Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Lindiwe Sisulu appealed to municipalities to refrain from abruptly cutting water supply to residents because it impinged on their basic right to access clean water, while at the same time hindering the government's effort to fight Covid-19.
"The government has embarked on a national drive to encourage all South Africans to wash their hands with soap and water regularly to stem the tide of the coronavirus," Sisulu said on Sunday.
She added that her department's call centre had fielded thousands of calls with complaints about municipalities cutting the water supply of people who were in arrears or, at times, for "no apparent reason".
Most of the complaints come from the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
"I appeal to municipalities guilty of this practice to switch on the water supply immediately. This is not the time to be punishing our people for failing to pay their water bills.
"We must all rally around the government's call to wash hands frequently in order for us to defeat the scourge of Covid-19," Sisulu said.
Her department is currently distributing JoJo tanks to communities in need, so they can wash their hands regularly to prevent infection.
"The maintenance of hygiene standards by everyone is key to containing and eventually defeating the pandemic," she said.
Sisulu also appealed to communities, who had not yet received water tanks, to be patient while the government continued distributing.