Remarks by Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Hon. LN Sisulu, at the occasion of media briefing to outline interventions to curb the spread of COVID-19
A day after President Ramaphosa announced a State of National Disaster on the 20th of this month, I directed my team to identify communities most at risk to the spread of the virus, and draw up a plan to provide water and sanitation to such communities.
I did so because of the realisation that time was of the essence and we did not want to wait until the virus reached overcrowded and informal settlements. It was important that we prepared - to ensure that we did not find ourselves overwhelmed, thereby allowing the spread of the virus to continue unabated.
The Ministry of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation (MHSWS) and Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), have adopted the principle of collaboration, coordination and alignment between Provinces and Municipalities.
With regards to water and sanitation, our interventions focus is on water services infrastructure, with an intention of improving water supply, access to sanitation and sanitizing of public spaces.
The high risk areas which require our immediate interventions are:
- public areas with limited or no access to water and sanitation services,
- overcrowded settlements (inclusive of hostels and inner-city areas),
- informal settlements,
- rural settlements and water scarce towns.
So far, we have identified just over 2 000 communities across the country that will need our urgent attention.
Our interventions with regards to water and sanitation will cover the following:
- Ensure water supply to communities not yet served by a formal water service. This will include providing communal water storage with water collection points, which will be filled by means of water carting in the interim.
- Providing Hand-washing facilities in public places (such as taxi ranks, community halls etc.) However with the lock-down announced, this will be reviewed.
- Health and Hygiene campaign which goes hand-in-hand with the provision of Sanitation.
- Interim containerised sanitation systems will be provided in the targeted highly dense areas as identified by Department of Human Settlements, which will be implemented by the Metros with USDG funding.
Already in the Eastern Cape, 47 water tankers have been procured and will service priority communities which have been identified to experience water shortages. Moreover, over 1000 water tanks have also been procured and are currently being delivered to affected communities.
We have put measures in place to implement our interventions. We have set up an Operation Centre at the Rand Water, one of our Water Boards – where we are monitor the distribution of the services mentioned.
We also have provincial command centres and have mobilised the Regional Offices of the Water and Sanitation Department, Municipalities and Regional Water Boards to act as distribution centres.
Regarding Human Settlements, the department has identified twenty-nine (29) areas of priority for de-densification in an effort to combat the spread of the virus. These areas are mainly found in Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal, Western Cape and Eastern Cape.
If the virus were to reach densely populated areas, it will find fertile ground to spread. We will need to urgently move some of our people for the de-densification to be realized. Land parcels to relocate and decant dense communities have been secured. This will not be far from the current place of residence.
Private Sector Commitments
The Department also received commitments from the private sector:
BUSA (Business Unity South Africa):
- They engaged SANTACO to get commitment for the implementation of public hand washing facilities at taxi ranks (Top 10), BUSA will also join the effort to identify essential service areas to target those taxi ranks.
- They will also provide health and hygiene promotions
- They are working with the Departmental Team to identify the targeted areas for intervention assistance in both public and communal areas to ensure a coordinated approach.
We appeal to our people to recognise that the threat posed by Coronavirus in our informal settlements is real.
It is therefore, in their best interest to avoid this risk by cooperating with government as we relocate them to healthier and safer homes. Let us help each other to save the nation.
For more information contact:
putnik Ratau, Spokesperson for the Department of Water and Sanitation
Cell: 082 874 2942