Newspaper future case study

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Newspaper future case study

Messenger A lot of what is being presented as radical economic transformation initiatives in South Africa is simply state capture by a corrupt elite. The water sector provides a lens through which this issue can be viewed in a very practical way. The consequences will be dire if the situation is not addressed.

The minister of water affairs and sanitation Nomvula Mokonyanestands at the centre of the unfolding tragedy. Billions of rands are at stake in a story that threatens the lives and livelihoods of all water users. So, are the controversial activities of some political leaders ensuring that water comes out of the taps in rural villages?

Have their decisions contributed to the security of the water supplies that are needed to keep industries working and the economy of the country growing?

Is the country making the right investments in its water future? Is there value for money? Is the right infrastructure being built, in the right place, and is it built properly?

Newspaper future case study

At the most basic level, the number of people whose taps no longer provide a reliable water supply grew by almost 2 million between to This is a problem particularly in rural areas but it is spreading to urban areas as well.

In most cases, it has been shown that the problem is bad management not a shortage of water. At the other end of the scale, the picture is no better. Expansion of the biggest and most important water supply scheme in the country, the Vaal River System, is more than five years late.

The main reason for the latest delay is that Mokonyane has spent two years changing the rules and governance of the project. She replaced Dlamini with a lawyer with no engineering or water knowledge. Then she cancelled a tender that had already been closed after reportedly meeting with officials of the company that was excluded because it did not have the required expertise.

More scandals In between the township tap and the big dams of Lesotho, there are many more sad stories.

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Newspaper reports tell of huge contracts given to political friends — R4 billion in Limpopo Province alone. But then in November the Auditor General highlighted the department as one of the worst offenders for billions of rands of irregular expenditure.

Mokonyane then claimed that the irregularities were due to drought despite the fact that they occurred after three years of normal to above average rainfall in the province concerned.

Meanwhile, officials in the national government and water professionals have been horrified to learn that, in the Free State, the minister and mayor of Mangaung are pushing ahead with proposals to build a R2 billion pipeline to bring more water to the city from the Gariep Dam on the Orange River.

If this project goes ahead, it will reduce funds for water provision in the province by more than a R1 billion. Radical transformation Mokonyane has justified her actions on the grounds that she is promoting radical economic transformation. But what does that mean and is it true?

In the handover report of the first National Planning Commission said that radical change was necessary to end poverty and inequality and ensure a prosperous South Africa. The commission spoke of the need to move away from narrow black economic empowerment benefiting only a few people to more broad-based approaches.

The shift emphasised supporting people engaged in productive activities rather than just middlemen. It pointed out that new economic tools would be needed to achieve this. Conventional economic policies would need to be interrogated and support, such as long-term low-income loans, would need to be provided.

It is important to consider decisions that are being taken today and ask whether they are moving the country in this direction. When companies without capabilities are appointed to do jobs, they have two choices.

They can appoint others to do the work for them, the traditional middleman approach. Or they will try to do the job themselves, resulting in delays and cost overruns. This is no small job. The tunnel, big enough to drive a double decker bus down, will be over 30 kms long.

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So choosing inexperienced contractors could result in disastrous delays and cost overruns. If decisions taken in the name of radical transformation put the water supplies to major centres at risk of interruption, economic activity will stagnate or move elsewhere.

With it will go the jobs and opportunities to engage more people in the economy. Already, many South African corporations are worrying about the water security of their operations in places like Gauteng.

Playing into the pockets of the elite When money is wasted there will simply be less available to provide services to those who do not yet have them.

This will in turn reduce demand for the basic goods and services in house building and construction that should be part of any radical economic transformation. Mokonyane faces mounting criticism for her handling of water matters.Newspaper serving Vero Beach, Florida, focusing on Vero beachside and Vero Beach barrier island news.

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South Africa's water sector: a case study in state capture