The announcement by the MEC for Health in the Free State, Ms Nokwanje Leeto, of cholera outbreaks and increased serious incidents of diarrhoea in the Free State is not surprising. Infant deaths due to diarrhoea may be under-reported in rural areas of the province since access to healthcare is restricted by long queues at health facilities, lack of resources and poor roads that restrict access.
The DA has warned for more than a decade that the dysfunctional water and sewage facilities due to poor technical and financial management are a serious health hazard to residents of municipalities. There appears to be no political will to deal with this looming crisis which is exacerbated by load-shedding. Load-shedding cannot be blamed for dysfunctional water and sewage plants since this problem has existed and the facilities have deteriorated over many years.
Residents of Ngwathe Municipality have been victims of deteriorating facilities and, like many other towns in the Free State, are often without water or experience poor water quality.
The DA also held a march and handed over a petition to this effect to the Office of the Premier in Bloemfontein last year. The provincial government should be dealing with this issue as a provincial disaster, but sadly the Disaster Management Centre was closed by the Department of Labour. Since then, there has been no sense of urgency or consequence management for poor management and even sabotage of water facilities. The DA requested the SAPS in Parys and Bethlehem to investigate alleged sabotage at the municipal water facilities.
The DA will hold the municipal and provincial governments accountable for this ongoing crisis in municipalities that remains a looming threat to the health of residents in the Free State.