The replacement of competent people in South Africa’s water sector with ANC-deployed cadres has resulted in the water crisis the country is currently facing.
This is feedback from water scientist Dr Anthony Turton, who told Newzroom Afrika that South Africa’s water supply is in a deep crisis.
“Is it a crisis? Well, I work a lot with the commercial world, and I am telling them that we are deep in crisis and have been since 2002,” Turton said.
Emblematic of this crisis is that 46% of the country’s water is undrinkable, according to the government’s latest Blue Drop Report.
The root cause of this is that 90% of the country’s wastewater works are dysfunctional to some extent.
This collapse filters through the country’s drinking water as South Africa’s water system is based on ‘indirect reuse’.
Turton explained that water from wastewater works is dispatched into the nearest river, following treatment, and is then picked up by bulk water plants later on, which then treat the water further and pump it to the end consumer.
Thus, if the water is not treated properly at wastewater plants, it will result in the water provided to end consumers being unsafe.
“I think we would have to start off firstly with technically competent people that are not politically connected being employed. That is the most important thing,” Turton said when asked how to solve the crisis.
“This whole idea of cadre deployment in the water sector, as far as I am concerned, has brought us to this point where we are today.”
“This is a national crisis. It is an existential threat to the very viability of our national economy,” Turton said.
Cadre deployment generates failure
Turton’s comments echo those of the chair of Social Security Systems Administration and Management Studies at Wits, Professor Alex van den Heever, who said cadre deployment generates systemic failure.
“The problem with the cadre deployment policy and the way in which the BEE framework has been handled is that it generates systemic failures of governance. These systemic failures do not just go away,” Van den Heever said.
The governance failures have significant knock-on effects on the country’s economy, with some estimating that South Africa has lost between 30% and 40% of its potential GDP from these policies.
“Much of our unemployment and inequality can be explained by these policies. Cadre deployment as a policy itself does not fit in the South African context and the South African Constitution,” Van den Heever said.
The Professor emphasised that what has been implemented does not genuinely empower people. Instead, it created middlemen that do very little and add no value to society or the economy.
These middlemen magnify the cost of basic services for no added benefit to the consumer and wider society.
If services are rendered, they are often over budget and only after significant delays.
“It has essentially been driven by individuals who have tried to divert funds to themselves and friends rather than to develop South Africa.”
“You cannot create these loopholes and gaps in the public service and state to pursue that goal.”
The most important factor needed to make the South African economy more inclusive is not a simplistic model to push transformation – it is economic growth.
“What we needed to do is expand the economy. In expanding the economy, we will have systemic transformation across the country,” Van den Heever said.
“What we have done instead is destroy value, wholesale. It is really putting the whole of South African society at risk.”