Department of Water Affairs: briefing

Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


2 April 2003

Rev P Moatshe (ANC) [North-West]

Document handed out:
Select Committee Presentation: Department of Water Affairs of Forestry
Water Affairs and Forestry Budget 2003: Vote 34- programmes and allocations

The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry briefed the Committee on the key focus areas in their functional areas, forestry, water services, and water resource management. In the discussion that followed, the Director General answered questions relating to the transfer of water schemes to municipalities, the ability of municipalities to operate those schemes, and the management of forests.

Ms M Modipa: Deputy Director General, Corporate Services, Department of Water Affairs and Forestry, delivered the slide presentation to the Committee. The presentation outlined DWAF's multi-year strategic plan, and listed key focus areas in the Department's functional areas: forestry, water resources management function, and water services function. Their medium term strategic objectives include speeding up delivery of basic human needs, human resource development, building the economy and creating jobs. (Please see attached presentation).

Members asked a first round of questions, which were answered together.
Mr M A Sulliman (ANC) [Northern Cape] noted that many municipalities have capacity problems. Is there a programme to assist local governments in dealing with the water services schemes upon transference?

Mr R Z Nogumia [Eastern Cape] brought up the issue of sanitation. While a timetable for sanitation has been established, sanitation has been a problem for a long time. What was the Department doing about this? How is sanitation being addressed in practice?

Mr V Z Windwoel (ANC) [Mpumalanga] stated that there are a number of people who do not have access to water. How far has the Department progressed towards its goal of supplying everyone with six kiloliters of water?

Rev P Moatshe explained that the transfer of water schemes to local governments would have enormous staff implications. He asked how the staff situation would play out in the transfer. He also asked what measures the Department was taking to reach the six-year target for the eradication of the water backlog.

Mr R M Nyakane (UDP) [Northern Province] asked if the irrigation schemes were being transferred.

Mr M Muller: Director General, addressed questions concerning the water service schemes. He explained that the transfer of schemes to municipalities was essential as the schemes belong in local government. This involves the transfer of 1 000 large water schemes, 3 000 small ones, and 13 000 plans involving some kind of equipment like a windmill or a hand-pump. A staff of 8094 is involved and the transfer will cost between R700 and R800 million. The transfer will take place from the Department to 284 municipalities.

He explained that the Department was working through SALGA to assist the municipalities with funding to run the schemes. Funds will be transferred when the function is transferred. The Department was working to reach agreements with municipalities outlining the details of the transfer. It will be a formal agreement with the aim of helping local government plan and budget properly.

Ms M Modipa responded to questions relating to staff implications. More than 8 000 employees will be affected by the transfer. These employees will not lose their jobs, but their jobs will be altered. In some cases the local government is telling the Department that they will have one person performing the task that was previously performed by four people. The Department is fine with that as long as the job is done properly. Staff issues will be resolved as part of the negotiated agreements with the municipalities.

Mr Muller stated that the Department has targeted providing 1 000 000 people per year with water for three years. The infrastructure for nine million people has been established since 1994.

Mr Muller turned to questions on sanitation. He noted that very little was said about sanitation. When a survey was conducted, citizens listed jobs and water as their top priorities.

In 2000, a severe outbreak of cholera in Kwazulu-Natal caused people in the affected communities to care about sanitation. Those areas of Kwazulu-Natal now have toilets because the people were frightened of cholera. The people must care about health and hygiene in order for government programs to have an impact. Behaviour change is essential.

The Department has allocated funds for the construction of toilets. 1 500 000 toilets have been erected since 1994. 80,000 households have received toilets in the last year. The rate of delivery is increasing every year. The Department is trying to build a community social movement for sanitation. That is the only way to improve the situation.

The Department has teams in every province to assist municipalities in devising options for water schemes and to help with budgeting. 76% of municipalities have adopted a free basic water policy.

The Director General answered questions regarding the transfer of irrigation schemes. He stated that many established farmers would rather stop irrigating then turn to the Department's schemes. He noted that the Department could transfer ownership of the schemes. In order to make water go to black farmers, the government would have to ensure that black farmers own the land. The Department has used water as a negotiating tool with white farmers in land reform. This worked in Kwazulu-Natal where 1 000 hectares of land was transferred from white farmers to black farmers.

Members then asked a second round of questions.

Mr R Z Nogumla (ANC) [Eastern Cape] asked what criteria the Department used in prioritising who received water. He commented on the problem of cholera, asserting that after heavy rainfall most areas have cholera. Many people have become used to the shortage of water. This is a problem throughout the country. In some areas, people wait for water beginning at 4 am. He asked what real strategies the government could employ to help the situation on the ground.

Mr Windvoel asked if there are areas where water is sold?

The Director General answered that there are places where water is sold. He noted that it was the same places where people were waiting for water from 4am.

Rev P Moatshe asked about the possible expansion of forestry and about the Department's work with NEPAD.

The Director General answered that the Department was working towards ensuring access to water. Some places have taps, but have water only when it rains. Those closest to the pump consume all the water. Community discipline needs to be stressed for water schemes to work.

The Department has found that the schemes themselves work. The operational side is more problematic than the initial investment and building of infrastructure. After the transfer, most of the problems are financial and institutional. Technical problems only occur 4% of the time.

Funds are designated to municipalities based on their backlog. Municipalities must prioritise once they have received the funding.

With regards to forestry, the Director General explained that the Department has targeted an increase in 100 000 hectares for expansion of forestry. For instance, some areas in the Eastern Cape would be able to support forests. It would make sense to plant in these areas. It will be ten years before trees are cut down, but many jobs would be created through planting now.

With respect to NEPAD, the Director General answered that South Africa was involved with its neighbours to develop schemes of mutual interest. Within NEPAD, the Department has addressed water supply issues and has worked towards promoting the effective use of water. The work NEPAD has done is beginning to change the views of the international community with regard to Africa.

The meeting was adjourned.


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