In response to petitions for improved water supply by Tzaneen, Cradock and Middelburg communities, the Committee called in the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) and their provinicial counterparts as well as the Inxuba Yethemba, Mopani and Chris Hani District Municipalities to explain the interventions they had made in response to the petitions.
The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) reported that the operation and maintenance function of water treatment works was a major challenge in many municipalities as they struggled with capacity, and as such, DWS was taking over some of the operations and maintenance of these areas. In Chris Hani District Municipality, there was no major water resource. To rectify the problem; DWS undertook a dam building project to increase the water supply in the Cradock / Middelburg area.
Tzaneen Municipality in Limpopo was reported to be encountering major challenges with its water pipes and boreholes which were not refurbished, especially the asbestos pipes which were old and thus leaking, but due to the financial constraints, the problem still persisted. This problem was exacerbated by the fact that most of the water no longer reached the reservoirs of the majority of the villages as uncontrolled and unauthorized connections to the water pipelines characterised those areas.
Projects put in place to increase the water supply were the upgrading of Tours Water Treatment Works, Lephepane Bulk Water Scheme which would refurbish reservoirs, boreholes, bulk lines and the construction of new bulk lines, establishment of a committee between DWS and Limpopo Department of Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (CoGHSTA) in speeding up the assessments of technical reports and the removal of unauthorised illegal connections.
The Eastern Cape provincial department admitted that in Chris Hani District Municipality, especially in Cradock, several complaints were raised about drinking water quality during the three weeks in winter when no water was released from the dam. However, the Chris Hani District Municipality had a non-functionality problem with its water treatment works in Cradock. This was due to Water Services Authority (WSA) functions transitioning from Inxuba Yethemba Local Municipality (IYM) to Chris Hani District Municipality (CHDM) in 2014.
The Limpopo Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs Department (CoGHSTA) reported on the status of water supply in Mopani District Municipality. The operational challenges in Mopani included vandalism of infrastructure and and poor management. The financial challenges in Mopani were that there was no payment of water services coupled with the fact that most municipalities were ‘grant’ dependent.
The Eastern Cape Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Department reported on the status of water supply in Inxuba Yethemba Local Municipality. It said it had not had the opportunity of scrutinising the petitions which were the subject of debate in the meeting; as such, its presentation on the water supply in Chris Hani District Municipality did no deal in depth with the petitions. It pointed out the acrimonious relationship existing between CHDM and IYM due to the takeover of water supply services from IYM by CHDM.
Members noted with concern, the acrimonious relationship between IYM and CHDM which was affecting service delivery to the communities. Some members sought clarity on DWS plans for resolving the poor quality of drinking water which caused gastro disease in the communities there.
A member was concerned that the petitioners were Members of Parliament but it was explained they had merely acted as messengers.
Members expressed their disappointment with the district and local municipalities which presented to the Committee. They failed to address any issues raised by the petitions but rather provided an overview of their functions; which was not the purpose of the meeting. The municipalities were urged to write a programme of action with clear time-frames on how they were going to address the matters raised in the petitions.
The Chairperson noted that the petitions by residents of Tzaneen Local Municipality under the Mopani District Municipality and Chris Hani District Municipality were brought to the Committee by Committee members.
Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) Interventions to improve Water Supply in Tzaneen
Ms Zandile Mathe, DWS Deputy Director General: Infrastructure, gave an overview of its interventions in improving water supply at Wards 24, 25 ,26 ,27 and 34 of Tzaneen Local Municipality under Mopani District Municipality in Limpopo Province and in the Chris Hani District Municipality in the Eastern Cape. She pointed out that the DWS, water boards and the district municipalities had worked very hard over the years if one compared it to the pre-1994 situation. The water backlog in Chris Hani District Municipality stood at 19% compared to 61% in 1994; and in Inxuba Yethemba Local Municipality, the water backlog stood at 0% compared to 60% in 1994. The sanitation backlog in Chris Hani District Municipality stood at 51% compared to 75% backlog in 1994; whilst in Inxuba Yethemba it was 0 % compared to 51% in 1994. However, challenges remained.
The operation and maintenance function of water treatment works was a major challenge in municipalities as they struggled with capacity, and as such, the department was taking over some of the operations and maintenance of these areas. Cradock was such an example where the department was intervening. In respect of the petition from Chris Hani Municipality residents, she said that it was pertinent to note that the water supply in the municipality was from different bulk schemes with no major water resource. To rectify the problem; DWS undertook a dam building project to increase the water supply in the Cradock / Middelburg area.
On the petition from Tzaneen Municipality residents in Limpopo, she said this had been identified as a drought area. Water was supplied from Thabina Dam which was sitting at 41% thus restricting full supply of the water to the communities. The dam designs for increasing the supply of water were underway. In Tzaneen, the major challenge were boreholes which had not been refurbished. DWS had now refurbished 27 boreholes in the area. Another challenge which cut across the entire country was the asbestos pipes which were old and leaking, but due to the financial constraints, the problem persisted. This was exacerbated by the fact that most of the water did no longer reach the reservoirs of the majority of the villages as uncontrolled and unauthorized connections to the water pipelines characterised this area.
Ms Lucy Kobe, DWS Provincial Head, Limpopo, reporting on the status of water supply to Wards 24, 25, 26, 27 and 34 in Tzaneen Local Municipality, stated that the five wards fell under Ritavi II Regional Water Scheme which was a scheme getting their water supply from three water treatment works with a total design capacity of 40MI/day and producing an average of 38,2 MI/day and 108 boreholes. The water resource for the municipalities were Thabina Dam which was 41.18% full and Tours Dam which was 53% full due to a heat wave which hit Limpopo, thus characterising it as a disaster drought area.
The challenges in Tzaneen municipality were mostly due to many villages not receiving water because of the uncontrolled and unauthorised connections to the pipelines and non-conservation – this was notwithstanding the figures which showed that there was enough water for the communities within the area of supply.
The projects put in place to increase water supply were: the upgrading of the Tours Water Treatment Works, the Lephepane Bulk Water Scheme which would refurbish reservoirs, boreholes, bulk lines and construction of new bulk lines, establishment of a committee between DWS and COGHsTA in speeding up the assessments of technical reports and the removal of unauthorised illegal connections.
The challenges faced by the provincial department were the ageing infrastructure, vandalism of infrastructure, unauthorized connections, unauthorized reticulation pipelines, and theft and vandalism of stand pipes.
Eastern Cape Water
Ms Portia Makhanya, Provincial Head, Eastern Cape reported on DWS service delivery in Inxuba Yethemba in the Chris Hani District Municipality. She stated that Chris Hani District Municipality was acting as the Water Services Authority (WSA) and the water and services function was being removed from eight local municipalities and moved to the Chris Hani District Municipality.
She said that in Cradock, several complaints were raised about drinking water quality during the three weeks in winter when no water was released from the dam. But the complaints had reduced. However, the Chris Hani District Municipality had non-functionality problems with its water treatment works in Cradock. This was due to WSA functions transitioning from Inxuba Yethemba Local Municipality to Chris Hani District Municipality in 2014. Financial burdens were inherited by Chris Hani District Municipality with late payments to maintenance service providers.
In Middelburg, there was the Middelburg Bulk Water Supply project which would provide a sustainable source from a borehole. The project would investigate options of bulk water supply to the strapped town of Middelburg. It would also resolve the water quality issue as the boreholes would be treated through aeration and settling.
In conclusion, she pointed out that the number of sewage spillages in Cradock had reduced even though the condition of the Cradock Water Treatment Works had not improved. There was a need for a holistic approach in ensuring compliance in farming and with waste sites so as to combat pollution.
South African Local Government Association (SALGA) interventions
Mr William Moraka, SALGA Executive Director: Municipal Infrastructure Services, stated that water service delivery institutional arrangements in Chris Hani District Municipality were such that all local municipalities acted as Water Service Providers until 1 June 2014, and there was no Water Board. Areas in the west had more private connections whilst areas in the east were more rural with more people being served by communal standpipes. From 1996 to 2011, the Chris Hani District Municipality had been the best performer in the reduction of water backlogs with a reduction percentage rate of 67%. However, in most of the municipalities, theft and vandalism still remained a challenge which remained unresolved.
Limpopo Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements & Traditional Affairs (Mopani District Municipality)
The official stated that Mopani District Municipality had a high proportion of rural yard taps which implied elevated consumption and difficult cost recovery. The operational challenges in Mopani included vandalism of infrastructure and poor management. The financial challenges in Mopani were that there was no payment of water services coupled with the fact that most municipalities were ‘grant’ dependent. Therefore, it intended performing an analysis to understand the cost of providing services, bringing other players in the space to help with service delivery and constantly engaging with communities about payment for water services and vandalism of infrastructure.
The Chairperson noted with concern, the vandalism in these municipalities. He stated that the presenters were reporting this vandalism as if it was a normal cause whilst it was such a serious matter which needed urgent attention.
Eastern Cape, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Chris Hani District Municipality)
The official said that it had not had the opportunity of scrutinising the petitions which were the subject of the meeting; as such, the presentation on the water supply in Chris Hani District Municipality did no deal in depth with the petitions.
The background to the water supply in Chris Hani District Municipality (CHDM) was that CHDM entered into a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with Inxuba Yethemba Municipality (IYM) for IYM to be the water service provider. It was resolved that after June 2014 CHDM would take over the function from IYM. The takeover of water supply services from IYM by CHDM brought challenges within the community after CHDM raised new tariffs, water related complaints were still being addressed to IYM, intergovernmental fiscal relations also went sour as IYM had to bill CHDM for services rendered in terms of electricity and any other services rendered. This resulted in payments being delayed by months after billing due to the querying of IYM invoices by CHDM.
The acrimonious relationship between CHDM and IYM led to IYM resolving to apply to the Minister to be declared as a water services authority. This process had been kick-started by political principals and was thus underway.
In 2003, district municipalities and a few local municipalities were allocated the function of Water Service Authority (WSA) but the Municipal Systems Act, with special reference to section 78, required the WSA to determine a mechanism on how it would provide water services. CHDM opted for an external mechanism to devolve the water service provider function to its eight local municipalities. However, in 2014, both CHDM and the Joe Gqabi District Municipality as WSAs, took back the water service provider function from all their respective local municipalities. This action had a mixed reaction by affected local municipalities, some willingly surrendered the WSP function, and some resisted handing back the function. It is pertinent to note that both COGTA and DWS were not involved in the decision by the two district municipalities to take back the WSP function for their local municipalities.
COGTA recommended that an independent provincial Water Services Evaluation Board constituted mainly by SALGA, COGTA, DWS, Provincial Departments and Water Boards be established to develop a policy framework guiding district municipalities and local municipalities on the application process for a WSA or WSP status. The Board would also adjudicate the applications based on the merits of each case. The Water Services Evaluation Board should further develop a WSA-WSP capacity development framework focusing specifically at local municipalities with the aim of transferring the water services function to local municipality level in advancing revenue enhancement for local municipalities.
The Chairperson stated that it was apparent that the local municipality and the district municipality were not working together and this wasted a lot of time which could have been better spent in helping communities. He said that the vandalism of infrastructure was a serious issue which needed urgent attention, especially in Limpopo.
Mr L Basson (DA) stated that in Tzaneen, the quality of the water, both with regard to smell and taste, was very poor. In Cradock, 13 people including two children were hospitalised for gastro they got from the drinking water. He asked what the department and / or municipalities were doing to prevent this from happening.
He noted with concern that in the Chris Hani District Municipality, no payments had been made to service providers, the water infrastructure equipment was not working, the billing system was not functioning as the communities had not been billed and hence no revenue was collected by the municipality.
He also sought clarity on why 73% of boreholes in Tzaneen were non-functional.
Ms J Maluleke (ANC) emphasised that if it were true that 13 people had been treated in hospital due to the drinking water, then that was a serious challenge which made her question whether the water was tested after being cleaned or it was just released to the communities without due testing.
Mr D Mguni (ANC) expressed his disappointment with the district and local municipalities that had presented to the Committee. They failed to address any issues raised by the petitions but only provided an overview of their functions. He urged the municipalities to develop a programme of action with clear time-frames on how they were going to address the issues raised in the petitions.
Mr T Makondo (ANC) pointed out that the petitioners were Members of Parliament and the Committee itself. He wanted clarity as to what role was being played by the petitioners when the petitions were discussed as they were also the members of the Committee. He felt that there was an abuse of power and process where the referee also became a player at the same time.
He said aging infrastructure was a serious matter which required urgent attention, especially the aging asbestos pipes which were leaking and causing loss of water. He strongly lambasted the vandalism of infrastructure. If need be, the employment of security guards to guard infrastructure should be considered as an alternative.
Ms N Bilankulu (ANC) stated that the challenge for SALGA with regard to the approval of technical reports, was that there should be measures to detect people who are not performing their duties. She felt that employees in these municipalities should be capacitated. She added that the department and the district municipality should note that there are still other communities with water supply challenges apart from the wards that lodged the petitions.
Mr R Cebekhulu (IFP) referred to the presentation by the Limpopo Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs Department which noted a challenge with a broken new pipe in the construction of pipelines. This challenge was not justified as the contractors should always be mandated to replace this immediately. He also asked when the damaged boreholes would be fixed as 25 litres of water a day was not enough for the average citizen.
The Chairperson, on the petitioners being members of the Committee and the role they play when those petitions are being discussed, said that regardless of the situation, the Members had raised fundamental and serious issues which could not be ignored. He emphasised that the Water Master Plan was imperative in Members understanding how the province planned to spend their budget as the Water Master Plan had to comply with the contents of the budget.
Mr L Basson (DA) clarified that the petition was not originally brought by them as members of the Committee, but that the communities which signed the petition were referred back and forth between the local municipality and the district municipality, with no identifiable results. Thus they felt the need to lodge the petition in Parliament.
Ms Zandile Mathe, DWS Deputy Director General, stated that the Water Master Plan was under construction, and the bigger systems were being installed in municipalities as opposed to the small equipment and systems which were currently in use. The construction of the Water Master Plan was taking a bit longer because they were awaiting the National Water Plan which would communicate to the Water Master Plan of each municipality.
Ms Maluluke said that it was imperative for the presenters to come up with a plan which would address the challenges, and not just list the challenges.
The Chairperson emphasised that the Eastern Cape had to go back and note the issues which they should have responded to in the petitions and resolve the identified problems.
The meeting was adjourned.
- South African Local Government Association (SALGA) Interventions to improve Tzaneen Water Supply
- Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) Interventions to improve Tzaneen Water Supply
- Service Delivery in respect of water and sanitation in respect of Inxuba Yethemba in the Chris Hani District Municipality
- Inxuba Yethemba Local Municipality, Mopani & Chris Hani District Municipalities Water Interventions
- Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Tzaneen Water Interventions
- Eastern Cape COGTA