Salga on Water Issues

Water and Sanitation

13 November 2002
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report




13 NOVEMBER 2002

Ms B.P. Sonjica

The Committee met for what was to be their last meeting of the year. They were briefed by a delegation from Salga which was led by Mr Neil McLeod, on Salga's views on the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF)'s policies

The Presentation
Mr Neil McLeod stated that he appreciated the fact that the National Water Resource Strategy has been extended from November 2002 to March 2003, which means that Salga would have ample time to make its input. Public hearings are currently being held on the strategy and that was likely to increase the cost of water to the user. As such it was imperative that all possible sides be entertained. The proposed 50c per kl would mean a R100 million increase to the already over burdened municipalities. There was a need to cut costs to make them affordable to municipalities.

On the Transfer of Assets Mr McLeod raised the following concerns: DWAF imposed conditions for a transfer that would impact negatively on the municipalities. (1) over design of schemes, meaning they were costly to maintain and recapitalise. There was a need to make these schemes affordable to local government. He also alluded to the fact that over design by implication meant that there were far less users anticipated in the drafting of the schemes. (2) Some schemes were built without minimum regulatory standards, which would mean that municipalities would face legal action for not adhering to the standards that they have not been made aware of, specifically the Water Service Act Section 9 as gazetted. DWAF has agreed to refurbish schemes that meet the design and safety standards only. The reality of that was, while DWAF cannot meet the standards it has set itself, it expects municipalities to meet them. The standards then needed to be reviewed as to why demand standards that cannot be met, especially by standard developer. (3) The Process of Transfer, while pressurising municipalities to sign interim WSP contracts, has not recommended that municipalities agree until a thorough financial and legal impact assessment has been undertaken. More precisely schemes have been transferred without the knowledge of the condition on the ground and, as such, Salga has advised municipalities not to sign until audits were completed.

On regionalisation he stated that Salga supported it as key in ensuring that the provision of water services was equitable, cost-effective and driven from the bottom up. Municipalities were not liking at all what the Water Boards (WB) were delivering, the WB's future needed to be looked at closely. Some should not exist, while some needed to be re-evaluated and incorporated to the municipalities. Municipalities needed to be seen as the building block of utilities delivery, not water boards. Salga understood that the WBs were a brain child of the department, but the regulatory framework of the Water Sector has not been clearly articulated like that of the electricity sector. Salga and DWAF should co-chair a task team that will look at this sector's regulatory needs and thus come up with a way forward.

On the Backlog in Sanitation he stressed that the use of buckets is unsanitary. The suggested alternative Ventilated Improved Pit Latrines (VIPS) are no better, but the same or worse. The current subsidy of R1200, for sanitation services, was not sufficient even for rural areas. It thus needed to be reviewed and relooked at, while external funding needed to be sourced on a national level. South Africa needed to abide by its WSSD commitment, providing sanitation to 18 million people in the next eight years. The route there started by eradicating the use of bucket system which were used historically in small towns with low income and informal settlement urban areas.

On Free Basic Water Services chaired by Salga, he stated that the 60 municipalities have not implemented it. Some not because of unwillingness of the municipality to do so, but because they didn't have the necessary funding to so. Some were still faced with chronic lack of capacity and support systems. While others, especially in the Eastern Cape, have been confused on the power and functions of the municipality B & C categories. It was not clear who was supposed to set the tariffs and the criteria for doing so. This, however, has been solved at Salga's National General Council held from the 11-14 November 2002. The definition for people living without water has been extended. People living 200m away from a tap were deemed as not having access to water (the unserved population).

On Fluoridation he expressed his dismay at the fact that there were no proposals for a subsidy nor the equitable share as was the case with free basic water. Fluoridation should be staged, since it would be ill-advised for everyone to fluoridise at the same time. 5-7 municipalities should implement it, provided that (1) the council agrees that they have sufficient technical expertise to carry it out. (2) the industries in the area support it as the quality of their products would be affected. The problem was that fluoride did n't break down, thus it could affect the biosphere and the safety of the water resources of downstream municipalities


Ms L Ngwenya (ANC) expressed concerns about the cost of keeping water boards running. She asked if Salga had any plans in place to reduce them, and whether something was being addressed in terms of the water boards' structure. She further asked concerning sanitation, what about replacing the bucket system and VIPs. She added that VIPs were being constructed in some municipal offices as they spoke and asked what salga was doing to reverse that trend.

Mr N McLeod stated that the problem with water boards is that their agreements have always been one sided. There is no accountable governance structure therefore one can never know who is on the board. They cost too much due to duplicate overheads, e.g. Municipalities would have an HR person and so would the water board, all administering the same water. What is needed is a regional approach, pairing up of municipalities to enhance their delivering abilities.

The chairperson emphasised the importance of the points raised by Ms Ngwenya questions and asked what the RDP houses' implications were on the municipalities.

Mr Simmons (NNP) stated that there seemed to be no sanitation policy in place, in urban areas without flushing toilets. She asked what SALGA's approach is in providing water borne toilets.

Mr Sibiya (IFP) asked when the transfer of DWAF's assets to municipalities would take place and whether salga will engage the department on that issue.

Mr N McLeod stated that salga participated and continues to, in the the transfer of assets.

Mr McIntosh expressed his excitement on the fascinating document that salga has produced. He asked what the relationship between the Enkangala Local Government and Salga was. With regard to the figure of over 400 DWAF schemes to be transferred, he asked where the figure comes from, since there were only 334 schemes to his knowledge. The only thing I can deduce from salga presentation is that they want more money. They are simply saying' "give us the bulldozer and we'll move a mountain". Shouldn't SALGA actually concentrate its efforts in using the vast sum that have been allocated to them to begin with. Regulations pertaining to privatisation are missing from the presentation. How does salga relate to farm dwellers and the traditional leaders.

Mr N McLeod stated that it was indeed an error in his part, the number of dwaf schemes to be transferred is 334. Funding needs to get to the local government and then hold us accountable, not the other way round. Privatisation is addressed in page 41 of the NGC discussion document we are dealing with. The guidelines dealing with privatisation need to be rewritten, there needs to be less reliance on consultants. More engagement with unions is a preferred option. The tariff insecurities need to be addressed.

The chairperson stated that an integrated approach in the delivery of sanitation on a national level is needed. The Municipal Infrastructure Task Team has been charged by government with the task of coming up with that approach and we need to make sure that they deliver on that mandate.

The chairperson asked if restructuring shouldn't be the policy that guides the models and standard used. What is the relationship between water boards, municipalities and the water authorities. What will happen to the staff of water boards should restructuring mean the end of them. The standards issue needs to be resolved, since it is a valid point.

Mr N McLeod stated that salga does not have all the answers, development needs to be sustainable socially, environmentally and financially.

Prof Ngubane asked how the provincial structure related to LG and NG, since here seems to be little said about the role of provinces in the presentation. She expressed her discontent with the use of Apartheid terminology that has been put aside in the document, the reference to non-white is very disturbing. Fluoridation needs to be looked at very closely, as it has been mentioned in the presentation that little research has been done in SA on the issue.

Councillor Nonjongo stated that local issues don't take priority over national issues and as such the question and recommendations made are rooted on the local level.

The chairperson expressed her serious reservations at the standards and models of sanitation that are used throughout the country, as being very discriminatory against some people. This is a very sensitive and emotive issue. This is something that people coming to present in parliament must always bear in mind. She asked if the salga was involved in the management of the evaluation of the transfer of schemes. With regard to the subsidy that salga is looking for, what was the unions response? Did they endorse it?

Councillor Khalipha stated that the VIPs were a political suicide, a premier in the Northern Province, after unveiling a VIP project was asked to utilise one of the VIPs and was unable to do so. Mr N McLeod stated that salga lacked a comprehensive approach to the standards and models used. The standards need to be addressed

Mr Meimane countered the statement with regard to the VIPs being political suicide. He asked the councillor to withdraw the statement.

The chairperson reiterated that indeed VIPs in other parts of the country were a blessing, but that it must be acknowledged that they were not a one size fit all solution to the sanitation ills this country faces.

Councillor Khalipha withdrew the statement and asked Mr McLeod to carry out the answering.

Mr van Wyk (ANC) asked if salga could comment on the Private Public Partnership, its challenges in the water sector. What is the constitutionality of the credit controls and the water cuts in light of the need for access to free basic water? Isn't there a contradiction? VIPs are unacceptable socially especially in towns where the historically disadvantage poor people reside. What is being done to make sure that municipalities are capacitated.

Mr N McLeod stated that salga's national general council would address the issue of credit policy. On the issue of free basic water salga is advising all municipalities to make sure that water is made available to people in their constituencies. Water cuts for those that have gone over the 6000 kl free basic water is constitutional.

Mrs Ndzanga stated that little is said about rural areas schools, she asked what salga's position was with regards to the provision of water to rural areas.

Councillor Nonjongo stated that all concerns raised were not discriminator. They include a bulk that came from the rural people themselves.

Mr N McLeod reiterated that all access and transfer issues relate to rural areas.

Mr Phala stated that the recommendations on page 33 do not address implementation and areas of disagreement with DWAF. What areas of disagreement are there? Did salga meet the department of health to address the implications of the vip situation? What is salga's view on boreholes and rivers?

Mr P Mathebe stated that the reason why municipalities were not providing free basic water could be traced to the fact that there were numerous illegal connections in the informal settlements.

Mr Simmons asked if salga has heard of any research done on fluoridation.

Mr N McLeod stated that recommendation 10 deals with fluoridation, "Salga should pursue with DoH the support programme that it will provide to ensure the widespread and safe implementation of fluoridation".

The chairperson stated that it seems like the indigent policy in not being implemented. There would be a workshop in March 2003 with the MITT. Salga is invited. On the agenda would be the water service strategy, credit controls and other pressing issues for further engagement. Of serious concern is the issue that was raised in the presentation that alluded to available technology to measure toxins in SA not being adequate. There also is a need to harmonise the legislation, making sure that it is relevant and takes all aspects and communities into consideration


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