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Speech by the Premier of the Free State, Ms Beatrice Marshoff, on the occasion of the Xhariep Water Summit, Trompsburg

Programme director
Members of the Executive Council present
Mayors and Councillors
Respective stakeholders
Ladies and Gentlemen:

In the 50th anniversary year of the Freedom Charter, I greet you by reminding you of our commitment to our people, that there shall be houses, security and comfort! One of the main priorities of our people is to have safe and reliable water supply and sanitation services and the better life that the Freedom Charter committed us to fight for; I must remind you that without water, there would be no economy, no services of any kind, indeed, no life. Without the water resources, services cannot be delivered. We are consequently convening this summit with all of you so that we may successfully deliver on collectively identified and jointly agreed upon sector goals and targets. One of the key priorities of the Free State Growth and Development Strategy (FSGDS) is to provide free basic services to all households and water is one of those services. As we are gathered here to deliberate on matters related to water and sanitation in this area, we have to take cognisance of the role that the availability of water is playing and will play in the development of the Province, such as the more efficient use of water resources, the allocation of water rights, equitable access to resources, and others.

The Xhariep district is one of the driest in our provinces and I believe it is entirely appropriate for us to come together here today to consider how water can contribute even more to the economic and social development programmes in this area, and where it may be a serious constraint.

This must be seen and understood as part of our efforts to make co-operative government work. We must be guided by a common vision if we are to work together to achieve our common goals. We have come together to discuss both water resource management and water services. Water supply and sanitation matters will be interrogated in detail.

We must realise that local government is faced with a number of complex challenges that will require both long and short-term solutions. It is within this context that government launched Project Consolidate to assist municipalities. Project Consolidate recognises the need to pursue our transformation programme with an increased sense of urgency. With this structured project and initiative of government, actions will be intensified to meet the needs of our people. Through Project Consolidate we aim at the acceleration of service delivery especially with regard to the implementation of free basic services such as sanitation, water electricity and refuse removal. Project Consolidate aims at providing specific capacity in terms of human resources. Civil, electrical and water engineers are provided to municipalities that do not currently have sufficient resources. They will have to assist with tasks such as assessing the requirements to stabilise electricity, water and sanitation networks.

We are aware that water services delivery in the Xhariep district is faced with challenges that require intervention mechanisms aligned to the FSGDS, national strategies and policies regarding the provision of water and sanitation.

Some of the challenges facing this district municipality relate to the need to amongst others:

* Secure additional water for human consumption as well as economic development
* Improve the management of water services and
* Address all water and sanitation backlogs and implement sound management systems.
Of course, providing infrastructure is only the start of providing water supply and sanitation. Good management of operations is critical if we are to avoid dry taps, blocked toilets and polluted rivers.

Our province has undertaken various initiatives aimed at ensuring that drinking water quality is monitored and maintained. We are the first province to initiate a structured programme in this regard and lessons learnt here will be shared with other provinces.

With respect to the challenge of sanitation, we should note that the Department of Water Affairs, in co-operation with Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) and National Treasury, have made R1,2 billion available over the next three years to eliminate the buckets once and for all. It is therefore imperative to take this opportunity once and for all to eliminate this stinking legacy of the past.

We must, however, be aware of the challenges facing some municipalities in the Province where water quality data indicates that our sewage treatment works are not being managed as well as they should be and that some have even discharged raw sewage into our precious rivers. It is the responsibility of each municipality to ensure that planning, budgeting and management of such sanitation infrastructure is done properly.

In closing, I wish to state that water has played a prominent role to establish the principles of equality, dignity and equity, the right to safe and healthy living, the right to food and jobs and an unqualified opportunity to develop our human and economic assets.

These include key water issues, which clearly demonstrates the common goals and principles that we share with you. Let us join forces, minds and ambitions and work together to achieve a better life for all our people in an effective and sustainable way. While our women are not free from the burden of carrying water, while children are not free from the burden of disease caused by unsanitary conditions, while our people are not free of poverty caused by joblessness, of the misery of homelessness, none of us is free and we cannot say that our struggle is over. In the words of the Freedom Charter, I am confident that the deliberations emanating from this summit will assist us as provincial and local government to ensure the provision and proper management of clean water and adequate appropriate sanitation for our people.

I thank you.

Issued by: Office of the Premier, Free State Provincial Government
20 September 2005





LitNet: 12 July 2006

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