South Africa turns to jobless for its War on Leaks

The War on Leaks campaign will train 15 000 young people to mend leaking taps and pipes and help the country save R7 billion in water.

Trainees had to have a minimum of matric or an N3 certificate and a science and math background before being accepted for training. (Image: GovZA)

Brand South Africa reporter

A total of 15 000 young people with the minimum qualification of Grade 12 matric or N3 with maths and science, will be trained for campaign called War on Leaks, set up to save water through stopping water leaks.

It was launched by President Jacob Zuma on 28 August in Port Elizabeth. South Africa is said to lose more than R7-billion worth of water annually because of leaking taps and pipes.

Given this, the youngsters will be trained to fix leaking taps. They will do repairs, retrofitting and replacements. They will also be able to identify aged infrastructure, one of the causes of the problem.

Zuma said the programme was expected to be rolled out countrywide. “Our key message to you today is that we must save water. Water is not unlimited. If we do not look after it, we will lose it.”

It was everyone’s responsibility to save water. “When you see a leaking tap, close it. When you see a leaking pipe on the road, inform the authorities. Nobody should waste water; it is very scarce.”

A long-term national water plan was needed to address the country’s future needs regarding water and sanitation, he added.

Through War on Leaks, the government would train unemployed young people as water agents. “They will be responsible for visiting communities to investigate water leaks and to teach people to save water,” said the president.

“We will also train plumbers who will assist to do a number of things such as reducing water losses and repairing the sources of the leaks.”

Training is followed by community outreach to find and fix leaks and teach people how to save water. (Image: GovZA)

Training will take place in three phases: in phase one, 3 000 people will be trained in the 2015/16 financial year; in phase two, 5 000 will be trained in 2016/17; and in phase three, 7 000 will be trained in 2017/18. About R680- million has been budgeted for the campaign in the current financial year.

In addition, Zuma said the Department of Water and Sanitation had committed funding for the construction of the Nooitgedacht Water Scheme, which would boost the water supply to the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality.

Construction had started and the scheme was scheduled for completion in February 2017.

Earlier in the day, the president visited the home of Cynthia Ncapayi in Zwide. The family’s water bill ran into several thousands of rand and it had been discovered that water leaks were to blame for the consumption figures. The family was unable to pay the high bill.

Similar cases are being reported throughout the municipality’s townships and metro.

Municipal capacity

Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane said 27 district municipalities in the country were in a dire state in terms of water capacity.


“Working together with the water boards, we will train youngsters, give them accreditation through [sector education and training authorities] and they will be attached to our different water boards. That will help us with capacity.”

Many young people, she added, would also be placed in district municipalities where interventions were needed.


Over and above the first 3 000 trainees, Mokonyane told the SABC, a further 1 000 trainees had been targeted to ” deal with the cleaning of our dams, the cleaning of infrastructure in KwaZulu-Natal”.

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