Shoks Mnisi Mzolo in South Africa
Building on the record of a successful treaty that resulted in the construction of dams eSwatini and South Africa, the pair are set to build more dams in the Komati Basin for irrigation to support agriculture on either side of the border.
The treaty facilitated the construction of eSwatini’s Maguga Dam, completed 20 years ago, and Driekoppies, its South African cousin in 1998. Assuming that there are no objections, the second phase of the project will culminate in the construction of additional dams on the Komati River.
Public consultations, as part of the review process, were concluded in March amid another bout of water shortages threatening human and animal lives in the Lowveld. Progress timelines of what could add gallons to prop commercial farms are yet to be made public.
For context, the treaty – to enable both countries to use and develop the Komati River Basin – was signed in 1992 paving the way for the first Phase to kick off. The Lowveld – or concerned cross-border swathes of land – produces sugar cane, citrus fruit and so on. Marijuana, a source of income for some notwithstanding police harassment, is also grown hereabouts.
Driekoppies and Maguga sit on the Komati, a vital source of life and a big cog of farming in this part of Africa. Komati rises in Hhohho, eSwatini’s northern region, scythes north-eastern SA then flows through southern Moçambique on its 480km journey to the Indian Ocean. Formerly known as Swaziland, eSwatini remains a repressive absolute monarch that is now home to 1.2 million people.
In light of the state of water supply, additional dams should be commended and small-scale sources encouraged in the era of much-sought after developmental twin of sustainability and empowerment. Given how bad the water supply picture have gone, the authorities and their advisors should take blame for their oblivious slowness.
The fact that the whole of Southern Africa, to be specific, sways from poor water supply to poor water supply is a case in point.
While the region has for decades moved around in off-on-off-drought-flood circles, threatening hunger and death, water in the kingdom is becoming scarce, admitted Jabulani Mabuza, the country’s Acting Minister of Natural Resources and Energy, in a recent public address at Maguga Dam, northern eSwatini.
“Water shortages have become a sad reality in some areas in the country. There is an increase in water demand from various competing uses which surpasses the available water resources in most of the country’s rivers,” Mabuza reportedly noted. You have to wonder why that increase had not been built in and duly accommodated.
Poverty headcount, now pegged by the World Bank at more than a third of the population, bodes ill. Mabuza ascribed, in part, the kingdom’s state of water affairs to climate change. “Rainfall patters have become more erratic, unevenly distributed and even more unpredictable.”
Thankfully, government is joining hands with partners for sustainable solutions. This was underscored by last month’s launch of the Solar Panel Water Project by eSwatini Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku at Mayiwane Inkhundla, Hhohho, local media reported. The project was funded by the India-Brazil-SA bloc, also known as IBSA.
Back to Komati, Duduzile Mthembu, leader of SA delegation of the Joint Water Commission, stressed the importance of trans-frontier ties and advocated for closer cooperation. She lauded the 31-year-old treaty for the successful completion of the construction of two dams. “We now have to consider other avenues to look into broadening the scope of the treaty and thus ensure water security in both countries.”
The Joint Water Commission oversees the bi-national entity named Komati Basin Water Athority (Kobwa), in turn established in 1992. According to its website, Kobwa – with a predominantly male board – was formed by both nations to manage operations and maintenance of Driekoppies and Maguga.