On Monday 24 February 2014, the Khulumani Water for Dignity fieldworkers from Makana Municipality participated in a meeting of the Eastern Cape Water Caucus which was convened by the Environmental Monitoring Group and hosted at the King Theatre in King Williams Town.
Participants included representatives of dam-affected communities in the Eastern Cape and communities which have no or limited access to water. The Eastern Cape Water Caucus was formed in 2008 as a means of constructing a forum for coordinating province-wide advocacy actions related to water and sanitation.
Some of the key outcomes of the meeting was the highlighting of the need for communities to take ownership of become collaborative problem-solvers at the local level through making access to water and sanitation a peoples’ issue, driven by conscientised community members who are engaged in building a movement to facilitate improved interaction with authorities at the local level. Great concern was expressed about local government failures in the meeting of community needs for water and sanitation. There was quite extensive discussion of the need to use Section 39 provisions to request national government to take over failing local government structures, especially in relation to the management of water and sanitation.
The top three concerns identified by the meeting were the issues of dam-affected communities whose water was not safe for drinking; the need for communities to form advocacy groups to become activated and conscious collaborative solvers of water provision problems at the local level; and the need for communities to establish water-related cooperatives to provide for fixing leaking pipes towards securing a ‘NO DROP’ status in communities, given that almost 40% of the country’s water is lost through leaks. Another initiative proposed by an attendee was for there to be a systematic programme of repairing windmills in the province.
A very significant proposal from the Emalahleni community was for communities in each district municipality to design an integrated community development plan as the basis for more effective negotiation with municipalities around the IDPs that guide the investment of state funds towards addressing community needs. It was noted that governance structures on the ground are still weak. It was also proposed that water caucuses be clustered within water catchment areas.
Khulumani Water for Dignity shared its programme of activities with the meeting attendees and explained that it was a community-driven initiative towards establishing a community water forum in every ward towards promoting a system of effective communication and knowledge-sharing about water and its provision and management especially when there are water crises.