Committee reports

Water and Sanitation

18 August 2015
Chairperson: Mr M Johnson
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Meeting Summary

The Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation met to consider and adopt minutes of meetings and Committee reports. At the outset, the Chairperson suggested the Committee needed a systematic process to follow up on outstanding issues arising from engagements with the Department, and was advised that a tracking tool could be created. It was agreed that this possibility should be discussed outside the meeting.

Access to Committee minutes and presentation documents became another issue during discussion of the draft minutes of 5 August. The Committee Secretary was asked whether the presentation documents should not be an annexure to all of the minutes. When it was stated, "presentation available on request," did that mean one had to go through the administrative process? In the future, when Members accessed the minutes, what would they have to do to get hold of the presentation? Was the presentation available online? The Committee Secretary replied that Parliament had a hard drive which stored all reports and minutes of all the Committee meetings that took place in Parliament. The central drive was not available online, but there was a central information technology (IT) drive available. A software programme was being developed that would allow Members to access any minutes of any Committee. The website or programme had not been launched yet, but would be soon.

A Member insisted that her documents should be translated into Zulu, as she spoke only African languages. She was not satisfied with being told that the Parliamentary language services unit lacked the capacity to deal with this issue. When advised by another Member to make use of the Google translation capability, she said this was precisely what she did not want, as it would prevent job creation.

Members were told there would be a meeting on 2 September 2015 to discuss the findings of the report on theft and vandalism of water infrastructure. The programme would be conducted at two levels. The first would be a briefing by the Department of Justice on the current legislation that it was dealing with. The second would involve the DWS talking about polluters and those who were stealing the infrastructure. Since the hearing on 25 November 2014 had been a public one, there were issues that people had wanted to address but could not. For this reason, the meeting on 2 September would be closed in order to deal with them.

The Chairperson said it was important for the Committee to have periodic report-backs from the DWS regarding the acid mine drainage (AMD) situation. The DWS was currently working on a short-term solution, but was expected to work on a long-term solution within 18 months because the Vaal River could not take the acidity levels much longer. It would therefore be important for the Committee to be advised regularly on where the DWS was with its strategy. 

Meeting report

Chairperson’s opening remarks

The Chairperson apologised for being late, saying he had had a meeting with Rand Water about the looming strike and had been updated on that account. The Rand Water CEO had promised that things were under control and if the strike should continue, 65% of the employees would be secured for work.

He said the Committee had not met mastered the notion of following up on issues which the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) should be reporting back on to the Committee. The DWS needed to find a way to answer these issues as quickly as possible. Some of them would be discussed as the Committee went through the reports.

Ms Shereen Dawood, Content Advisor, said the Committee could create a tracking tool that would systematically track and then put down the resolutions after the minutes of each meeting, as well as the process for dealing with those resolutions.

The Chairperson asked why this tracking tool was not being used.

Ms Mahdiyah Solomons, Committee Secretary, said that although she did not know why it was not being used, she was aware that following the Committee’s meeting on 5 August, the DWS had to reply to all remaining issues by 7 August, and it had adhered to that deadline. The replies had been submitted to the Members.

The Chairperson said that the Committee should have a discussion about the tracking tool outside the meeting.

Minutes of 17 June 2015

The Chairperson said everything was fine with the minutes, except for a few minor amendments..

Mr D Mnguni (ANC) proposed the adoption of the minutes.

Ms J Maluleke (ANC) seconded the proposal.

The minutes were adopted.

Minutes of 5 August 2015

Mr R Cebekhulu (IFP) stated that on page 2 paragraph 3 the fifth line, ‘there is’ should be replaced with ‘it’.

Ms Khawula (EFF) made a correction on page 1, saying it should not be Mr T Sithole, but Mr S Sithole.

The Chairperson asked how the Committee Secretary dealt with the presentations, and whether there should not be an annexure to all of the minutes. When it was stated, "presentation available on request," did that mean one had to go through the administrative process? In the future, when Members accessed the minutes, what would they have to do to get hold of the presentation? He also asked if the presentation was available online.

Ms Solomons replied that Parliament had a hard drive which stored all reports and minutes of all the Committee meetings that took place in Parliament. The central drive was not available online, but there was a central information technology (IT) drive available.

The Chairperson asked how the Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) became involved.

Ms Solomons said that after every meeting, electronic copies of the presentation were sent to PMG.

The Chairperson questioned whether one could read these minutes out of office on an online portal in another location.

Ms Dawood said that Members had access to the H-drive and could look at any minutes of any reports they wanted to. Since it was an intranet, it would allow access to Members only, since they had Parliamentary e-mail accounts.

Ms Solomons added that a software programme was being developed that would allow Members to access any minutes of any Committee. The website or programme had not been launched yet, but would be soon.

The Chairperson said there had been a system where one could access minutes while outside of Parliament, but it had since been stopped.

Ms Solomons stated that the H-drive was available on the intranet, but as far as she knew, it was not available online when one was outside Parliament.

The Chairperson said that the minutes should be accessible to the public. How did one get a presentation on request if, for example, it was the year 2020? He suggested there should at least be an attachment or annexure so the presentation could be accessible when one looked at the minutes in 2020.

Ms T Baker (DA) said that on page 4, the amount shown was incorrect. The amount allocated should be R352 million, and not R254 million.

The Chairperson asked the Committee section to check up on that amount. He asked the Members if they had received the feedback responses from the Department on 7 August.

Ms Baker said she had received an e-mail with feedback on some of the issues.

The Chairperson asked her to resend it.

Mr Cebekhulu requested that he receive the documents in paper form in his office

Mr T Makondo (ANC) asked for the documents to be sent to his personal e-mail.

The Chairperson advised that all documents should be sent to both personal and Parliamentary e-mails in case one was on holiday and needed to access them. Hard copies should also be put in the Members’ pigeon holes.

Ms Khawula asked that her documents should be written in her mother tongue which was Zulu, not English

Ms Solomons replied that the Committee had requested last year that documents be translated, but the language services unit had said that it did not have enough capacity. Some reports were lengthy and it did not have sufficient staff. Even if a translation was done, the report could take two weeks to complete, and it could come back when the report had already been adopted.

Ms Khawula was not pleased by the answer. She had spoken to the divisional manager about the translation, and would appreciate it if her request were followed through because she spoke only African languages.

Ms Baker advised the Member to use Google to translate if she had a G-mail account.

Ms Khawula said that was exactly what she did not want, because it prevented job creation.

The Chairperson offered to take up the matter outside the meeting with the Committee section so it could look at all options available.

Mr Mnguni said on page 5, bullet point 2, the Committee should put “Restitution of Land Rights Act” instead of “Appropriations Act”.

Ms Baker moved the adoption of the minutes.

Ms N Bilankulu (ANC) seconded the motion.

The minutes were adopted.

Minutes of 12 August 2015

The Chairperson asked that the prefix 'Draft' be added, just so people would know they were draft minutes, and not the actual version.

Ms Bilankulu pointed out her initials were incorrect in the minutes.

The Chairperson said that “Mr T Sithole” should be again changed on page 2. On page 4, he said that the South African Youth Council should follow up with a presentation, and wanted the Committee section to check on that. On page 5, the question regarding the importing of skills from Cuba, he had said it would be broadened.

Mr Makondo moved adoption of the minutes.

Ms H Kekana (ANC) seconded.

The minutes were adopted.

Draft report on public hearings: theft and vandalism of water infrastructure

The Chairperson said on 2 September 2015, there would be a meeting to discuss the findings of the report on theft and vandalism of water infrastructure. The programme would be conducted at two levels. The first would be a briefing by the Department of Justice on the current legislation that it was dealing with. The second would involve the DWS talking about polluters and those who were stealing the infrastructure.

Since the hearing on 25 November 2014 had been a public one, there were issues that people had wanted to address but could not. For this reason, the meeting on 2 September would be closed in order to deal with them.

He said that on page 2, he had made a note of a report by a working group and had asked the Committee Secretary to look into it. With regards to water losses on page 8, the Committee had been invited to the “War on Leaks” launch in Port Elizabeth on 28 August. The Chairperson advised that this document should be kept and brought to the meeting on 2 September, as it dealt with some of the issues that would be discussed.

Mr L Basson (DA) moved the adoption of the report.

Ms Bilankulu seconded.

The Chairperson asked the secretary also to include the people who had been present at the meeting.

Report on oversight visit to Gauteng, 4-5 February 2015

Mr Basson pointed out his initials were incorrect in the report.

The Chairperson asked how low the PH level for Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) should be, and how high the salinity should be. He had no idea what was meant by these terms, and requested a crash course on them. More knowledge about AMD was needed.

Mr Mnguni said there was a tool that was used when testing water in the dams and rivers which gave an indication of how the water should be. He asked that Committee Members be informed about this tool so they could be more knowledgeable about it.

The Chairperson said it was important for the Committee to have periodic report-backs from the DWS regarding the AMD situation. The DWS was currently working on a short-term solution, but was expected to work on a long-term solution within 18 months because the Vaal River could not take the acidity levels much longer. It would therefore be important for the Committee to be advised regularly on where the DWS was with its strategy.

Mr Mnguni wanted to know how many litres of this acidic water there was, because according to his understanding it took four litres of water to purify one litre of acidic water.

The Chairperson said that the Vaal River water would not be enough as a long-term solution for the dilution of the acidic mine water. Details of the amount had not been given.

Mr Cebekhulu said that there were a number of mining companies that did not have the required water licence. He asked how much emphasis was put on this aspect, so that these companies were held accountable for the spillage they caused after mining.

The Chairperson said that maybe when mining activity took place, water should be removed from that area. Mr Cebekhulu and Mr Mnguni had made good points, and he suggested that a workshop be held to give the Committee Members a better understanding of the issues AMD water. When the Members visited these areas again, they would have a better sense of what was going on.

Mr Basson agreed with the Chairperson, and said another workshop should be held on waste water treatment plants so that Members could ask informed questions when they visited these facilities.

Ms Khawula asked how much AMD water was in the mines.

Mr Makondo answered that the acid level in AMD water was not high, but it was also not recommended for consumption.

Ms Khawula was worried that when people in Rustenburg drank water they became ill, and asked whether it was because AMD was also part of that water. The matter required mcu more discussion.

The Chairperson said that the Committee would come back to those issues.

Ms Baker said on page 7 paragraph 4, the financial years should be 2014/2015 and not 2015/15.

The Chairperson asked the figure in the past paragraph of page 7 should be “1 billion,” as it just said “billion.” He asked the Committee section to find out about that amount. He asked what “CMC” meant in the last paragraph.

Ms Baker said that the name of the company was just “CMC,” but she would double check on the matter.

The Chairperson said that a number of issues needed to be followed up in this report, such as the AMD and the issue related to Emfuleni. He said they should be followed up because the last sentence on page 7 stated: "These guides were not adhered to, which resulted in this project now being at a standstill." A follow up was therefore needed.

Mr Mnguni said that on page 5 paragraph 2, the third sentence should be "was to identify," rather than "was the identify". Also on page 8 paragraph 2, in the third sentence the “who” should be changed to “which”.

The Chairperson said that a follow up needed to be made on the Sebokeng Waste Water Treatment Works project, judging from the last sentence on paragraph 2, page 8.

The Chairperson said that with regard to Polluter Pays Principle, there was an issue with the mining companies on the matter.

Ms Khawula asked who was in charge of monitoring the people who polluted the rivers. What was done to people once they were caught polluting -- were they given an appropriate penalty?

The Chairperson said that the DWS had what was called the “Blue Scorpions,” which looked into issues like these. The section was under Advocate Anil Singh, and he would brief the Committee when he came to the meeting on 2 September. As public representatives, the Members had a responsibility to take pictures of a destroyed public amenity and show them to the DWS.

Ms Khawula said that she was worried about this issue, as people polluted the water and were not being charged, so this matter should be looked into thoroughly.

The Chairperson presented the report for adoption.

Ms Khawula moved its adoption.

Ms Kekana seconded the motion.

The report was adopted.

Report on petition from Gauteng residents on causes of water crisis, 11 March 2015.

The Chairperson moved that the report be adopted

Mr M Galo (AIC) seconded the motion.

The report was adopted.

Draft report of oversight visit to Limpopo, 23-24 July 2015

The Chairperson said that the Committee Members had ended up going to places they were not supposed to have gone to. He asked if the purification plant visit had been captured.

Mr Makondo said the waste treatment plant had been captured in the report, but not the purification plant visit.

Ms Solomons apologised for the omission, and said that on page 5 paragraph 3, under the acknowledgement of good work, it had mentioned the water treatment plant and so forth. She acknowledged that the water purification plant visit should have been added there.

The Chairperson requested that the Committee not deal with this report now, but later with the inclusion of the other report.

Mr Makondo said the Committee could deal with the report and it could be adopted, and all the issues would be noted at the meeting on 2 September.

Chairperson stated the report should not be dealt with now. Next week, the Committee was to have a meeting concerning municipal debt. Only Committees dealing with legislation had to meet for training of the Chairpersons on media. This meant that there was no programme for next week. The next meeting would be on 2 September.

The meeting was adjourned

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