Provincial Departments of Water Affairs (Mpumalanga, Kwazulu Natal & Gauteng) briefings

Water and Sanitation

01 September 2009
Chairperson: Mr P Mathebe (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Provincial Departments of Water Affairs briefed the Committee on their achievements and outlined their challenges. In Kwa-Zulu Natal the Department had a 27% Water backlog in the area. The Department was facing major challenges in securing engineering and technical skills. However, it had done well in providing free basic water, and all fourteen water service authorities had policies in place. The Department of Water Affairs in Gauteng told the Committee that Gauteng, like many other provinces in South Africa also had a backlog in service delivery. The Province was also facing problems with regards to acid water discharge. Further challenges related to funding for water and sanitation bulk infrastructure and there was a huge skills shortage in local government. In Mpumalanga, the Department had spent about R18 million to refurbish the boreholes and install a temporal treatment works of 12mg per litre, per day. The Department was engaging the province to intervene in water service authorities that were failing to discharge their mandate in terms of service delivery.

Members asked some wide-ranging questions, but were particularly concerned about what was being done to ensure quality of water, and what was being done in relation to water service authorities and water service contracts. It was noted that municipalities were often not paying water boards, and the Departments were asked whether they were assisting. Other general questions related to what the departments were doing to address capacity problems within municipalities, and whether there were training schemes in place. and whether it was also involving communities. The departments were also asked what they were doing to ensure provision of water in rural areas, how far they had progressed with eradication of the bucket system, and what was done to ensure servicing of boreholes.  Questions were also asked about the studies into the impact of climate change, and the Department was asked to expand upon issues of illegal dams and irrigation, as also the plans to transfer sanitation issues to the Department of Human Settlements.  Specific questions were posed to Gauteng in relation to acid water drainage from mines. Kwazulu Natal was asked what it was doing to address severe water shortages in Umzimkhulu, how it was addressing issues of policy and . Mpumalanga was asked to address the issue of the water board that was planned, and was further asked to explain some of the problems around Bushbuckridge and Blue Ridge Mine 

Meeting report

Provincial Departments of Water Affairs briefings
Kwazulu Natal
Mr Vusi Khubeka, Regional Head, KwaZulu Natal Department of Water Affairs told the Committee that the population of KwaZulu Natal (KZN) was mainly rural. The Department had a 27% water backlog in the area. The province was characterised by extreme levels of poverty. The Department was facing major challenges in securing engineering and technical skills.

The crisis areas identified by the Department were Kokstad, Greytown, Mtubatuba, Highflats and Ixopo. Many municipalities could not implement programmes due to a lack of funding and those that managed would only implement programs for six months and have to wait again until they had funds available.

Despite these challenges the Department had done well in providing Free Basic Water (FBW). All 14 Water Service Authorities (WSAs) had policies for free basic water provision. Some of those WSAs were providing FBW to all, not just to the indigent.

Gauteng
Mr Harry Smit, Acting Chief Director, Gauteng Department of Water Affairs, told the Committee that Gauteng, like many other provinces in South Africa, had a backlog in service delivery. The key driving forces in Gauteng were economic pressures, socio- political integration, costly regional distribution of water and many other factors. Gauteng was covering an area of 17 000 square kilometres, and had a population of 10.8 million.

The Department of Water Affairs was supporting many municipalities in the area. The nature of the support ranged from funding support, skills building and institutional support.

The Department was facing problems with regards to securing
funding for water and sanitation bulk infrastructure and there was a huge skills shortage in local government. Many of the staff members in Emfuleni Municipality were leaving.

Mpumalanga
Mr Fanyana Mntambo, Chief Director, Mpumalanga Department of Water Affairs, briefed the Committee about the nature of the situation in Mpumalanga. The Department of Water Affairs was facing challenges in Mpumalanga due to the fact that many of the municipalities in the region did not fully implement the recommendations made by the Department. The current diarrhoea cases stood at 1664 as at 25 August 2009.Many of the cases were reported by CJ Pharmacies and not by the state clinics and hospitals.

In 2007/2008, the Department spent about R18 million to refurbish the boreholes and install a temporal treatment works of 12mg per litre per day. Poor water quality and non-compliant waste water discharge were a major challenge in Mpumalanga. The sanitation backlog was in respect of  2 303 506 people, and the 2010 target set by the Department would not be realised. The relationship between the water board and the municipalities was also not progressive.

Despite those challenges, the Department was engaging the province to intervene in WSAs that were failing to discharge their mandate in terms of service delivery. The province was going to intervene in the signing of water service level agreements.


Discussion
Mr G Morgan (DA) noted that he was from KwaZulu Natal, and knew that there was a problem with the Sisonke District Municipality’s relationship with Greater Kokstad Municipality, with regard to water contracts. Mr Morgan asked what arrangements there were between the two municipalities regarding water service contracts.

Mr Khubeka said that he could not confirm that there was a service level agreement between the two municipalities. Sisonke was a water affairs authority. All water service related issues in the area were dealt with by the municipality. The Kokstad water waste treatment there had had certain measures put in place. Water availability was a problem in the area.

Mr Morgan told the Committee that many water boards were struggling to get municipalities to pay for services rendered. Mr Morgan asked what the Department was doing to resolve the matter. The Minister of Water Affairs had recommended tariffs, and Water Boards had their tariffs reduced.

Mr Smit said companies such as Rand Water were seriously affected by the decision. There were many technical matters that were linked to tariffs.  Water boards could not be left out of decisions, and Government could not just force Water boards into agreements. This was an issue that needed to be revisited.

Mr Morgan stated that there were cases of acid water drainage from mines in Gauteng, which could affect the quality of water in the region. He knew that most of the mines were old and the problem might have been a result of decisions made many years ago by previous mine owners yet the new mines had to bear the brunt of regulation. However, he still wanted specifics on what the Department was doing to deal with the issue of acid water drainage.

Mr Smit told the Committee that the problems with regards to acid water discharge were a legacy that had been created by mines that had closed down. The problem had become worse over the past few years. It was very bad in the western base of Gauteng.  The Department had already issued directives to mines to deal with the matter. In addition, the acceptable level of discharge was also stipulated in the license conditions with mines. Many efforts were thus taken to deal with the matter.  The licence conditions were evaluated regularly.

Mr Z Luyeke (ANC) told the Committee and the delegation that Umzimkhulu in KwaZulu Natal was 99% rural and the region had severe water shortages. He asked what the Department was doing to deal with the matter.

Mr Khubeka told the Committee that Umzimkhulu had been incorporated into Sisonke District Municipality. Umzimkhulu had other problems such as the bucket system when they were incorporated, but that bucket system had since been eradicated. The Department was also looking at linking Umzimkhulu to the Umngeni River System.  The expected completion date was 2012. There was a regional bulk water scheme that was also being developed in KwaZulu Natal.

Mr J Skosana (ANC) asked how the Department of Water Affairs was involving the community in its water projects.

Mr Khubeka said that in KZN there was use of legislative structures and forums to involve communities in the water projects. Traditional leaders were also involved to represent the views of their communities. The Department also involved the community in the cleaning of rivers and that project was started on Mandela Day.

Mr Skosana then asked about the Department’s recruitment strategy, asking how the Department would ensure that there was capacity within municipalities. There was a lack of capacity for the Department to implement its water programmes.

Ms Tumi Mnguni, Director, Gauteng Department of Water, said that the Department had short-term solutions. It had done interviews at tertiary institutions at tertiary institutions in Gauteng. The issue had been tabled at the Department’s skills indaba.

Mr Khubeka said that KZN was engaging with the University of KwaZulu Natal and the University of Zululand to deal with the issue of capacity building. 

Mr Mntambo said that there was a school in Limpopo that that focused on a Bachelor of Science in Water and Sanitation, so the Department was also recruiting from that school.

Mr Skosana asked how the Department of Water Affairs was addressing the issue of poverty in KwaZulu Natal.

Mr Khubeka said that the Department had a Working for Water programme, which had two objectives. The project looked at the alleviation of poverty and also aimed at ensuring that there was water in the areas where people were living. It provided short-term jobs, and thus gave many people a chance to earn some money.

Mr Skosana asked what plans the Department had with regard to ensuring that water was provided for people in rural areas.

Mr Mntambo told the Committee that the Department was building bulk infrastructure. This made the cost of the water cheaper for the people in rural areas. The Department already had plants in rural areas.

Mr Skosana asked the Department to notify the Committee what was being done to deal with the suspension of the Bushbuckridge Water Board’s Chief Executive Officer.

Mr Skosana asked what the Department was doing to assist municipalities to deal with the issue of water leakages.

Mr Skosana asked what had happened to the ventilation improved pit (VIP) toilets that were supposed to be provided by the Department of Water Affairs.

Mr Skosana asked how far the Department had gone with regard to eradicating the bucket system.

Mr Skosana then asked what plans the Department has to ensure that boreholes were serviced to ensure that problems did not occur.

Mr Mntambo told the Committee that whenever the Department built boreholes, the community was encouraged to take ownership.  If something broke they were trained how to fix it.

Mr Skosana said that he was concerned with the statistics reported about diarrhoea cases in Delmas. The cases stood at 1664 in August 2009.

Mr Mntambo told the Committee that most of the cases were concerned with a particular company, and that litigation had commenced. When the matter was investigated, it was discovered that the chlorine levels were very high.

Mr Skosana said that Mpumalanga was trying to have its own water board, and asked whether that move was going to address the issues around the issue of water in the region.

Ms C Zikala (IFP) asked if the Department had a plan to deal with the scarcity of water in rural KwaZulu Natal, and, if so, what it was. Many people in KwaZulu Natal were drinking water from the same well being used by animals.  

Ms Zikala acknowledged that Emfuleni Municipality had problems and wanted to know what the causes of those problems were.

Ms Mnguni said that the problems in Emfuleni Municipality were caused by aging infrastructure, capacity problems and also the fact that many staff members were leaving the municipality.

Ms Zikala asked how many rivers or dams supplied Gauteng with water.

Mr Smit said that Rand Water was the major supplier. However it was a very complex system. There were many linkages between the dams. Gauteng got water from Lesotho, Tugela Dam to Woodstock dam. However there were many other dams, and at times Gauteng received water from KwaZulu Natal.

Ms Zikala said that she was surprised to hear that there were boreholes in Mpumalanga.

Ms Zikala asked if Bushbuckridge was rural or semi-rural and how that area was made up.

Mr Mntambo said Bushbuckridge was a rural area, and there was no economic hub in the area. Even when people wanted jobs, they had to go to Nelspruit.

Ms Zikala told the Department that it was encouraging to see that it was dealing with the people building dams illegally, however it was also unacceptable for people to consume sub-standard water.

Ms B Dlulane (ANC) asked what measures were in place to deal with the effects of climate change on water.

Ms Thandeka Mbassa, Deputy Director General: Water Affairs, National Department of Water and Environmental Affairs, told the Committee that there was a draft strategy developed to deal with the issue of climate change, and that could be discussed during a specific and focused session.

Mr Smit said the Department had a sophisticated model dating from the 1980s to deal with the issue of climate change. The model looked at rainfall records, including how much fell and what the run off would be. The models were updated regularly.

Ms Dlulane asked what the Department was really doing, given that people were building their own dams, which surely indicated that there was a need for water, which was inspiring them to undertake the illegal building.

Mr Smit said that the Department could not just build dams. There were procedures in place that had to be followed. The Department also had to look at demand management issues. 

Mr Mntambo said the people that the Department was targeting were farmers, since people in communities did not build the dams. The farmers simply wanted to catch more water than that they had been allowed to use.

The Chairperson asked what the Department meant when using the term “illegal irrigation” and asked whether, for instance, it would be illegal if people were to irrigate their own gardens.

Mr Smit said the Department was not targeting social projects and food gardens. Illegal irrigation pertained to commercial farmers. However it was difficult to charge people with this in the criminal court, as the Department would have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the irrigation was illegal.

The Chairperson noted that sanitation had been made a responsibility of the Department of Human Settlements. He wanted to know what arrangements were in place to ensure the smooth transfer of the responsibility and also ensure that there was continuity.

Mr Trevor Balzer, Programme Manager: Special Programmes, National Department, told the Committee that all the staff members and the budget that had been allocated for sanitation programmes would be transferred to the Department of Human Settlements, and all the programs that were planned by the former Department of Water Affairs and Forestry with regards to sanitation would continue.

The Chairperson asked what support the Department was giving to Sikukhune District Municipality to ensure that people were benefiting from the Loskop Dam. 

Mr Mntambo told the Committee that the municipality had 2.5 million litres of water allocated to it, but it never accepted it. The Department had then offered the municipality a further 1.5 mega litres.

Mr Morgan wanted to know if the Department of Water Affairs in Mpumalanga was in any discussions with Blue Ridge Mine. He also asked if this was a problem mine for the Department, and whether the Department had sent any water inspectors to assess the mine.

Mr Mntambo said that the Department had a very good record of compliance in the area. If it was aware of any problems in the mine the Department would have issued a directive to the mine. The Department signed out three or four directives a week in Mpumalanga.

The Chairperson noted that some of the questions could not be answered, due to time constraints.

The meeting was adjourned.


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