Every problem has a solution, plus five talking points from ‘Vrye Weekblad’

04 February 2022 - 06:45 By TIMESLIVE
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Dr Anthony Turton was the CSIR's top-rated scientist when he was suspended in 2008 for warning about a looming water crisis in SA.

What has happened in the 14 years since?

Well, the short version is the crisis he predicted is upon us. 

“I described it as a slow-onset disaster. Almost like the boiling of the frog. You don’t realise that it’s happened until it’s happened. The reality is about 60% of our municipalities are in some form of distress and that is usually around the delivery of water, wastewater management and things such as potholes. But water and wastewater are universal across all municipalities, including the big ones such as Johannesburg and Pretoria. It’s not as if we are going into crisis. We are deeply in crisis already. "

It's not all doom and gloom, however. Though we need about one trillion rand to fix what is broken in the water sector, there are advanced plans under way to address this challenge. And the buzzword is “special purpose vehicles" (SPVs).

SPVs, says Turton, are the answer. They allow us to create entities separate from the sticky fingers of those wanting to enrich themselves through corruption and they provide the legal framework to ring-fence money intended for specific purposes.

“This is important, because let’s say you’re paying an imaginary R1,000 a month in rates and taxes to your local authority for services rendered and let’s say R100 of that is for your water services. That R100 ought to be ring-fenced to pay for operations and maintenance in the water sector, but that money can be hijacked because the mayor needs a new motor car or a new security upgrade to his house. So the SPV overcomes that important legal challenge."

And, Turton is convinced embracing technology will allow us to turn things around.

He uses desalination as an example. “Every one of our coastal cities, from Richards Bay to Cape Town is water insecure. East London is facing a catastrophic failure of the water services, Richards Bay and Durban are where Cape Town was during Day Zero.

“When people talk about the prohibitive cost of desalination they’re smoking their socks, because that cost is coming down to a par with the delivery of surface water," Turton says.

“SPVs are legal, they are kosher, the banks are happy with them and Sars is happy with them. I believe it's going to be a floodgate and more of them are going to be rolled out than anyone can imagine."

Read the full article, and more news, analysis and interviews in this Friday’s edition of Vrye Weekblad. 


Must-read articles in this week’s Vrye Weekblad

>> Browse the full February 4 edition

YO, PODBRO | It would be too easy to say Joe Rogan is just a rich guy with big muscles and a big mouth. But that would be a mistake. Why does he have such influence over young men across the political spectrum?

ZONDO II | The second state capture report reads like a chronology of the destruction of two important national assets, but the dark cloud over the ANC leadership probably means no swift action will be taken to fix it. 

WHAT IS CYRIL SAYING? | It is astoundingly ironic that President Cyril Ramaphosa's integrity is being questioned by the swearing, insulting ANC MP Mervyn Dirks. But that doesn't mean Dirks' complaint is without merit.

HOORAY FOR THE OLDIES! | The ongoing success of Neil Young, Rafa Nadal and George Foreman is reassuring. Now we just wait for Lance James and Tommy Dell.

BEAUTIFUL POWER | One often reads of people who have gone mad when falling in love. It hits you like the power of a huge white-crested wave that knocks you off your feet. And when you get back up you have brain damage. 

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