KwaZulu-Natal municipalities have been found to have violated residents’ fundamental right to clean drinking water, according to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). This conclusion follows an inquiry conducted by the SAHRC into the persistent water challenges faced by the province.
The inquiry, held in Durban in August of the previous year, involved the collection of submissions from various stakeholders. The SAHRC has been inundated with over 600 complaints related to water access since 2020.
Commissioner Philile Ntuli emphasized that these violations are compounded by a prevailing sense of neglect, indifference, and, in certain cases, outright contempt for the suffering of individuals. Despite their attempts to engage with municipal authorities through officials and elected representatives, residents’ pleas have often been ignored.
The extent of the water access challenges and the associated violations of rights have been substantiated by the multitude of complaints received by this chapter nine institution. Ntuli pointed out that impoverished communities and vulnerable households are particularly affected. Additionally, these challenges have adverse effects on businesses, ultimately undermining employment opportunities.
The SAHRC’s report also highlights the significant disparities between rural and urban communities concerning basic services like water and sanitation. This situation directly affects the rights of rural residents to equality, dignity, and equal access to constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms.
Municipalities face the complex task of addressing the historical consequences of apartheid-era spatial planning, which excluded many communities from basic water provision. Moreover, they must contend with the burden of maintaining aging and deteriorating infrastructure.
Commissioner Ntuli concluded that these challenges, as outlined by municipalities, are indicative of poor resource planning and management. This particularly relates to issues like non-revenue water and infrastructure maintenance.