Regional Departments of Water Affairs in Eastern Cape, Western Cape & Limpopo on their Support to Local Municipalities

Water and Sanitation

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

The Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Western Cape Department’s of Water Affairs briefed the Committee on the state of water affairs in their regions and on the ways in which they supported their local municipalities. They spoke about past achievements, the different water initiatives in which they were involved, challenges in water services provision, service delivery backlogs, capacity building, and Blue Drop and Green Drop status.

The Committee appreciated the Western Cape briefing but was unimpressed by the Eastern Cape and Limpopo presentations. They were disappointed as the departments needed to tell the Committee what was really happening in their provinces. Officials were “playing with words” to make the situation look better than it was. It was suggested that the Chairperson ask presenters to leave the meeting the next time this happened. This was the only way to send a message to officials that the Committee was not going to be fooled. Some of the points in the presentation were meaningless and certainly did not give a true description of what was actually happening in the provinces.

About the Eastern Cape, Members noted that service delivery was not up to standard and asked for a list of schools that benefited from water and sanitations services provided by the Department. Members noted that Port St Johns had three recent shark attacks due to the high nutrient content in the water and that water hyacinth seemed to be spreading very rapidly in rivers, specifically in the Mthatha area. The Committee was worried about what was coming out of the sewerage plant as the river content was a clear indication that something was wrong. There were thousands of people who had their water cut off in Port St Johns because there was not enough water. Water that came from the sewerage plant in Mthatha was only 5% cleaner than when it went into the plant. When the Committee visited the water treatment plant, they had noted that HTH pool chemicals were being used to clean the water. When they visited local informal trading markets in Mthatha, they saw that local municipalities, instead of cleaning up, were bulldozing dirt straight into the rivers.


The National Department of Water and Environmental Affairs commented that there was a challenge concerning roles and responsibilities. The Minister had discussed this with the President when the President raised concerns about infrastructure conditions in Mthatha. It was the responsibility of Local Government to provide water and sanitation. It was the responsibility of National and Provincial Government to provide support. There was a difference between providing support and actually doing the job. There were limitations to what they could do because the National Treasury funded each department according to its function. They requested that there be a joint meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs to discuss these problems.

About Limpopo, Members asked why there was a major problem with sewerage spilling into main water lines in Giyani, they referred to cholera outbreak near Giyani and asked why people could not get fresh water. Borehole water in Giyani was not fit for human consumption, there were no purification systems for the boreholes, so people did not have access to fresh drinking water.
Thousands of these boreholes were no longer in working order. They asked what the Department was doing about it. The Committee also asked why health and hygiene awareness campaigns were not held in Limpopo. Sophisticated language in the briefing document could not hide the fact that there was no water in Limpopo. The Limpopo province remained poor because of poor performance by the departments. The water boards only worked in urban areas and did not reach rural areas. The Committee highlighted that cholera season was approaching. Members noted that the Blue Drop status within the province was appalling.

The Committee agreed that they would have to visit the Eastern Cape and Limpopo to understand fully the real state of water affairs in each of these provinces.

Meeting report

The Chairperson commented that corporate governance was a critical issue in water affairs; therefore, the regional departments were invited to brief the Committee on the support that they were providing to municipalities.

Briefing by Eastern Cape
Ms Nomonde Mnukwa, Regional Head: Department of Water Affairs in the Eastern Cape, stated that the Department received certain achievements in various areas of water services. Some of these achievements were in community water supply and sanitation delivery, institutional capacity building, transfer of water services, regional bulk services provision and municipal management services. All water services infrastructure was transferred to six Water Services Authorities (WSA) based on functional assessments completed in 2003 and transfer agreements signed by 2005. In terms of regional bulk services provision, Albany Coast Water Board was the only institution in the province that operated with Reverse Osmosis. In 2008/09, the Department provided 81 schools with water and sanitation services.

The Working for Water programme, which focused on poverty alleviation, resource management and climate change mitigation, employed 4667 people, of which twenty were war veterans. The Vision 2020 Programme helped the Department reach 920 schools in 2008/09. Since September 2008, most of the drinking water in the province was classified as acceptable. The Department focused on the establishment of Sanitation Resource Centres, dam safety rehabilitation and human resource development.

All 17 WSAs had policies for free basic water provision; however, not all WSAs were providing free basic water. Access to free basic water was limited by access to infrastructure. The Department discussed irrigation schemes and special programmes that they were involved in such as the school and sanitation programme and the Regional Bulk Infrastructure Programme.

In terms of planning and regulations, the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) and a Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) bilateral forum was established and monthly meetings were held. WSAs allocated more than 80% of the MIG for water and sanitation projects. The DWA briefly discussed institutions involved in water services provision. Some of the DWAs ongoing interventions would focus on regulation, capacity building support and skills enhancement, special programmes, and provincial agrarian and rural development.

There was a water services backlog in the province, which meant that 4.7 million people in 1 179 215 houses had yet to receive services. The Department required more funding to do this. There was also a sanitation backlog, which meant that 966 000 households still needed to be serviced. Drought interventions were being put in place and R36.4 million was allocated to all district municipalities. Some of the other challenges included lack of engineers, geo-hydrologists and technical skills, lack of
institutional arrangements and capacity to perform functions, financial problems and stressed water sources. At a recent Water Indaba, some solutions were proposed.

Discussion
Ms B Dlulani (ANC) noted that all the problems experienced in provinces were all old problems that were there in the past. Municipalities did not have capacity. It was the Departments’ responsibility to monitor and replace water pipes. Service delivery was not up to standard. The provincial departments were supposed to intervene and coordinate between local and national government. Service delivery suffered because of the struggle between the tow spheres of government. She asked the Eastern Cape for a list of schools that were benefitting from the department’s funds.

Ms Mnukwa stated that the Department would provide the Committee with the list.

Mr G Morgan (DA) discussed Port St Johns in the Eastern Cape. Three shark attacks had been reported this year. Prior to these attacks, there had not been any reported shark attacks since the 1950s. Locals believed that the high amount of sewerage content coming down in the river was the reason for the attacks. The water from the river had a high nutrient content. He also noticed a high content of water hyacinth in rivers in the Mthatha region. This sign of high nutrient content in the rivers was appalling. He did not even want to fathom what it was doing to the ecosystems in the water, because with the alien plants came alien fish such as catfish. He was worried about what was coming out of the sewerage plant as the river content was a clear indication that something was wrong. He noted that there were thousands of people who had had their water cut off in Port St Johns because there was not enough water. The dams in Port St Johns were of the best quality. One of the dams drew water from the Umngazi River. There was an incident where the pump from the river broke down. The pump was later fixed; however, there was not enough water in the augmentation dam. Somehow, authority was given for a path to be bulldozed from the side of a road to the water. This created a dam. This was shocking. A false dam was created to pump into the augmentation dam. There were big problems in Port St Johns. There was enough water in the town; however, there was no water for surrounding communities. This was just bad planning by a local authority that did not have a working pump for the river and decided to bulldoze vegetation to create a false river. This false river was in fact a tidal river, which meant that water would come up from the sea and increase the salination content of the water that went in to the augmentation dam. Mr Morgan noted that the water that came from the sewerage plant in Mthatha was only 5% cleaner than when it went in to the plant. There was water hyacinth and the chlorinators had been stolen. There was “white muck” floating on the water. When he visited the water treatment plant, he noted that HTH pool chemicals were being used to clean the water. He wondered if this was allowed. When he visited local informal trading markets in Mthatha, he saw that local municipalities, instead of cleaning up, were bulldozing dirt straight into the rivers. He found animal heads, bones and skin in the Mthatha River. He suggested the Committee visit the Eastern Cape to see what they could do to help the people.

He then addressed sewerage recycling in Alexandria and noted that there was not enough water in the area and they had a great plant that was recycling effluent. Recycled water was the future. Apparently the water was of a very high quality; however the Department of Water Affairs was holding up the approval for the water to be added to the town’s water supply. He asked if this would happen and when it would happen.  

Ms Mnukwa stated that it was not just Port St Johns that experienced challenges; there were problems throughout the Eastern Cape regarding existing schemes that were not working. Operation and maintenance of schemes was also a challenge. The majority of municipalities relied on grant funding and very little of the funds went towards operations and maintenance. There was also a major challenge in lack of skills. The challenges were there; however, the presentation only referred to the interventions that were in place or were going to take place in the district. The relationship between OR Tambo District Municipality and local municipalities was not good.

The Department had had a meeting with the mayor of Port St Johns on 6 August 2009 and deliberated on the challenges with which they were faced. A holistic action plan was going to be developed to address the whole area of the OR Tambo District Municipality. 

She stated that Mthatha’s water infrastructure was being refurbished by Umgeni Water.

Ms Mnukwa stated that she was aware that HTH was used to clean water; however, this was usually done in rural schemes because they did not have automatic chlorinating systems. The Department would have to investigate the matter further.

She agreed that there was pollution in the Mthatha River. After monitoring the river, the Department found that the water quality was very poor. 

She addressed the questions on the sewerage recycling plant in Alexandria, saying that the department used the South African National Standards in terms of looking at compliance. The plant was still on a three month trial and the department was awaiting the application from the municipality itself to distribute the water. 

Mr Morgan stated that the answers concerning Port St Johns were not very reassuring. He asked what the turnaround time was for the rehabilitation of Mthatha sewerage plant. He heard that it would take about nine months. He asked if the department could confirm this or not. 

Ms Mnukwa stated that there were still funds needed for the rehabilitation of the plant. Therefore, she did not think that nine months turnaround time would be enough.

Ms H Ndude (COPE) stated that the situation in the Eastern Cape was very distressing. The Department’s presentation painted a nice picture showing that everything was fine; however, this was not true. The Department should not use “good English” in their presentation to make the situation look better than it was. She suggested that the Chairperson ask the presenters to leave the meeting the next time this happened. This was the only way to send a message to officials saying the Committee was not going to be fooled. Sometimes, in the presentation, it seemed as if the points did not correlate. A lot of the time, the points did not mean anything. She wanted a list of schools that were benefiting from the Department’s funds. In terms of the Eastern Cape water backlog, she wanted to know if the 1 179 215 households still in need of water services included households in rural areas. This figure seemed completely wrong. It was far from the reality of what was happening in the Eastern Cape. If she were the Chairperson, she would have thrown the presentation out. The Eastern Cape did not even focus on the challenges that they experienced. She warned the Department not to waste the Committee’s time.

Ms Mnukwa stated that it was an oversight in forgetting to detail challenges that the Eastern Cape was experiencing. She should have indicated the challenges fully instead of just implying what they were and listing solutions instead.

She addressed the backlog issue, saying that most of the 1 179 215 households were in rural areas.

Ms Mnukwa stated that the Department would provide the Committee with the list of schools.

Ms C Zikalala (IFP) said that it had not been a mistake to invite the Departments to brief the Committee. This was part of Parliament’s oversight procedure. However, the departments had to see for themselves the reality of the situation within their provinces. She wanted the Department to tell the Committee more about areas where there was scarcity of water. She had visited areas around the Chris Hani District Municipality once and found that there was no water. They had not even had the decency to call the communities to explain what the problem was. Clinics and schools had to get water from the rivers.

On the scarcity of water, Ms Mnukwa stated that she had indicated the processes for dealing with drought that was affecting the whole province. All the municipalities in the Eastern Cape were affected by drought. There was a consolidated plan for the whole of the Eastern Cape that would talk to the drought situation. This plan was to be gazetted. The implementation plan would cost the department R1.1 billion.

Ms Mnukwa said that the Chris Hani District Municipality gave the powers of water services provision to the local municipalities. The provincial department capacitated and assisted the water boards; however, the department could not enforce the WSAs to do anything because they used their own procurement processes to decide whether they wanted their own water boards or not. The Chris Hani district used water boards across all areas, including rural areas. 

Ms Thandeka Mbassa, Deputy Director-General: Regions in the National Department of Water and Environmental Affairs, stated that there was a challenge concerning roles and responsibilities. This was a matter that the Minister had discussed with the President when the President raised concerns about infrastructure conditions in Mthatha. The Minister explained that it was the responsibility of Local Government to provide water and sanitation. It was the responsibility of National and Provincial Government to provide support. There was a difference between providing support and actually doing the job. She realised that in some cases the Provincial and National Governments were expected to do the job; however, there were limitations to what they could do because National Treasury funded each department according to its function. There was an expectation that the National Department should do its part. However, there were some funding challenges. After fifteen years of democracy, the National Government finally realised that there were major problems at local level.

She asked for the Committee’s support, as a review of the [provinces] in the Constitution was taking place. There was a proposal that powers and functions should be reviewed. She appealed to the Committee to take part in the review. There was also a
realisation that mistakes had been made in the demarcation and allocation of powers and functions. The only thing that the national department could do was to regulate functions. However, how could one take a municipality that did not have any funds or resources to court? This would not bring water to the people. She appealed to the Committee to be patient. The national department was trying to do many things, but given the many challenges they experienced, it was like a “drop in the ocean”. She hoped that the Committee was not under the impression that provincial departments and the national department were not taking their duties seriously. The Minister wished to address the Committee on these issues as well as on what was happening at local government level.

Ms Ndude stated that Ms Mbassa should not be talking about the Constitution. This was one government. She wondered why departments waited until there was a crisis situation to raise the issue of the Constitution. The national department was supposed to deal with water and environmental affairs. She requested that there be a joint meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs to discuss problems. It would be a good idea to do oversight visits jointly with the Co-operative Governance Portfolio Committee. It was fifteen years down the line. She could understand why people were getting impatient. The national and local governments were equally responsible for water affairs. 

The Chairperson asked the department to unpack the statement that they assisted war veterans. Who were these war veterans? He noted that the Albany Coast Water Board was the only one to operate using reverse osmosis. He asked if the volume of water that was produced by them and if it was cost-effective. 

Ms Mnukwe answered that the war veterans were people who were involved in the struggle against Apartheid. She did not have the information on the Albany Coast Water Board so she could not answer the question on the volume of water they produced. She would let the Committee know. She added that using reverse osmosis was effective as they were situated on the coast and could use sea water.

Briefing by Limpopo Province
Mr Alson Matukane, Regional Head: Department of Water Affairs in Limpopo, stated that the province was faced with huge service delivery backlogs. The province was
characterised by insufficient bulk infrastructure, thus impacting on the eradication of the water services backlog. Limpopo was highly dependent on ground water. He listed the WSAs and gave a list of the Department’s achievements which included the establishment of four Water Management Areas (WMA). Due to water scarcity and uneven rainfall patterns, Limpopo required water transfers over large distances. Water supply to 956 schools had been completed (2004 – 2009). This included drilling and equipping boreholes, storage tanks, pipe-work and stand pipes. The water supply backlog to all clinics was eradicated in 2008.


The Department discussed briefly the transfer of water schemes, the transfer of sewage works and budgetary support. On the matter of anti-cholera disaster management, there had been an activation of disaster management structures, water quality testing, the carting of water via water tanks and deployment of mobile water treatment plants, the use of sanitation facilities and washing materials, public awareness and international liaison with cross-border authorities to limit the cross-border spread of disease. In terms of drought management, there was the reactivation of boreholes, scheme operations to optimise water use and the enforcement of water conservation methods. DWA Community Development Officers would identify areas of critical shortage.

On capacity building and strengthening local government, the Department would engage in water sector support programmes and WSA support. Health and Hygiene programmes were supposed to be conducted in 22 villages. However, the cholera outbreak had delayed the project. The programme would continue in the 2009/10 financial year.

The Department had provided 58 schools with water and assisted the Department of Education with supplying water to 697 schools. In terms of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the Department wanted to ensure adequate and reliable water supply to Polokwane during the World Cup. The challenge was that the Department needed additional funds for infrastructure for Polokwane. The proposed solution was
to continue negotiations with the National Treasury to obtain an additional funding of R330 million.

Mr Matukane discussed briefly the key challenges and interventions regarding source development, infrastructure development, scheme operations and capacity building. He also discussed key focus areas for 2009/10.


Discussion
Ms M Mabuza (ANC) stated that she had had a meeting with the Mayor of Giyani who told her that there was a major problem with sewerage spilling into main water lines. She wanted to know what the reasons for this were, because between 1994 and 1999, it was recommended that Giyani’s infrastructure had to be rehabilitated. A few months ago there was an outbreak of cholera near Giyani. She wondered why the people could not get fresh water. The Limpopo premier had committed to looking into the issue of providing Giyani with water from the Nandoni Dam. She wondered how Mr Matukane’s Department monitored water and sanitation projects in the province if problems such as those in Giyani were happening. The borehole water in Giyani was not fit for human consumption. There were no purification systems for some boreholes in Giyani, so people did not have access to fresh drinking water. Since 1994, 9000 boreholes were drilled in Limpopo. Four thousand of these boreholes were no longer in use. She asked what the Department was doing about this. Why were health and hygiene awareness campaigns not being held in Limpopo, as it was one of the initial plans in previous reports.

Mr Matukane stated that he could not answer questions about Giyani at this point. He added that the sewerage system did not receive enough water and the sewerage “backed up” in the pipes and became blocked. The Giyani municipality had not increased its capacity regarding sewerage system pipe lines since 1994. One of the problems was that municipalities did not prioritise sewerage. The outbreak of cholera happened when people did not drink purified water. The provincial department encouraged people to boil water before drinking it or to use Jik in their water.

He said that 2000 boreholes were being rehabilitated. Some of these boreholes were
vandalised. The department was awaiting funds that would allow them to proceed further. He added that the Nandoni Dam pipe system was still being completed. Once completed, Giyani and other areas would benefit from the water. This was part of a solution to the water scarcity issue.  

Dr Z Luyenge (ANC) stated that the conditions in Limpopo and Eastern Cape left much to be desired. Sophisticated languages in the presentations could not hide the fact that there was no water in the Eastern Cape or in Limpopo. It was fifteen years since the first democratic elections. People could not blame the authorities that were there before 1994 anymore. The Eastern Cape and Limpopo provinces remained poor because of poor performances of the departments in the provinces. The water boards only worked in urban areas and did not reach rural areas. The capacity of water boards was a serious problem, even the issue of sanitation needed to be discussed.

Mr Matukane stated that funds were given to municipalities for water boards. A water crisis committee would be created to monitor and investigate what was happening with funds. There were challenges in some areas. There were times when the department had to intervene; however, the Water Services Act only allowed intervention for fourteen days at a time. 

Ms Ndude was disappointed with the presentation; she stated that it was “another waste of time”. The Department needed to tell the Committee what was really happening in the province. People were “playing with words”. Some of the points in the presentation were meaningless. She felt like she had just wasted her time listening to the briefing.

Ms Zikalala agreed that the presentation was a “nice lullaby”. The presenter was not even serious about the presentation. Members needed to see the situation in Limpopo themselves; they could not continue listening to stories.

Ms Mbassa stated that it was unfortunate that the presentations from the Eastern Cape and Limpopo left the Committee with a sense that the two Departments were trying paint a good picture of what was happening in the provinces. This was not the intention. It was also not coincidental that there were major challenges in both provinces, as both were problem provinces that experienced a large number of backlogs and poverty.

Ms Mabuza asked how often the Limpopo River was cleaned; especially now that cholera season was approaching. She stated that the Blue Drop status within the province was appalling. They had to do something about it.

Mr Matukane answered that the Limpopo River was large, but the river was not always flowing. There was no sewerage getting into the river from the South African side; however, sewerage made its way in to the river from the Zimbabwean side. This had happened until about March 2009. Currently, there was no sewerage getting into the water anymore.

He agreed that Limpopo’s Blue Drop status was not good. In order for the province to get Blue Drop status, a certain number of water samples had to be taken per month. If fewer were taken, Blue Drop status was not given. The problem was that there was no accredited laboratory in Limpopo. Samples had to be sent to Johannesburg, Pretoria and even Cape Town. This was a challenge. Limpopo was applying to have its own laboratory to avoid all the logistical costs.

Briefing by Western Cape
Mr Rashid Khan, Regional Head: Department of Water Affairs in the Western Cape, indicated the location of their WSAs, the schools and clinics that benefited from funds and the amount of funding that certain municipalities and WSAs received. Areas where urgent attention was needed due to scarcity of water included Kannaland, Beaufort West, Langeberg, and other areas along the west coast. He described the DWA role in water services provision and the role the department played in service delivery. The Western Cape also engaged in a bucket eradication programme.

In the 2008/09 financial year, the DWA provided 12 schools with water services. They planned to provide 30 schools with water in 2009/10. A list of schools with water and sanitation backlogs was provided in the presentation. The WSA’s were assessed and certain municipalities were found to be wanting in terms of planning, infrastructure, regulating water services provision and overall performance. These municipalities included the Overberg District Municipality, Witzenberg Municipality, Cape Winelands District Municipality, Central Karoo District Municipality and Kannaland Municipality. The Department provided a breakdown of funds allocated to municipalities. A Regulatory Performance Measurement System looked at the performance of municipalities. The system looked at factors such as financial integrity, revenue collection efficiency, financial sustainability, asset management effectiveness, and asset register monitoring.    

A blue drop status indicated quality drinking water, while a green drop status indicated effective waste water treatment. The Western Cape received 10 blue drops and 10 green drops.

The Department was also involved in a Water Conservation and Demand Management programme that was to be implemented in all WSA’s. The main objective of this study was to compile a Water Demand Management (WDM) Strategy for Western Cape Municipalities, by also taking potential future water saving at the end-user level into account. The objectives of this study include benchmarking of per capita domestic water users and non-residential use of large water users, analysis of available water meter data, investigation into water price and tariffs, investigating into water loss management, investigation into schools WDM projects and investigation into the potential of re-using wastewater within large water users. The Department listed the local municipalities that were of priority.

An Infrastructure Investment Investigation was conducted in the Western Cape. The aim was to determine the gap between actual and planned investment in water services infrastructure and required investment. Capital, and Operations and Management (O&M) investment on water and sanitation services. Planned medium term investment on water and sanitation services was also looked at. The findings were compared to the need or infrastructure requirements.
The investigation indicated that around R2.0 billion was invested into water and sanitation infrastructure over the last two financial years and Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) investments of R4.8 billion were planned.  73.3% of Municipalities would not be able to eradicate the infrastructure requirement by 2014. In addition, around R5.2 billion has been spent on O&M water and sanitation infrastructure over the last two financial years and R10.0 billion was planned to be utilised. However, only around 8.6% of this expenditure was utilised or will be utilised to maintain infrastructure.

Discussion
Dr Luyenge stated that he appreciated the Western Cape’s presentation. There was a great difference between what was happening in the Western Cape compared to Eastern Cape and Limpopo. Eastern Cape and Limpopo were experiencing perpetual infrastructure decay and there was not any intervention on the part of the regional departments. Capacity within municipalities was an issue that needed to be addressed; however “there was no light at the end of the tunnel”. There was no hope given by the presenters that something was going to be done about the matter.

Mr Morgan noted that the Western Cape’s presentation was very good. The province experienced some difficulties, however the presentation was purposeful.

Ms Ndude thought it would be a good idea for the Western Cape to help Limpopo and Eastern Cape to manage their challenges. A seminar could be held where the Western Cape could help the other provinces with their presentations. The Western Cape presentation was the only one that made sense. 

Dr Luyenge noted that the Committee was in agreement that it should visit the Eastern Cape and Limpopo. The Department needed to assist the Committee with its visit to some water providers. The Committee had a responsibility to monitor and perform oversight on the departments. 

Closing Remarks
The Chairperson thanked the presenters for coming to the meeting. The Members were not impressed; however at least they had information to follow up on when they went on oversight visits. A number of challenges persisted such as lack of capacity, issues with transferring skills and deteriorating infrastructure. The question was how sustainable the initiatives were that were undertaken by national and regional offices. He wondered how they would evaluate, regulate and formulate realistic solutions to all the problems. Some of the answers were to be found in the Green Paper on National Strategic Planning that was just released. The Committee would try to organise another meeting for the following week. This would be a joint meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs. The Eastern Cape and Limpopo Provinces would have to attend the meeting, as it would focus specifically on challenges experienced in these regions.

The meeting was adjourned.

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