Water. A life-giving force that’s so easily taken for granted. For many of the impoverished communities in South Africa who lack basic sanitation in their homes, accessing clean water for survival is a daily battle.
To remedy the situation, the government has begun an ambitious mulltimillion-dollar project to provide households with tanks to harvest rainwater for cooking and cleaning. But in parts of the country, state officials’ personal interests seem to be derailing progress.
Our anti-corruption centre in South Africa was tipped off about a particular case in the province of KwaZulu-Natal – a region in which the sanitation crisis is at its most critical, and more than 14 per cent of the population live without access to clean drinking water.
According to complaints, tanks in the provice were not being installed properly, leaving some units completely useless and communities without their right to clean water. Further reports said tank installers have been claiming payment for work not done.
Our team started investigating, finding evidence that sub-contractors appointed by the government to install the units didn’t have the capacity to carry out the job.
Among the subcontractors was a company directed by a former government official. Less than a year ago, this same official was responsible for allocating similar contracts to service providers.
This may not seem to be an isolated example – according to South Africa’s human rights commission, the sanitation crisis in KwaZulu-Natal province is due largely to “systemic failures in governance and budgeting, particularly in the implementation of and spending on projects.”
Now we’re putting pressure on the authorities to give answers. To start, officials have committed to paying door-to-door visits to affected households and getting installers to fix tanks at their own cost.
This is a good first step, but it’s not enough. Access to clean and safe water is a basic human right – we want to ensure that real oversight is built into water projects right from the start.