South African minister of water and sanitation, Nomvula Mokonyane, on Tuesday urged the business community to invest in the country's water security in a bid to prevent the collapse of one of the sectors on which the economy rests.
Speaking at the Water Infrastructure Investment Summit 2017 in Johannesburg, Mokonyane said the conversation aims to shift the water and sanitation sector investment landscape to a space that is open and enabling for investment and inclusive growth opportunities.
Mokonyane said that investment in the water sector would also mean the emergence of new players, specifically blacks, women and the youth.
"We are seeking a new partnership with the business and investment sector to ensure water security in South Africa in a manner that firstly ensures access to safe water and sanitation universally and in line with the Sustainable Development Goals," Mokonyane said.
"Radical socio-economic transformation entails, among others, the introduction of new models and mechanism of working relationships that will enhance the effective and efficient delivery of service to the people. This means that we have to look at new ways for an integrated water resource management.
"Efforts to manage, protect and preserve water as a critical resource in a sustainable manner speaks to the collective responsibility of all the stakeholders in the water sector."
The Water Infrastructure Investment Summit is a significant gathering of various industry leaders who are coming together to plot new and inspired ways to ensure the country's water security in a bid to close the water gap.
"All of us, jointly and separately have specific roles to play to ensure that through infrastructure development, we can bring about inclusive economic growth and prosperity for the African child," Mokonyane said.
"The water sector in South Africa has been registered as a critical player in the World Economic Forum on new models in promoting investment in water and sanitation and appreciating waste water as a new gold."
This comes as water shortage in South Africa has become a critical issue, with 186 municipalities owing a total of R10.7 billion to the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) for water supply, of which R 3.9 billion is owed to the Water Trading Entity (WTE) of DWS, and R6.8 billion is owed to various water boards.
Of the top 30 municipalities who have outstanding debt, Vhembe District Municipality is ranked the highest – with R 642 876 734 owed.
Mokonyane has threatened to cut the water supply to 30 municipalities should they fail to pay their outstanding debt by Friday as a last resort to recover the losses.