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Water shortages: Gordhan calls on municipalities to prioritise maintenance

Government says in some instances, infrastructure is up to 50 years old and needs to be maintained.

Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Pravin Gordhan attended a briefing on the state of Johannesburg's water situation on 12 November 2015. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Pravin Gordhan has called on municipalities to start setting aside up to eight percent of their operational budgets for the maintenance of water infrastructure.

Gordhan is leading an inter-ministerial committee dubbed "team South Africa" that will be addressing the country's water shortages and drought.

He says there are still vast differences between municipalities where some don't have the financial capacity for necessary upgrades.

Government says in some instances infrastructure is up to 50 years old and needs to be properly maintained.

Gordhan says help will be offered where possible but municipalities need to ensure that they are making wise decisions.

"A lot of our emphasis with municipalities is going to shift to 'are you operating your infrastructure properly'? and 'Do you have the right skills'? and 'Are you undertaking the necessary maintenance?'"

At the same time, Agriculture Minister Senzeni Zokwana says the effects of the current drought need to be tackled as quickly as possible before human life is also affected.

The minister is part of a task team made up of five departments that will come together to address South Africa's water shortages and drought.

He says his sector has been severely affected with some of the country's top maize producing provinces declared disaster areas.

Zokwana says it's disheartening to watch the deterioration of the environment.

"As a sector, we are highly affected and we've seen cattle dying; we've seen plants withering, what we don't want to see is people dying."

Farms in five drought stricken provinces are being affected by drying dams and low rainfall.

Added to this, the Environmental Affairs Department says it expects around 300 fires on farms due to the season's heatwaves.

As a result a relief fund has been set up to aid farmers who are hit by various natural disasters.