Elections 2024: What the major political parties say about water and sanitation

We sent questions to the ANC, DA, EFF, IFP, FF Plus, ActionSA, PA, MK Party and RISE Mzansi

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Across the country, waterways are in a poor state. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

Today’s question to the major political parties deals with our polluted water systems.

We asked the ANC, DA, EFF, IFP, FF Plus, ActionSA, PA, MK Party, and RISE Mzansi on 13 March and sent follow-up queries to those who did not respond. Some have still not responded.

Answers are very lightly edited for grammar and typos.

What would you do to fix and upgrade water and sewage infrastructure, and clean rivers polluted by untreated sewage?

ANC: The ANC government has reinstated the national water quality monitoring system through the Blue and Green Drop reports to enable intervention in municipalities where water treatment infrastructure does not meet the required standards. Building on the success in expanding access to water for households since 1994, we are investing heavily in upgrading and expanding water and sanitation infrastructure to ensure that every South African has access to safe and clean drinking water.

DA: DA-led governments such as the City of Cape Town are already doing more than any other government in the country to improve the overall quality of water systems. A recent question by the DA exposed that 77% of sewage being released via marine outfalls is from the ANC-governed KZN and that 75% of their 27 sewage treatment plants in the metro do not work properly.

The DA has already embarked on a programme to improve the quality of our water treatment facilities, such as the Potsdam plant. If elected into national government or provincial governments elsewhere, the DA will put an emphasis on improving the quality of water and sewage infrastructure in provinces and cities that have been neglected by the ANC.

Poorly maintained sewage systems in the ANC-governed KZN were one of the reasons for the extended devastation during the KZN floods in 2022 and two years later the ANC has still not fixed much of this damage.

The DA will ensure that natural river systems and estuaries are protected and improved and will work with local communities to prevent dumping and waste discharge as much as possible. Our governments are already trialling new and exciting ways to reduce the amount of plastic and other waste in river systems and this is yielding positive results.

EFF: By 2026, every household will be connected to the sewage system. This will ensure that sewage is properly managed and treated, reducing pollution in our rivers and safeguarding public health.

It is our goal to reduce the levels of pollution in all South Africa’s rivers by 60% by 2029 by implementing smart drainage solutions using sensor technology to prevent flooding and improve water management, especially in urban areas. These innovations will help us better understand and control the flow of water, reducing the risk of pollution and waterborne diseases.

The EFF also plans to introduce Internet-of-things-based solutions to enhance waste management efficiency in urban areas. This includes implementing smart recycling systems and improving waste collection strategies. By leveraging technology, we can reduce the amount of waste that ends up in our rivers and improve overall sanitation conditions.

Additionally, every household will have access to a flushing toilet connected to the sewerage system. Where connection to the mainline is not practical, we will implement on-site sanitation technology to ensure proper waste disposal. Therefore, by the end of 2026, we will eradicate bucket toilets.

We will remain resolute in our mission to drive change by motivating businesses to adopt stringent water recycling practices and curtail their pollutive activities. Through robust incentives, the EFF government will compel businesses to embrace sustainable water management strategies.

Furthermore, we will capacitate our national wastewater treatment works and invest in research and development for alternative wastewater treatment technology. At the same time we will intervene in the current plants, technologies, and chemical distribution used for wastewater treatment to prevent monopolies. This will ensure fair access to essential resources and technologies for all communities.

By implementing these measures, we will significantly improve water and sewage infrastructure, clean our polluted rivers, and ensure access to clean water and sanitation for all South Africans.

IFP: Eradicating for once and for all, the bucket toilet system, promoting water treatment/recycling technologies, and waste-to-energy projects, as well as recycling grey water and implementing measures to reduce water wastage, are essential steps. We must strictly prohibit sewer discharge into rivers and direct stormwater runoff and sewage to treatment plants to protect our natural water bodies.

The “polluter pays” principle will be strictly enforced under an IFP government. Community-based water and sanitation committees must be established, and communities, especially women and differently abled members, must be actively involved in delivering essential services and infrastructure development, like building houses and laying pipes for water, electricity, and sanitation. It’s time to take bold and assertive action to ensure that safe, affordable water and sanitation are accessible to all by 2030.

FF Plus: The upgrading and maintenance of sewage treatment plants should be prioritised. Conditional grants should be allocated to municipalities from the national fiscus to upgrade existing sewage infrastructure. Regular maintenance should be performed.

The environment should be protected through the effective policing of pollution. The law enforcers (the Green Scorpions) should be properly empowered to fulfil this function.

At the moment, government itself is mainly responsible for the drastic pollution of our water resources because sewage plants are not fully functional as a result of mismanagement. When a level of government is responsible for pollution or when it violates environmental legislation, the relevant accounting officer should be criminally prosecuted.

ActionSA: Unfortunately new investments in the infrastructure for our water systems are needed. These water ways have to be secured as far as possible from public pollution. We also need to use innovation to come up with ways to clean rivers of large particles such as plastic bottles and the like. For micro plastics and other smaller pollutants, regulations should be introduced to minimise the use of products that seep into the sewer making it harder to be detected and cleansed. Further to that, purification systems in the sewage infrastructure should include detection and isolation of other particles that have not been detected in most of our installed purification systems.

PA: We urgently require wastewater treatment works to be upgraded and expanded to the standard we saw in Israel. Unfortunately, the government of the past three decades failed to plan and manage our society in any kind of big picture way. You can’t just keep allowing houses to be built without expanding the sewage infrastructure at the same time. In much the same way, they kept adding people to the electricity grid without spending a moment on whether we should think about producing more electricity. We need more responsible people in charge, not just those who claim easy victories until the big fight actually arrives.

MK Party: The MK Party did not respond to our questions.

RISE Mzansi: The ongoing collapse of our water and sewage infrastructure in many municipalities is an indictment of the parties that have misgoverned. If you cannot supply clean water and treat sewage you do not deserve to run local government.

While national government has plans to provide financial and technical support to failing municipalities, the real problem is bad political governance. Toxic politics has denuded local government of financial management, engineering and project management expertise, as capable professionals were replaced by cadres, or have fled to the private sector or retired in disgust. The only way to fix our water and sewage infrastructure and clean up our rivers, is to elect capable, ethical leadership to local government.

TOPICS:  Elections 2024

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