South African troops suspended work to rehabilitate the water system that serves the nationís richest province because of a lack of funds.President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the sewage problem in the Vaal River system a national crisis in October last year and authorized the deployment of the South African National Defence Force to intervene because the local municipality failed to fix it, said Colonel Andries Mokoena Mahapa, who led the troops.
Many municipalities in South Africa are mismanaged and struggle to provide basic services such as water. Just 8% of 257 audited municipalities received a clean audit, according to the Auditor-Generalís office.
The SANDF stopped its refurbishment and maintenance work in June because it needs about 1.1 billion rand ($73 million) -- money it doesnít have -- to complete the project, Mahapa said in an opinion piece in the Johannesburg-based Star newspaper.
Raw sewage is flowing into the system from pump stations in the Emfuleni municipality on the northern bank of the Vaal River. Itís posing health risks to communities in Vereeniging, Sebokeng, Boipatong and Sharpeville in the southern part of Gauteng -- a province that includes the economic hub of Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria.
While troops were able to curb vandalism and the theft of pumping instruments and electrical equipment, the army needs to outsource parts of the project, for which more funding is required, Mahapa said. Itís currently only protecting installations. The national Department of Water and Sanitation in March set up a steering committee to tackle the issue, but it has to follow distinct procurement processes for funding and expertise, he said.

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