Sona: Bulk water supply, NHI, rail projects among new pledges

The Department of Water and Sanitation will enhance access to water for millions of South Africans by initiating infrastructure projects to secure water supply and diversifying water sources to reduce dependence on surface water.

This is according to President Cyril Ramaphosa. He was delivering his State Of the Nation Address (Sona) on Thursday night at a joint sitting of parliament at the Cape Town City Hall.

Investment in infrastructure

“Investment in infrastructure is gaining momentum. New and innovative funding mechanisms will be utilised to increase construction of infrastructure. The department  aims to enhance water resource management.

“[It will do this] by initiating infrastructure projects to secure water supply. Also diversifying water sources to reduce dependence on surface water,” said Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa said bulk water projects are under construction across the country to improve water supply to millions of residents in villages, towns and cities.

Bulk water supply projects

“The following water infrastructure projects are in progress or completed: Lesotho Highlands Water Project, Umzimvubu, and Hazelmere Dam.

“[Also included are] uMkhomazi Water Project, Clanwilliam Dam, Tzaneen Dam, Loskop, Mandlakazi, and the pipeline from Jozini Dam. The Giyani, pipeline from Nandoni Dam to Nsami Dam, Pilanesberg Water. Vaal Gamagara and pipeline from the Vaal River to Hothazel,” said Ramaphosa.

He added that in the Eastern Cape, the Msikaba and Mtentu bridges are beginning to rise over the landscape. They will be among the highest in Africa once complete.

“The steel used for part of the project is fabricated in Mpumalanga. The iron ore comes from the Northern Cape,” he said.

High-speed rail project

Ramaphosa said in November last year, cabinet approved a framework for high-speed rail. It will focus initially on the Johannesburg to Durban corridor.

“As we grow the economy, we are making it more inclusive,” said Ramaphosa.

Turning to the public health system, Ramaphosa said he will sign the National Health Insurance Bill into law in due course.

Health care

“While our health system has had a great impact on people’s lives, we are working to improve both the quality of healthcare and equality of access. The National Health Insurance will provide free health care at the point of care for all South Africans. Whether in public or private health facilities.

“We plan to incrementally implement the NHI. It will involve dealing with issues like health system financing and the health workforce. [Also] medical products, vaccines and technologies, and health information systems,” said Ramaphosa.

Early childhood development

Meanwhile, Ramaphosa said the government will expand access to early childhood development. It will also improve early grade reading over the next five years.

“Over the next five years, we will focus our attention on expanding access to early childhood development. As well as improving early grade reading, where we are already beginning to see progress. 

“Moving early childhood development to the Department of Basic Education was one of the most important decisions. We were now able to devote more resources to early childhood development. We also ensure that through cooperative governance, various departments of government get involved in early childhood development. This is augmented by the Department of Basic education,” said Ramaphosa.

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