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Municipalities settling debts ahead of water cuts

The Department of Water and Sanitation warned that they would cut water supply to 30 municipalities if they don't pay their debts by December 8.

witbank water update


Since Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane announced that 30 municipalities owe the department R10.7 billion, the municipalities have been locked in talks with the department.


The department’s Sputnik Ratau says although he can't confirm the exact number facing water cuts as a result of debt, 16 made payments by 30 November. He says the numbers are increasing day-by-day.


''We’ve been having very successful interactions with a number of municipalities, in fact the larger number of them have come forward to start paying their current accounts, but also to make arrangements towards the recovery of historical debt they might have incurred.''


Ratau says even though most municipalities have been forthcoming, there is still a lag with some, especially in the North West.


''The North West Premier, Supra Mahumapelo, the provincial MEC of Human Settlements [Galaletsang Fenny Gaolaolwe] and delegates from the Department of Co-operative Governance and Affairs are currently in a meeting with the municipal managers of the affected municipalities to look at how they can alleviate their water debts to circumvent any water cuts''.


However, Ratau says municipalities such as Emfuleni have shown significant progress and set examples for other municipalities after making a commitment to ensuring a billing system that is compliant with the department's municipal debt payments.


''We welcome the payment agreement and commitment by Emfuleni Local Municipality to ensuring that the water debt is paid. This is a clear indication that our [Intergovernment Regulations Framework] IGR framework is intact, and we are hopeful that other municipalities what owe for water supply will follow closely on the footsteps and example made by Emfuleni.”


Ratau says although ''municipalities had no understanding of the importance of paying bulk water services'' the interactions they've had thus far as a department has yielded positive results.

Speaking at the Water Infrastructure Investment Summit held at the Sandton Convention Centre on 5 December, Mokonyane said without exonerating the municipalities debt, she recognises that water project infrastructure is expensive.


''Like South Africa, many developing countries need water infrastructure to improve the livelihoods of their citizens and their quality of life. While there are many constraints to the delivery of water infrastructure, one of the most obvious factors that hampers delivery is project finance.


''Many of the nation's water and wastewater infrastructure and systems have been operated for five or more decades. As pipes, pumps, and plants reach the end of their expected life lifespan, water infrastructure capital needs are growing rapidly, yet investment in water infrastructure is not keeping pace.''

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