the painful memory of bloodshed where the apartheid state in the eighties was directly involved in dividing our people, fueling violence, and murdering innocent people. One of the sites that we are visiting today, Trust Feed, remains etched in our minds on how on the 3rd of December 1988 the Pretoria Regime, working with the police, massacred 11 people at a night vigil, many of whom were women and children. People’s homes were burnt to the ground and many were forced to leave never to return to Trust Feed.

Today, we hope that this water will go far not just in healing the wounds of the past, but in cementing peace and in rekindling our hope in the democratic experiment and freedom.

On day full of promise like today, we are reminded of Amical Cabral when he says that the people are not fighting for anything in anybody’s head, but for tangible material benefits for themselves and their children.

And so, may this bulk water infrastructure be the reservoir of sustainable development and succeed in watering the seeds of development that the people of Umshwati yearn for.

Compatriots, today’s occasion is to celebrate the attainment of an important infrastructure project that is set to change completely the lives of the people of Umshwathi and surrounding areas.

We congratulate the people of Umshwathi for this achievement and in particular, we would like to recognize the role that the Minister and the Department have played in ensuring the success of this project.

We are also pleased to be part of this celebration because Umshwathi is mostly a rural and farming area where people’s livelihoods rely to a large extent on the provision of a constant supply of water for communal and commercial use.

Minister we wish to restate that KZNs water challenges are well known as they come second only to unemployment as the biggest challenge that we face after unemployment.

Therefore when a water scheme of such a scale and magnitude is being launched, it makes a huge impact on the efforts of government not only to provide water, but to address the economic backlogs in this area and the rest of the province.

This is because Water is a source of life and economic enabler yet people in areas such as Umshwathi are confronted cheek by jowl by water resources that they are not able to use for their benefit.

Some of the water that goes through our communities even go to Gauteng and other provinces without the communities benefitting from these infrastructure.

As we gather today, we are all aware of the devastating impact that water scarcity and the persistent droughts have had on our farmers and communities of KZN.

The cause for lack of water supply are numerous; and they include: the legacy of apartheid social planning, population growth, urbanisation, decaying water infrastructure, corruption in local government, and our collective failure to get our citizens, except those who are indigent, to pay for services to help augment our revenue collection.

Indeed the Provincial Government of KwaZulu-Natal, which we are privileged to lead, has identified the supply of water as one of the key priorities of the sixth administration.

To this end, the Provincial Executive Council, have directed that a Consolidated Provincial Water Master Plan be developed to adequately respond to the water challenge in KwaZulu-Natal.

Correlation between water and economy

South Africa and indeed our province are increasingly water scarce, investment in water infrastructure and diversification of water resources is becoming an increasingly important factor in building our economy and reducing our vulnerability.

Recent water developments in KZN

Although recent rains have brought partial relief to KZN’s farmers, businesses and communities, the impact of the severe drought we experienced between 2015 and 2017 is far from over.

In some parts of KZN, our recovery efforts have been compromised by what is now called ‘green drought’ which is drought that persists despite superficial rainfall that does not penetrate deep enough or does not reach water storage facilities.

Our agricultural sector remains particularly vulnerable to water risks and a changing climate. Water stress has become the new normal and we need to start to adapt and innovate. Climate scientists predict that KZN will become drier and experience moderate to strong warming over the next 100 years. By 2050, the rainfall will likely have decreased by about 30% from current levels.

Each municipality is obliged to develop a water services development plan for its area of jurisdiction. The plan which needs to feed into the municipality’s integrated development planning process as a whole details its strategy for providing access to water services at a local level.

Water supply challenges

Despite this – excuse the pun – ‘water-tight’ legislative framework, there are some sobering facts to consider.

We have learned that nationally, at least a third of the 144 municipalities that are also Water Services Authorities are dysfunctional, and have limited technical staff. Water services that have been provided since 1994 are not reliable, with a third of households, mostly in rural areas and informal settlements, having no access to a reliable service. They are at the epicentre of water backlogs and service delivery protests.

Research also shows that around 77% of rural households are indigent or entitled to free basic water, which places a strain on municipalities with a low revenue base. Water tinkering is a costly substitute solution for permanent water infrastructure and it places additional burdens on finances.

Another huge challenge is the pace of municipal infrastructure deterioration with assets often being pushed to the limit as a result of constrained capital budgets and resultant poor maintenance.

Partnering for solutions to water crises

It has become obvious that the growing gap between water supply and demand in South Africa in general and this province in particular demands urgent action.

Given our structural difficulties in providing enough water to meet society’s needs, it is clear that government and the private sector must partner to develop effective policies and sustainable solutions.

The KZN Waster Master Plan

The reality is that we must provide the answers and we have drafted the KZN Water Master Plan which is not just a provincial plan, but one that seeks to address local problems as part of the national solutions.

We have no doubt that the KZN Master Plan will be implemented with the help of national government and particularly the national Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation.

As you will be well aware Minister, the KZN Master Plan is aligned to the Sanitation Master Plan of national government.

Minister as we receive this important project,

We therefore want to appreciate the directive that has been given by the Minister to Water Boards such as uMngeni, to implement the mega water project such as uMkhomazi, Steve Dlamini, and Cwabeni among others.

Minister you have an ally in the KZN to ensure that the issues of water are addressed. This is in our interest and in the interest of the people from whom derive our mandate and legitimacy.

We will not rest until every person and community in the province has enough for their sustenance and also to ensure the water is used to grow the economy and by so doing create jobs and address issues of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

Introducing the Minister of Water and Sanitation

We are therefore pleased that we have the hard working and diligent Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation in the caliber of Minister Sisulu in this portfolio. We are also honoured that His Excellency President Ramaphosa identified her as champion for the impoverished and rural district municipality of Umkhanyakude.

Minister, you have an ally in the KZN to ensure that the issues of water are successfully addressed.

We will not rest until every person and community in the province has enough for their sustenance and also to ensure the water is used to grow the economy and by so doing create jobs and address issues of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

Minister Sisulu is a patriot and a daughter of the soil who needs no introduction as she has an impeccable record of struggle and has been in the service of our people virtually her entire life.

Minister Sisulu is a veteran of our revolution and has been Minister in a number of portfolios where she served with distinction and has left a legacy for us to emulate.

Minister Sisulu is also a member of the National Executive Committee of the ANC and has served in the structures of this ANC including in MK in exile.

Join us Minister Sisulu in growing KwaZulu-Natal Together and in restoring the dignity of our people!

I thank you!

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