28/11/2017 07:09 SAST | Updated 28/11/2017 07:49 SAST

Water Cuts To Defaulting Municipalities 'Unconstitutional'

"The constitution says the DWS has an obligation to supply citizens with water and the cutting of water would be against the constitution."

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The pending water cuts to 30 municipalities across the country have been slammed as "unconstitutional and unfair punishment" to the ordinary citizen.

According to The Star, the South African Local Government Association's director of municipal infrastructure, Jean De La Harpe, said the R10.7 billion water debt owed by over 185 municipalities is a major problem and that the department of water and sanitation needed to find alternatives to deal with the defaulters.

"The Constitution says the department has an obligation to supply citizens with water and the cutting of water would be against the Constitution. Some of the end-users have been paying for the water but it is the municipalities that aren't paying this to the department," said Harpe.

"This move will affect public health services and punish the end-user and it does not guarantee that the debt will be settled."

While the department has given the municipalities until 8 December to settle their combined R10.7 billion debt or face water restrictions and suspensions, it has also pleaded with the Treasury to intervene by stopping the defaulting municipalities' grants.

Gauteng's Emfuleni Municipality is already feeling the pinch of water restrictions following Rand Water's decision to implement a 60 percent reduction of its bulk water supply last week, which led to schools, clinics and hospitals around Sebokeng having to rely on trucked-in water. Emfuleni owes R431.7 million to Rand Water, while Merafong and Mogale municipalities have a combined debt of R72 million.

Meanwhile, Rand Water, which provides bulk water to 17 municipalities in and around Gauteng, has a bill of R1.4 billion, with Johannesburg Metro owing R480.7 million to the water board.