Opinion

Dedicate #MandelaDay to addressing water security

Dedicate #MandelaDay to addressing water security
The late Nelson Mandela said the water sector had made good progress in co-operation towards the objective of making the life-sustaining liquid accessible to all.

“We are here together under one roof, the biggest free-standing structure in Africa, promoting stakeholder dialogue and co-operation,” Mandela said during an address at the opening of the Water Dome in Joburg during the World Summit on Sustainable Development in August 2002.

He said that nobody expected us to be in agreement on all policies; nobody was forced to do anything they did not want to; but we all realised we were working in our own different ways towards achieving a common goal. That is what we were presenting collectively to the world during the summit.

Stressing the importance of water accessibility Mandela noted: “When I return, as I often do, to the rural village and area of my childhood and youth, the poverty of the people and the devastation of the natural environment painfully strike me. And in that impoverishment of the natural environment, it is the absence of access to clean water that strikes most starkly.

“That our government has made significant progress in bringing potable water nearer to so many more people than was previously the case, I rate among the most important achievements of democracy in our country.”

Among the many things he learnt as a president was the centrality of water in social, political and economic affairs of the country, the continent and the world.

As the country and the world celebrates Global Nelson Mandela Day today - his birthday is on July 18 - and with July declared Mandela Month, we should all be water friends by cleaning our rivers and protecting them from being polluted.

And, as Mandela pointed out to his family of international governments and people that day: “It is together with my two ‘water friends’, His Royal Highness the Prince of Orange and His Excellency Ambassador Salim Ahmed Salim, that I stand here in front of you for the opening of the Water Dome.

“This official act of opening the Water Dome will be done by the three of us together, symbolising the co- operation we need to put water higher on the political and social agenda. And I want to call on all of you here to help make water a lead sector of co-operation for development in the world.”

The Water Dome itself was a symbol for co-operation in the water sector. Over 70 organisations were there to demonstrate how we are working together to make access to water a basic right for all human beings.

Mandela added that: “We must applaud the initiative of the African Water Task Force to organise the Water Dome. It is a sign of real leadership. In just six months you have ensured that water has been placed firmly on the world agenda here in Johannesburg.

“And I am confident you will not let it rest here. You must ensure that at the third World Water Forum in Kyoto next year the commitments made here are monitored and followed up.”

It should be remembered that during the month of July annually, the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) embarks on the Clear Rivers Campaign, a campaign dedicated to Nelson Mandela, and everyone is encourage to participate.

* Motsapi is a principal communications officer for the DWS

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.