As water systems fail across South Africa, rural communities look to self-supply

An Op-ed originally published on the Daily Maverick: About half of municipal wastewater and water treatment works across South Africa are in a poor or critical condition. Many need urgent rehabilitation, and 11% are dysfunctional. Over three million people still do not have access to a basic water supply service. Self-supply in partnership with government could be the answer.

In the lead-up to Mandela Day, we reflect on the many meanings of Thuma Mina. It’s a presidential campaign to re-ignite the South African spirit of working together and working for the nation. It’s a song of hope by Hugh Masakela. It’s a traditional church chorus. It’s the optimistic and disillusioned Ramaphoria that gripped many South Africans and that has seen a tapering out since elections. It’s also a “joke phrase” used to anecdotally describe the trouble South Africa is really in. Whichever way you choose to look at it, it’s a call (or a cry) to action.

Several national departments have begun to realise the importance of this call – one being the Ministry of (now Human Settlements) Water and Sanitation emphasizing the case for local water management and the need for partnerships to address the water service backlog, particularly…