The already existing socio-political pressures in South Africa stemming from high unemployment, widespread poverty, service delivery discontent, sharply increased electricity tariffs, runaway fuel prices and ever-rising food prices could soon be exacerbated by sharply increased water supply tariffs.
Minister for Water and Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, recently revealed that over R570 billion will be needed for investment across South Africa’s water value chain in the coming 10 years. There is presently a massive R320-billion shortfall that needs to be made up – most likely through sharply increased water tariffs for consumers.
Molewa says the money is needed for water-related infrastructure (R162 billion), services (R394 billion), conservation and demand management (R16 billion) across the entire national water supply spectrum.
These figures are derived from a long-term investment plan currently being finalised by the department of water affairs. More government funding may be forthcoming as water is classified as a critical resource, but much of it will, no doubt, come out of the consumers’ pockets.
This raises the spectre of further increases in service delivery protests which have been steadily on the rise across the country over the past decade.
The independent research agency Municipal IQ reports that there were 402 major service delivery protests in the country between 2004 and 2011, with another spike being recorded this year.
The Western Cape has been the worst-hit province, accounting for 24% of the protests. It is expected the protests will increase with the onset of winter.
In conjunction with that, the annual wage negotiations and strike season gets underway more or less at the same time, adding to the all-round socio-political and economic pressures afflicting the country.
To worsen things, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) is organising a major protest and national strike on April 30 against implementation of Gauteng’s e-tolling system. It will call on all its 2 million members to participate while hoping thousands more non-union people will join them. This follows a similar national strike and protest marches it had staged on 7 March this year.