Three South African provinces are currently experiencing extreme drought, and most major metropolitan areas are facing water restrictions. Water may not be as sexy as land, but it is going to become one of the hot-button issues of the next few years countrywide. As Parliament heard on Tuesday, however, the national Department of Water and Sanitation is in frightening disarray its condition compared by MPs to the worst-run State-owned Enterprises. New Minister Gugile Nkwinti is inheriting a mess which the country cannot afford to let slide further.
"The truth is, we don't have a department."
That's how Parliament's Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) chair Themba Godi summed up the state of the Department of Water & Sanitation following a disastrous appearance by water officials on Tuesday.
It was the third time that the department had been called before Scopa to account for its financial mismanagement, and on this occasion the committee had had enough. Scopa, Godi announced subsequently, will be opening a criminal case against the department.
The criminal proceedings relate to a R2.9-billion overdraft which the department may have illegally obtained from the Reserve Bank, but this is only the tip of...