“A person sells a farm to somebody; you’ll find that a person owns the farm, but you don’t own the water. Some still have that water allocation, but they’re not using the water,” deputy minister of water affairs, Rejoice Mabudafhasi, told News24.
Water allocations are a contentious issue in SA because it is a scarce resource and the agricultural sector currently consumes about 62%.
On Wednesday, Water Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, told Parliament that the government was pushing ahead with plans to create “water equity”.
The department is considering limiting water entitlements that can currently be sold or traded.
“You are not occupying that land; that water must be transferred to someone who is able to use it,” said Mabudafhasi.
She was speaking at the launch of a community project initiated by the department called “Adopt a River” where the Khayelitsha residents on the Cape Flats cleaned the Kuils River.
The project aimed to encourage communities to limit waste and pollution around sensitive water areas that would allow for sustainable development.
“Those ecosystems are the ones that are able to sustain this community and there are certain types of vegetables that they can grow along these wetlands,” Mabudafhasi said.
She said that small farmers were finding the lack of water resources particularly challenging and the department was committed to assisting them.
“We have a challenge of our smaller farmers who are coming up now, whom we are supporting but they don’t have water. They can get the water that is not being used. We need to bridge that gap.”
Water abstraction remains a significant problem in SA and up to 30% to 40% of water is lost through this theft in some municipalities.
Mabudafhasi said the department was determined to tackle the problem.
“Our Blue Scorpions are there. When they do illegal connections, people down the river don’t get water and you are stealing – you are a thief – you are a criminal. When we find them, we don’t negotiate – we break all those connections. We [will] punish you for stealing our water.”