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'Fix this once and for all': Amnesty International SA on access to clean water for every South African

15 July 2020 - 17:31 By Naledi Shange
Amnesty International SA says water is integral to fighting the coronavirus but many South Africans do not have a safe and reliable supply.
Amnesty International SA says water is integral to fighting the coronavirus but many South Africans do not have a safe and reliable supply.
Image: 123rf.com/Riccardo Lennart Niels Mayer

Amnesty International SA has called on the government to make good on its promises to  provide water and sanitation for all, arguing that the coronavirus pandemic had made this crucial. 

The group was responding on Wednesday to reports about people protesting for water supplies in rural villages of the Eastern Cape being shot at by police with rubber bullets.

The executive director of the organisation, Shenilla Mohamed, said they were alarmed by reports about police allegedly using excessive force to curb unrest in Peddie and Bathurst.

The Mail&Guardian had reported that protesting residents had poured filthy water on to their hands to illustrate their plight. They reportedly said there was no way they could comply with lockdown regulations when they could not sanitise or wash their hands.

Mohamed said: "We repeat our call, once again, that while it is critical and important to ensure that people adhere to the lockdown, the police should not use excessive force against protesters.”

Her organisation said every day people without access to clean water were in danger of contracting the coronavirus. 

“Each day that passes puts peoples' lives at risk, and the government must urgently scale up its efforts to deliver water to communities, and it must do so without any further delays,” the group said.

It launched the Turn on the Tap campaign, calling on government to deliver.

The organisation advised government to be transparent, accountable and progressive.

“Transparent with communication and information regarding which communities water is being delivered to, the distance needed to travel to access water, and how much water is being distributed per household.”

Regarding accountability, it said government needed to be “accountable to its commitments, including ensuring municipalities monitor water levels so individuals have access to sufficient, safe and reliable water each day, and are able to regularly wash their hands with soap.”

The organisation said being progressive was important “so that equitable access to sufficient, safe and reliable water becomes a reality for all, even beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Amnesty International SA said prior to the coronavirus pandemic, one in three South Africans did not have access to safe, reliable and sufficient water.

“The time is now for the government to fix this once and for all, not only during the crisis but always. It must put people first, and ensure that the right to water is fulfilled for everyone.”