Three government departments – Water and Sanitation, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and Rural Development and Land Reform – put forward proposals for consideration when the process of legislation to amend the current Water Act gets under way.
The Committee was informed that in terms of the Water Act 54 of 1956, South African water users enjoyed riparian rights on water found in the streams located within, or adjacent to, their properties. The effect of this was that water users not located near the rivers had to depend on residual water.
When the 1997 water policy spelt the departure from the 1956 Water Act and became the National Water Act (Act 36 of 1998, which repealed the Water Act of 1954), it was stipulated that the Department of Water and Sanitation would be the trustee of water resources on behalf of the nation.
However, because of “sunset clauses” which were still based on riparian rights and were included in sections 32 to 35 of the new Act, the issue of water and ownership was a very complicated one -- and a “matter of life and death” for farmers, especially smallholder farmers, some of whom were residing on farms without water. In other cases, such as in the Kannaland and Makana municipalities, untreated water from mountain streams were bottled for free and even served to “bed and breakfast” (B&B) guests.
Knowing the country’s water sources and having a plan to manage the sources using technological advancements was important. It was therefore of concern that at a conference this year, the Israeli Government had expressed frustration at not being able to share their “amazing technology” with the South African government due to political reasons.
As easy as it was for politics to hinder technology, so it was for the water matter to become a racial issue. That, and the “wheels of government” tending to take their own time, were to be avoided at all costs. The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) said that water licences that used to take up to three years to be issued, were now taking only 300 days, but for the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), 300 days was still a long time. However, in each province, catchment management forums had been established that were striving to assist previously disadvantaged farmers with the water licensing process. Such forums, together with unions, organisations such as the African Farmers' Association of South Africa (AFASA) and AgriSA, plus farmers themselves and all relevant government departments, would be a part of the interesting process to develop new legislation.
In discussion, Members described the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform’s (DRDLR’s) land resettlement programme as a failure, as the government was buying “dry land” to give to emerging farmers. It was agreed that radical reform measures were needed to redress the imbalances in the current legislation, and that this process needed to be undertaken urgently.
Chairperson’s opening remarks
The Chairperson, Mr M Johnson (ANC) opened the meeting by accepting an apology from all the Portfolio Committee members from the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) who had a Committee meeting at the same time. One member from the Portfolio Committee of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) was present.
The content of the meeting was to be the riparian rights in the 1956 Water Act, where the water rights remained with original owner when the land was sold. He referred to a meeting with a rural development farmer recently, who was a beneficiary of land reform, but had no water. The Chairperson then referred to his “previous life” in the Department of Agriculture, where he was shown a “green before” (when there was a co-operative) and “brown after” (when the farm had no water), and simple cattle grazing was all that was left.
He said it was becoming very clear that at some point the Committee and departments would have to call for a public hearing, to which the beneficiaries of land reform programmes and those who found it difficult to have access to water should be invited. He referred to a phone call the previous night, discussing the situation with a friend, who had informed him that there were cases where people were supposed to be residing on a farm - without any water. They were told to “source their own rights” when they desperately asked for help.
The Chairperson said that “water was life,” and that one became very disorganised when one woke up without water in the taps.
He welcomed a representative from the African Farmers' Association of South Africa (AFASA) and two from Agri South Africa (AgriSA), who had come not to present, but to listen. He assured them a process of legislation which would encapsulate their input was under way.
Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS): Presentation
Mr Marius Keet, Acting Deputy Director General, DWS, said that in terms of the Water Act 54 of 1956, water users enjoyed riparian rights on water found in the streams located within, or adjacent to, their properties. The effect of this was that water users not located near the rivers were at the mercy of the residual water, after uptake by the riparian users. Due to the lack of transformation and other inefficiencies of this system, the 1997 Water Policy had spelt the departure from the 1956 Water Act.
When the National Water Act of 1998 departed from the riparian principle, there were “sunset” provisions. These were:
- Section 32, which defined and recognised particular historical water uses as existing lawful water use.
- Section 33, which made a declaration as to the existing lawful use of particular water uses that previously did or did not take place.
- Section 34, which allowed historical water users to continue to use water as a recognised form of historical entitlement until its replacement with a water use licence.
- Section 35, which provided for the verification of existing lawful water use, which was nothing more than the confirmation of the historical use, and whether it complied with the definition as provided for in s32 of the Act.
- Section 25(2) which, although using the word ‘entitlement’ instead of a ‘right’, entrenched the ownership of water in the sense that it allowed the holder of unwanted water use to keep the water use, in the event the authorisation to surrender it was not approved.
A policy review was now necessary to close the gaps and deal with impediments and unintended consequences in the current water policy and legislation, and to facilitate the water legislative review process.
The policy positions that were approved by Cabinet in December 2013 were:
- Application of a “use-it or lose-it” principle with regard to water use;
- Water trading between authorized water users;
- Prioritising social and economic equity in the re-allocation of water;
- Multiple water use approach in planning infrastructure;
- Access to basic water supply.
- Free basic water supply to indigent households.
Mr Keet said the important factors about the verification of water use were that the validation and verification of water use was meant to determine a status quo of water use, and also to confirm both the existing lawful use (use in the qualifying period) and the current use. The difference between the existing lawful use and current use was critical, since it influenced the water reallocation to historically disadvantaged individuals (HDIs)
The impact of the validation and verification process was:
- It promoted balance between supply and demand.
- The amount of water made available as a result could be used to meet the reserve and possibly be allocated to HDI’s, depending on the amount of water made available.
- It provided certainty to existing lawful users across the country.
- It provided a basis for planning, compulsory licensing and water allocation.
- It could be used to update the Water Authorization and Registration Management System (WARMS) database.
- Efficient revenue management.
Lastly he said that compulsory licensing was a process which allowed the Department to review how water was allocated and used in a catchment area, and to reallocate water if necessary to achieve certain objectives.
Compulsory licensing was done to:
- Achieve fair allocations in stressed catchments.
- Review current water use to achieve equity.
- Promote the beneficial use of water.
- Facilitate management and protect quality.
- Level the playing fields -- equity for all.
- Align water allocations with other planning and socio-economic development processes.
- Give security to all users.
Mr Keet concluded by saying that the Department had inherited an act which protected riparian rights, and that they had to unlock that to redistribute water through a process in which they consulted with the users.
Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF): Presentation
Mr Mike Mlengana, Director General: DAFF opened the Department’s presentation by saying that he was there to serve every farmer in South Africa, before handing over to Ms Mary-Jean Gabriel, Director: Water Use and Irrigation, to continue.
Ms Gabriel gave a very concise report, explaining that the National Water Act 36 of 1998, which repealed the Water Act of 1954, stipulated that the DWS was the trustee of water resources on behalf of the nation. This provided that all exclusive rights to water use which were in force before 1998 were replaced by water allocations granted by the DWS. She said the DAFF supported the water allocation reform strategy, and were supporting farmers who had requested assistance in applying for water entitlements and licences.
In closing, Mr Mlengana said that his concern was that it took around 300 days for licences to be approved. The DAFF’s recommendation was that the Committee accept the report and provide further guidance.
Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR): Presentation
Mr Bonginkosi Zulu, Acting Deputy Director General: DRDLR, said his Department and the DWS had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in January 2016. This had made both departments members of the National Land Allocation and Recapitalization Control Committee (NLARCC). He said that the DWS must look into prioritizing land reform beneficiaries who do not have water.
It had been discovered that some land owners used water with no use rights certificate and that all land reform farmers, especially those under land redistribution, had to be assisted to obtain use right certificates.
The legislation had to be reviewed to ensure that water rights were allocated to the farm, rather than the farmer who could sell it privately. In most cases, the water rights certificate had expired but the land owner still used water, and that became problematic when the state bought through the land reform process. Deviation of the source of water to privately owned farms was illegal. The Department had an example of this at one of the farms currently being processed in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).
The Chairperson said a number of issues had been raised in the respective presentations. He said he could clearly recall the farmer he met in Somerset East last year who had told him that even with the repeal taking place in 1998, he was affected by the previous riparian rights and was therefore without water. The reality was that previous owners clung to rights even after the repeal. He had told the Minister of Water and Sanitation, Ms Nomvula Mokonyane, in a private talk the day before, that this was one of the reasons that programmes on land reform were failing. What was being done about that?
Mr H Chauke (ANC) said the Chairperson had laid the foundation for the discussion on these issues. It was encouraging and exciting that the Committee and the departments there were in the process of addressing some of these issues. The interaction would help them to prepare, and when the amendment came before Parliament, they would have a clear understanding regarding the new act.
He wanted to be a bit controversial in saying that with the arrival of Dutch East India Company at the Cape in 1652, it had to deal with issues of water, as it had to establish a refreshment station to supply ships on route to the East from Europe with water. Thus the interest in water had started there already. The establishment of the Cape of Good Hope had led to the Republic as a whole. Those days, the issue of water was very critical and the state had taken control via the Dutch East India Company. As the process moved forward, somewhere after the British took over, they had introduced laws to govern water. Until the establishment of the Union in 1910, water had been the issue it still is.
He agreed with the Chairperson that water was life. Therefore, the departments and the Committee were dealing with a serious issue of transformation. Throughout history, indigenous African people were never afforded the benefit of being beneficiaries. They had never been involved in the processes except for now, where land reforms were taking place.
Looking at streams while flying from Cape Town to Johannesburg, one could see all the streams were occupied, and they had been occupied since more than 300 years ago. Therefore those present in the meeting were dealing with a transformation agenda that required all of them to be committed and work together. If not, the issue on the table that day was one of the things that could spark a revolution in a small way - for example, what had happened at the community of Madibeng in the North West, which had had a shortage of water while one of the mines close to them used around one million cubic litres of water daily.
He believed that the Chairperson had come with the issue at right time, being concurrent with what was happening. The question was, what would the Bill look at, without looking at the Bill itself? What areas were the Department looking at? What were the fundamental areas of transformation that the Department was looking at? One of the key things would be beneficiaries and ownership. Who owned water? What system was in place to police those who were using water?
He urged the departments to get into the whole issue of transformation. For some, water was a business and about profit making; for others, it was a resource that they must benefit from. Those two sides of the coin would have to deal with the issue together. It was the same as water and land that could not be separated. How did one bring together the areas of land, areas of water and the whole question of beneficiation?
He said that historically the state had always controlled water, but to the benefit of certain people, not indigenous people, who were left behind. He said the DRDLR was not buying fertile land, like that at the Hartbeespoort Dam or Vaal River. That was occupied by certain people – not indigenous people. The DRDLR was buying dry land!
This was a political issue and it must be addressed in a revolutionary way – not through fighting - but in a manner that would change the issue from what it was now to a way that was better and would benefit everybody.
Ms T Baker (DA) agreed that it was a controversial subject that would always be controversial until the Committee and the departments resolved it. She welcomed the steps that had been taken to resolve the issue, although they were still a long way from a solution. However, once the procedure started they could work from there.
She had a question about the sunset clauses of the 1998 Water Act. How could the sunset clauses be left wide open? What was the point of the Act? She had read a little further, and the sunset clauses of section 32 and 33 had to be read in conjunction with section 22, which stipulated how an unlicensed user could use the water under certain conditions. Were those specific conditions being enforced, or not? Section 22 must also be read with section 39. None of the sections could be read in isolation. Section 22 spoke about general authorisation -- were those who were using water under the sunset clause subject to authorisation, because that would give the Minister certain rights? A problem with the sunset clauses was that there was no timeframe allocated to them. In the process of review, one of the things to remember was that there had to be timeframes allocated and adhered to. She asked if the Minister could not revoke a general authorisation, which would mean that action could be taken.
She was concerned about the current verification system. In the 2015/16 annual performance report of the DWS, there were notes that no verification process had been followed. Why was there no verification process followed? How did one know who was using how much water? Who monitored the overall allocation? Did the irrigation strategy of the DAFF form part of the whole verification system? Were all the different strategies and programmes from all the different departments being verified? Did that inform the overall process, because then it became a mammoth task? Also, the verification process could not be a once-off, but must be an on-going, continuous process, as licences were being allocated continuously. How did one monitor? Was there a team, and how many people were in it? Were the people in the satellite offices in each province capacitated? She did not believe the departments had the capacity to do all that should be involved in the verification process. What could be done about not having the capacity?
Mr T Makondo (ANC) said that the issue was a contentious one. It was unfortunate that the Committee and the departments had been missing in action in dealing with the matter. Like Ms Baker, he had checked out the DWS’s report and confirmed that there was no validation conducted during that period. Why? Regarding the 67% of water that was used by the agriculture sector, he asked whether that was an allocation, or real use.
Since 1998, more than 1 200 new licences had been issued by the Department, and 98% of the recipients had been white farmers. The question now was, do black farmers apply and if they do, what happens? The DRDLR’s restitution programme was failing, and white farmers continued to receive water licences. What was the problem? As the need for new legislation had been expressed for some time, one started to believe there was defiance from within. This could not continue to happen. The Committee must begin to look into these things, and the Department must give it a clear programme of action.
Mr L Basson (DA) thanked the Chairperson, and said the perception that water belonged to an individual needed to be cleared up. That was wrong. Water belonged to the property -- the farming land that was registered in the title deed of the property. It was correct to say that some of the properties were bought without water rights, but that was because there was a process. The National Water Act, Section 25, said a farmer may apply to the Department for a transfer, so if water had to be transferred from one person to the other person, there was a process, with which the Department agreed.
He also used the Hartbeespoort Dam as an example. It was full, there was a lot of water and there was a canal system. In the 1930s to the 1940s, when the dam was built, the farmers got scheduled water (or in Afrikaans, “ingelyste water”) that was attached to the property. For example, a person bought ten hectares, with five hectares of water that was scheduled to that portion of the property. He agreed 100% that a property with water had a price, whereas a property without water had no price. Thus, if the Government was buying properties without water, it was making a mistake, because it should buy property that had water.
Mr Basson said that the Government should not allow people to transfer a portion of water from one property to another, and then sell that property. Properties should be sold with water, because otherwise it had no agricultural value. He compared such a situation to buying a car and not being allowed to put in petrol.
He urged that the Committee should be clear that water did not belong to a person, but to a property. He also urged that it should not be said that “white people owned the water,” because it was not true. Whoever the owner was in the future, even if it was a foreigner or a company or a trust, the water belonged to the property, and not to the individual who sold the property.
Mr D Mnguni (ANC) said Members should not lose sight of the fact that they were in a workshop with the African Farmers' Association of South Africa (AFASA), who had assured them the biggest challenge was water. The DRDLR and the DWS had said they had a signed MOU between them. What impact did it have, because the problem of farms being bought without water was there? Also, farmers had problems with having to pay for the previous owners’ water use. How did that happen? How did one deal with debt? How responsive were the DRDLR when they become aware of farmers sitting on farms without water? How does the DWS respond, because one gets the impression that someone somewhere was not doing their job? On the issue of under-registered water users, the Committee had been informed that there were cases, for example, of farmers using twice the amount that they registered for. In such cases, people should pay. For the purpose of oversight, what were the specifics on the farms in Mpumalanga where irrigation was done with rehabilitated water from Acid Mine Drainage?
Mr Nono Maloyi (ANC), from the DAFF Portfolio Committee, said they were discussing an important commodity that was very scarce and what they should avoid was putting a race tag on the matter. Nobody in that meeting had said that white people owned, and were owning, water. What had been said was that the majority of people applying for water licences were white. Why blacks, and Africans in particular, were not applying for licences was the issue. All South Africans should be concerned about water. The DRDLR had raised a number of challenges, and he assumed that there had been interactions with all stakeholders, like the DAFF and all departments with a direct stake in the matter. As the DAFF had informed the Committee that there was a working group on water use and irrigation which the DWS and DRDLR were a part of – were these challenges discussed in that working group?
He said the Committee Members were politicians and expected officials to come to them and say: we have identified these challenges, and these are the solutions we are proposing for these challenges, and then allow for Members’ input. When there were challenges and not solutions, it became a problem for Parliament.
He asked the DWS whether the other departments were involved in developing the policy and policy amendments and the all processes involved in the Bill that had to come before the Committee, and if not, why?
He asked the DAFF what the impact of the legislation on both commercial and small holder farmers was. Was there any negative impact? One could do whatever one wanted, but if there was no food, there was no life -- and for food one needed water. Therefore, it made sense that the majority of water would go to the DAFF and to farmers to produce food, but were there negative implications and impacts from the suggestions of the DWS?
The Chairperson wanted to know whether the approximately 4 000 dams that the DWS could not account for, related to the period of riparian rights. The Department could account for only about 400 dams -- was the other water part of private pre-1998 ownership? How did that get to be linked to the part of the National Water Act that stated: “Water belongs to the State and the Minister is the custodian?”
There was a need for an audit of SA’s water sources. There would then be a “water source” as part of an inventory or audit that could be used to plan how to go forward, and would help not having to deal with emergencies from time to time. In the advent of technological advancements, should the percentage of water that was used for agriculture not be lower than the current 67%? Was SA making full use of technological advancements? There were other countries that grew food in very arid lands. It could safely be said that SA still had some water that was being wasted.
The Chairperson said that he hears the “nonsense” about the law that was still coming, but before it could be said that the Committee and the departments were moving in the right direction, there were key things required:
- Knowing the country’s water sources;
- Having a plan to manage the sources, especially from an agricultural point of view;
- Using technological advancements.
Mr Zulu said the MOU signed in January by the DRDLR’s Director General had improved the relationship between the Department and the DWS. A lot was still being discussed, especially when it came to land reform and the allocation of water, and while much had improved already, the departments were still trying to deal with critical issues.
Regarding outstanding water debt, he could provide the Committee with examples and copies of court orders.
The DRDLR had tried, in their presentation, to highlight broadly the challenges they had in terms of water authorisation and allocation, and these were part of the on-going discussions with the DWS.
Mr Mlengana said the first challenge facing the DAFF was that the process of licensing took too much time and smallholder farmers suffered because of a lack of clarity about the process of application. How did one apply, and who did one deal with?
The principle of “use it or lose it” was also a problem. At what point did this apply? For smallholder farmers, there was the issue of long periods of gestation. Also, there were times when the farmers could not plant due to conditions. At what point would somebody lose the water?
Mr Mlengana said water rights could also be a major issue. He was interested to know the percentage of smallholder farmers who had water rights. It was very important that a transparent process that was known to all was established. Although water rights was not an issue of race, it was true that most of the licences belonged to white commercial farmers, but because they grew the food it was right and they should be supported. The smallholder farmers could not be developed at the expense of growth – something that the National Development Plan (NDP) was also clear on.
He wanted to hear about monitoring the efficiency of water use in the discussions, and that would mean an irrigation infrastructure that allowed for efficiency should be invested in. Smallholder farmers should also be educated on things like the levels at which water absorption takes place for certain plants. There was talk of having 50 smallholder farmers per province turn commercial within a few years, so issues of quality would have to come into play.
There was a discourse between the DAFF and the DWS, and they had to remove the approach of challenges, and talk solutions in order to assist the Committee to understand the nature of the issues. The problem was that challenges easily sounded like accusations. He agreed with the Chairperson that the departments should come with solutions that could be tweaked by the Committee from a more analytical standpoint.
The Chairperson said he thought Mr Mlengana would conclude with examples of smart irrigation systems developed through technological advancement. This was what the Committee was encouraging – to learn from other countries.
Mr Mlengana said this had been because he wanted to avoid wasting time, but he would love to talk comparisons. He mentioned that Israel, even though it was in a desert, was a main exporter of produce. There was also Tanzania, Kenya, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina who had gone through the same challenges. He agreed that SA could learn from their systems and adapt them locally.
The Chairperson asked the DWS what it meant by the “use it or lose it” principle.
Mr Keet said that when the new Act came into effect in 1998, there was a clause (Sections 32 and 33) that stated that one had a certain period of time in which to use the water. As a practical example, he said that a farmer had the water rights, and if he did not use the water -- for instance, if he had been ill -- there was a period (he thought it was two years) to explain why.
Mr Keet said one of the most important things raised in considering what would be different in the new Water Bill, was that section 32 to 35 (the sunset clause) would be removed. Once that was in place, most problems would be solved. Also the compulsory licence process would be shortened and the general authorisations (GA’s) would be reviewed every five years.
In each province there were Catchment Management Forums that strove to assist HDI farmers with the water licensing process.
It was at the Mafube Mine in Mpumalanga where treated water from Acid Mine Drainage was being used for the community. The Strategic Water Partner’s Network (SWPN) had been helping and overseas donor funding was being used.
Ms Thoko Sigwana, Acting Director: Water Allocation, DWS, added that they agreed that this was a transformation issue that needed the three departments present to work together. Regarding the debt issue, she said the Department was regarding it as serious. In some cases, a grant from the policy on resource-poor farmers was used to subsidise farmers, and in some cases debts were being written off. The period to pay off debt had been extended from three to five years.
The DWS had engaged extensively with the DAFF about the pricing strategy, but perhaps with the DRDLR even more. Capacity was needed at the local level, so regional offices had been beefed up and water resource management had been separated for a dedicated capacity to help HDIs to understand the processes involved with licences. There was now dedicated capacity in all nine catchment areas.
Mr Keet added a lot of improvements had been made with the time it took for water licences to be approved. This was mostly because the DWS, the Department of Mineral Resources and other departments had several meetings a month, and therefore were not working in silos anymore. In the past, it took up to three years, but now it was a maximum of 300 days. Resource-poor farmers were also prioritised.
Mr Mlengana said legislation should make provision for disasters like drought. If the dams went down, what did SA have in place?
The Chairperson said it had become clear that land and water could not be separated from each other. A discussion with the DRDLR was therefore necessary to understand the issues they had mentioned. The notion of sunset clauses needed to be seriously unpacked with the legal Parliamentary Office. It was important to fast track the processes that were being talked about. What was it exactly that took so long? Real issues of life and death were being dealt with. If the next step was in the third quarter of 2017, what would happen in the period in between? Nothing? It would be just “business as usual,” and people would suffer.
Mr Basson said there was a solution for areas that received water, such as Clanwilliam, where the canal system was going to be expanded. The canal system at Hartbeespoort Dam could also be expanded to rural areas, where there was excellent ground already. The Department should tell the Committee how they would do that. It was already happening in the area of Upington. The Commitee and the departments had to think out of box. A canal system would cheaper than to build a dam in areas without water.
He was concerned about the Mokola Dam near the Medupi Power Station. The initial request had been for six million cubic metres of water. Exxaro coal mine had then requested 20 cubic meters of water to wash their coal. Now, after borrowing from the World Bank, the design had changed at Medupi, and that coal was subject to a flue-gas desulfurisation (FGD) plant, which meant they would use six times more water. Now, a 174km pipeline from Thabazimbi and the Crocodile River would have to supply that water. That area, and the Rooikoppies Dam, was for agriculture and the pipeline would take between 70 and 100 million cubic meters of water out. Who would get preference when there was a dry season, the farmers or Medupi? He guaranteed that the quota of the farmers would be cut, and Medupi would get the water. Brits and Hartebeespoort was the food kitchen for the whole of Gauteng, supplying 80% of the agriculture produce. “The pressure we feel is created by ourselves when we allow things like this to happen,” he said.
Ms Baker said she welcomed the attitude of the speakers that day. In the past it was more negative, and the change in the tone of conversation was welcome. The prerogative was still with the Department to manage the use and allocation of water. Many reports indicated that SA’s current water source was over-allocated. Could the Department verify that?
She had attended a conference held by the Israeli Government this year. The technology that was presented was absolutely amazing, with photographs of flourishing farms in desert dry areas. The Israeli Government expressed frustration that they had approached the South African government several times, but for political reasons it had been reluctant to interact with them. This barrier needed to be overcome.
She asked how many water users were benefiting from the sunset clause? What volumes of water were being used?
Mr Chauke said there was a need for co-ordination, and it was good that the Department of Mineral Resources was involved. The Committee must now begin to identify stakeholders -- for example, the irrigation schemes/boards that must be engaged with. As for water boards, and the consolidations among them that were now taking place, how would that be incorporated? The sunset clauses were negotiated settlements from 1994, and there had to be compromises and timeframes – but the time for transformation was now. He did not buy the notion that it was easy to move water into dry areas. Who controlled the fertile land, and where was the fertile land? The government keeps on buying dry land.
If the Bill that was coming was not going to be revolutionary in nature, the Committee must amend it to be revolutionary and transformative. The time was ripe to do this exercise. Leadership in the Department was ready, the unions were ready, and the mantra of “poor black farmers, we must give them a little bit of water,” should stop. They were farmers. What support were they being given, and was it equal to the support given to the other component of farmers? Was it necessary to keep tip-toeing around the white farmers who produced the food, because fertile land was being turned into game reserves? It used to be farms when you drove from Swartruggens to Rustenburg, but today it was buffaloes and rhinos roaming around. Go to Groot Marico, and what was happening? It was game farms!
Why did Members come to Parliament if it was only to apologise and not transform and put the record straight? If they did not do that now, it would be said that they had failed. He did not believe the Chairperson was the person who would fail. History would judge the Committee that it had been given an opportunity to do something different for the people and had not been able to do so.
Mr Makondo asked how many commercial farmers had converted their rights into a water licence.
Mr Mnguni said the issue of equity that was indicated by the Department was very important. How would compulsory licensing address the equity issue, and what was the timeframe?
Mr Maloyi said the first step to developing the piece of legislation would be to involve all relevant role players. There had to be interdepartmental and intergovernmental cooperation, so all spheres, provincial counterparts and so forth, must be involved. To involve everybody as soon as possible would help to reduce the time it would take to develop the piece of legislation. The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) had its own cycles, which were very long. They should speed up, but remember that the important people to involve were the farmers. They must be reached through farming bodies and unions, and be involved in the process.
The Chairperson said that clearly the process for this legislation was going to be very interesting. He agreed that therefore they could not wait. He asked if the Members were at one on this.
They answered in the affirmative.
Mr Keet said the Department would give written feedback regarding the sunset clause figure that was asked about. As far as a timeframe for coming back to the Committee, he was ready to speed things up, and suggested next week on Friday. The date was set for 16 November.
He said water could not be made. The challenge was to make a fair decision on how to share it. The Department had been looking at the issue of re-using water, as a lot of water used by municipalities and industry was just flowing out. A paradigm shift was necessary to realise that it was acceptable to reuse water from mines. The people in eMalahleni were drinking rehabilitated water from Acid Mine Drainage, and people in Windhoek were drinking it too.
Mr Mlengana and Mr Zulu said they would endeavour to work together.
The Chairperson told Members that there was a water stream on the way to Port Alfred, in the Makana municipality in the Eastern Cape, where water was bottled untreated from a stream. This was stealing, and it was done from a municipality-made parking area. He referred to farmers stealing water from the Vaal River, and a similar case in the Free State. These things did not need to wait for new legislation to be managed. He asked how many Blue Scorpions the country had. Were there more than ten?
An answer was not forthcoming from the DWS.
Other outstanding issues
Mr Basson said the Committee was still waiting for the DWS report about De Kroon.
Mr Baker asked if they could follow the same procedure as at this meeting, for a meeting about Acid Mine Drainage (AMD).
Mr Chauke wanted the Committee to invite the Auditor General to the next meeting to deal with the issue of water boards.
The Chairperson asked if a report on the Committee’s visit to Madibeng could be available on 16 November as well.
He said clearly all involved had to work to have something for the legislation early next year, and asked if there were more issues.
Mr Basson said the Public Protector’s report had made allegations against the Minister on the Lesotho Highlands scheme. The Minister had subsequently reacted in a report, and he asked if that report could be made available.
The Chairperson said they were working on that.
Mr Chauke referred to a report in the Sunday newspapers that had levelled accusations at Rand Water, and wanted to know if Rand Water could not be invited to appear before the Committee.
Mr Baker requested that when the water boards were dealt with, they should also bring a list of the members of those boards and their terms in office.
The Chairperson answered that he had interacted with the chairperson of the Rand Water Board. It had been decided that they would come before the Committee on 23 November. Because of timing issues, the other water boards would come before the Committee only next year, around February, even if they had to stay for two days for a proper job to be done. The Committee should prescribe who came to make sure that it was not only the CEO, but also that the board was represented. The Rand Water Board had already received notice that it would be audited by the AG from next year.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Riparian and related historical use of water and its implications on the current allocations (DWS)
- Riparian rights of farmers – presentation to Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation (DRDLR)
- Riparian rights of farmers as the sunset clauses in terms of water use allocation and its impacts (DAFF)