Delegations from the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), the National Treasury Department, the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR), and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) presented their briefings on drought interventions and drought relief funding. The purpose of the presentation by National Treasury was to show the legislative framework for disaster relief and how provisions and allocations in 2016 supported drought relief. The purpose of the presentation from the Development and Land Reform was to highlight areas of drought intervention, strategies of drought interventions delivery and the dispersal of drought relief funding. The purpose of the presentation by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries was to provide the two Committees with the implementation of drought interventions and strategies as well as the dispersal of drought relief to farmers.
The purpose of the presentation by COGTA was to provide an update on the drought and water shortages intervention measures put in place and the coordination thereof. The presentation highlighted the key intervention measures by Government which was carried out through the National Joint Drought Coordinating Committee (NJDCC) which comprised of various Government departments and stakeholders. The presentation highlighted the key interventions by Government departments such as COGTA, DWS, DAFF, DRDLR, South African Weather Service (SAWS), Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), Department of Health (DOH), South African National Defence Force (SANDF), IDC/Land Bank and the Private Sector and Donors.
These various Government departments and stakeholders worked jointly in order to address issues of drought and water shortage in various provinces. Some of the key interventions included providing financial assistance for farmers, providing technical support to vulnerable municipalities, drilling and equipping of boreholes, providing water tanks, feeding livestock, increased promotion of health and disease surveillance, and the disbursement of funding for drought relief in affected provinces. The most significant project was the mobile desalination plant at Richards Bay and water tankering and storage in other provinces. The key challenges included delayed implementation of infrastructure programmes, early warning and advisories not being taken into consideration, costly and unsustainable drought intervention measures and constraints on technical capacity within spheres of local government.
What concerned Members about the presentation was its lack of clarity particularly when it came to figures, to the effect that the Members felt that this presentation was just a copy and paste of another earlier presentation. Another major concern for the Members of the joint Committees was that monies were being left over and some was returned unused when there was still a need and great problem in the country for the assistance and intervention by Government. The issue of reprioritization of funds was a contentious issue because of discrepancies in the funding. This referred specifically to the costs of drilling and equipping boreholes because there were no consistent figures with regards to how much was actually spent on them. Another issue of concern on behalf of the Portfolio Committees was that of vandalism and theft of infrastructure. This was described as some form of social, economic and even political sabotage.
The Chairperson welcomed everyone in attendance. Before the various presentations actually began, the Chairperson asked about the attendance of delegates from various departments which included COGTA, DWS, DAFF and the National Treasury. He did this in order to gain an insight on how fruitful and productive the meeting would be. He said that the attendance or absence of Ministers or delegates had a huge impact on the success and outcomes of the meeting. After asking about the attendance of the delegates, the Chairperson discovered that some Ministers were not in attendance and in turn read the list of formal apologies that were written to the committee. He asked if there was anyone from COGTA and the delegates from the Department responded. The DRDLR announced that their delegates would be late because they were coming directly from the airport.
The delegates from National Treasury also sent an apology that they would arrive late. The Acting Director General (ADG) of DRDLR sent an apology.
The Chairperson also announced that Minister of the DWS Ms N Mokonyane was in a cabinet meeting. In addition to this, he announced that the Deputy Minister of the DWS was also booked off on medical grounds. He also announced that the Select Committee on Finance were busy with the hearing on the budget and thus requested to come after their meeting. He announced that Dr H Volmink (DA) would not be able to attend the meeting due to bereavement. After reading all the apologies, the Chairperson handed over to the delegations from the various departments to commence their presentation.
Briefing by COGTA
Dr Mmaphaka Tau, Deputy Director-General: National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC), COGTA, said that he would like to send an apology on behalf of the Acting Director-General of COGTA who was attending to some engagements.
The Chairperson said that they did not receive any apology from his Department and stated that they only worked on written apologies. He further asked Dr Tau if he would like to respond to that.
Dr Tau said he notes this comment from the Chairperson.
The Chairperson asked Dr Tau “is that the only response you are giving?”
Dr Tau said he noted the advice and he would relate it to the department so that it could be attended to. He said that he apologized.
The Chairperson said that the issue of accountability was important and stated that they only accepted written apologies not verbal apologies before the meeting started.
Ms A Steyn (DA) said that a letter needed to be sent to all the Ministers and the Departments who were not present even the DRDLR. She said that it just showed disrespect because even last year when they started the meetings on drought interventions she could remember that people did not attend and she felt that they just did not care. Further on, she suggested that a letter be sent to all those who were not present to let them know that the Committee was not happy with the way they were treating this disaster which hit the country and people just did not care. She said it was of concern that they were not present on such a very important meeting of this nature about a crisis in our country.
The Chairperson said his only comment was that the Executive simply did not take Parliament seriously. He agreed that the letter be written to all the Ministers and explained that the aim was to give effect to the notion of accountability. He further said that the Executive was not accountable to itself but it was accountable to Parliament. He said that the Executive could not simply be absent from meetings of such importance without any excuse and think after that that life would go on as usual. He said at least the Accounting Officers should have been in attendance so that they were able to give meaning to accountability. He further explained that they did not want a situation whereby those who were in attendance were not able to make decisions or were forced to refer and defer decisions because that was what happened in most cases when there were no Accounting Officers. He further said that the situation they found themselves in was a disadvantage because they were not present for the sake of being present but they had to take decisions on the spot. He then gave Dr Tau an opportunity to continue with his presentation.
Dr Tau presented an update on drought interventions and strategies as well as the dispersal of drought relief funding to Provinces. Dr Tau began his presentation by saying that the presentation by COGTA would represent all inputs from various sectors in responding to the drought situation based on the mandate that the NDMC was to coordinate the efforts of all sector departments and other disciplines in dealing with disaster risk management issues. He referred to the content of the presentation and said that it would include the work done by DAFF in respect of agricultural drought issues, the work done by DRDLR and also the DWS. He said it would however not reflect all the work that these departments were doing but would give a summative representation of the work they were doing. He said that they were presenting this report during a time when the summer rainfall areas experienced much rain and expressed that they appreciated this but they still found it necessary that the message on drought reduction continued to be taken forward because we knew that our country was a water scarce country therefore adaptation to the changes in climate became key. He then gave a content overview of the presentation.
He said they would deal with the purpose as requested and then they would discuss the approaches taken to address drought conditions. He said they would outline intervention measures by National Government and also the funding. They would then go to specific intervention areas like the drilling of boreholes and water tankering. They would also highlight the contributions made by private sector and non – governmental organisations (NGO’s). He further said that they would highlight detailed intervention measures by COGTA as well as the disbursement of funds for drought relief in provinces for the sake of accountability.
He said they would also reflect on the current status on drought and water shortages in the country while also highlighting the key challenges on the coordination of drought and water shortages. He said that their presentation would finally conclude with the recommendations. Referring to the presentation, he stated that drought and water shortage intervention were addressed by COGTA through a coalition of various Government departments called the NJDCC and other stakeholders. He then discussed the approaches which were taken to address drought conditions. That included reprioritization of available resources from existing programmes, involvement and contribution of private sector and NGO’s, implementing stringent measures for water management to ensure the conservation of the available water, and providing technical support to Provinces and Municipalities in addressing water related challenges. He then stated the key intervention by National Government and highlighted the key interventions
Mr L Basson (DA) interrupted the presentation and asked the Chairperson if he would be allowed to clarify something.
The Chairperson said Mr Basson could ask his questions.
Mr Basson then continued and said on the same slide it said “2015 and 2016 to be verified” and “2016 and 2017 including requests”. He then stated that he wanted factual amounts. He said “if you tell me you haven’t verified it, I don’t know if you have spent it”. He said it was the same for the next pages, “you will say its ongoing”. He asked, what was the date of this document? And how could we trust the figures drawn up here if it was still not verified and included requests?
The Chairperson responded to Mr Basson and asked that the meeting continue because if they went with this approach, the meeting would be longer and they were never going to finish. He said that they had two or three more submissions and asked that Members waited for all those presentations to be presented before asking questions. He suggested that Members take notes because the issues they were raising were valid. He advised Dr Tau to continue but also talk to those issues which were raised.
Before Dr Tau could continue, Mr H Chauke (ANC) interrupted and said “with all due respect Chair, the issues which Mr Basson raised needs a direct response”. He also added that it looked like the document being presented was prepared long ago and not for the specific Portfolio Committee meeting. He asked that the issue be clarified if this document was prepared for this particular meeting or not. He then said that was the only point he would raise, other than that, the meeting could continue.
The Chairperson said “the simple point being raised by the Members of parliament is the question, are we not dealing with a cut and paste?”
Dr Tau said “thank you Chair and Honourable Members for allowing the presentations to proceed”. He said that some of the issues would be clarified even by other presenters and they would respond to the detail of these issues.
The Chairperson explained that what the Members were saying was that he was to talk specifics and not talk generalising.
Dr Tau thanked the Chairperson and continued with the presentation. He responded to the Members and said that they had issues where the DAFF in their provincial level had to look into their allocations to deal with the occurrence. He further explained that each Department that would present would clarify the issues raised by Members.
Mr Chauke raised a point of order and said that what the Members were asking was because they sought clarity whether this presentation was prepared for this particular meeting. He additionally asked if the information presented in the report was current information or was the report prepared in an earlier time. He said it seemed as if as Mr Basson said, the report was raising old issues and therefore emphasized that clarity was important. He added “clarify! Was this presentation prepared to be presented in the portfolio committee or not?”
The Chairperson asked Dr Tau to quickly respond to the question.
Dr Tau asked that colleagues from DWS be invited to comment on this and to further weigh in on his response.
Mr T Manyoni suggested that the meeting continue because the presentation focused on the years 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 therefore he felt as though the matter which the Members were raising was already clarified.
Dr Tau continued with the presentation and reported on funding expended thus far by government. He explained the drought intervention through according to the slides. He stated that progressive reprioritization of resources was needed because the drought did not start occurring in the previous two years but was a gradual development throughout the years. He also spoke about the contribution from the private sector and NGO’s and how they really appreciated it because it was helpful. The major stakeholders in the private sector included Fly Mango and Shoprite. He then gave detailed interventions by COGTA province by province. In Kwa-Zulu Natal he said that the approved budget was R89 million but so far only R31 million was used. He also spoke about the disbursement of funding for drought relief in affected Provinces. He showed the photos of the work being done on the ground, particularly pertaining to water shortage interventions such as the installation of water tanks. He spoke about the current status on drought and water shortages in the country and said that the Western Cape experienced most of this drought since its rainfall was in winter.
He brought the key challenges to the Committee on the coordination of drought and water shortages. He said that the early warning and advisories were not taken into consideration to ensure proper planning and reduction of economic losses, food insecurity and livestock mortalities. He also said another challenge was the delayed implementation of infrastructure programmes that impacted on drought interventions such as Municipal Infrastructure Grant, Regional Bulk Infrastructure, CASP, etc.
He highlighted the recommendations to the Portfolio Committees and said that the Portfolio Committees had to note the updated report on the drought and water shortages intervention measures put in place and coordination thereof. He further recommended the Portfolio Committees provide support in upscaling the risk reduction measures to enhance sustainability within the water sector.
Briefing by DAFF
Dr Ikalafeng Kgakatsi, Director General, DAFF, said that his presentation would brief the joint Portfolio Committees meeting which comprised of the Portfolio Committees on Water and Sanitation, as well as the one on Cooperative Governance with an update on the implementation of drought interventions and strategies as well as the dispersal of drought relief to farmers.
Dr Kgakatsi thanked the Chairperson and referred to Dr Tau’s purpose of the presentation and asserted that they were working together thus there would be overlaps and similarities in their presentations. He said the mortality rates they gathered since collaboration with COGTA amounted to 300 000 livestock in all the provinces which have died. He said even though South Africa was currently receiving good rains the country were still implementing measures to ensure that mortality of livestock was kept low. He articulated that one of the measures was to enhance risk management, strengthen adaptive capacity and improve farmer access to good quality seed of appropriate varieties through community seed multiplication schemes.
He said that due to the recent rains, the level of major dams improved in most provinces. However, water restrictions still remained in place. He said that forecasting systems also indicated an increased likelihood of an El Nino phase to be in effect towards the spring season. With that being said, there was still a lot of uncertainty whether it would occur and when it would. He added that the seasonal forecasts for March to July 2017 showed chances for above normal rainfall for summer rainfall areas and during early autumn it would be isolated and not widespread rainfall. He said the forecasts also showed a tendency of above normal temperatures with increasing uncertainty.
He then moved to discussing the drought relief intervention measures during the 2016/17 year. He stated that in addition to the R1 billion which was requested for furthering drought assistance, National Treasury further made an amount of R212 million to assist affected farmers throughout the country through the NDMC. He said this amount was allocated to DAFF as an indirect grant as a result of a verification process undertaken by the NDMC. Apart from the implementation, the responsibility of DAFF was to appoint service providers, procurement and monitoring. It was after this that DAFF deployed personnel to various provinces to work with the provinces on implementation said Dr Kgakatsi. He said the result of this was that they received feed, quantity and quality assurance, as well as distributions. He added that implementation was still currently underway.
He then discussed the funding province by province, looking at the allocation, expenditure, balance and progress. He also referred to the drilling and equipping of boreholes in all provinces, however; the only completed and functioning boreholes in the year 2016/17 were only in the North West and Limpopo provinces, with 16 and 10 boreholes respectively. He spoke about the latest developments on the current drought and said that there were crops which dry land farmers planted as a result of good rains received throughout the country. He noted that grazing was also improving in most provinces after some good rains were received. However, food prices increased throughout the country with rural communities affected badly. He said the DAFF issued out the drought adaptation plan which included the management of pests and diseases, livestock management, water use management and proper veld management. For the way forward, he advised farmers to be conservative in their planning as the country was not out of drought yet. He said that farmers were also encouraged to implement measures provided in the early warning information issued and to encourage the implementation of programmes which conserved the natural resources.
The Chairperson said that was a very prompt and straight to the point presentation and also welcomed the delegates from National Treasury who just walked into the meeting and asked them to wave their hands. He then asked the DRDLR to be ready to present and said that one of the issues National Treasury could advise on was the cost of putting up a borehole. He said that was going to be an issue because there were no standards; everyone was just doing as they saw well. He said they raised this issue with DWS and received a flimsy response on the lines of “it depends on the conditions, the type of soil, rainfall etc.” He then gave over to the DRDLR and asked who the delegate were and who they were with.
Presentation by DRDLR
Ms Abigail Thabethe, Chief Director: Rural Disaster Mitigation Service, DRDLR, was with the Director in the Chief Directorate Ms Angelina Ntsana. She said that they were requested by their Acting Director-General to come and present on behalf of the DRDLR. She said their presentation would mainly cover the areas of intervention by their Department, the strategy that was used in terms of delivery and the areas where the intervention was dispersed. She said the areas of intervention were similar to what the Head of NDMC spoke about. She said their Department had to identify land for the relocation of livestock from the areas that were hardest hit by the drought to areas that still had veld for grazing. Secondly, they had to revitalize feedlots and thirdly they supported the drilling for the equipping of boreholes. She said they had to encourage the auctioning of livestock by the communal farmers and they also had to support the creation of fire bricks to mitigate against fires in the absence of water resources. In addition to this, she said they also had to provide feed for livestock and water to support particularly KZN; the sugar cane farmers.
She said they implemented the strategies for drought interventions delivery through collaboration with other departments under the auspices of the NDMC. In the collaboration, all departments communicated their areas of intervention prior to delivery. She said all departments were expected to submit their drought intervention plans to all National Joint Drought Co-ordinating Committee (NJDCC) to make sure that allocation of interventions was not duplicated by the departments. She said that DRDLR supported DAFF mainly as part of the agricultural sector delivery of interventions. In addition, she said their Department had to be coordinated and be in line with what DAFF was doing so as to achieve the aims such as promoting the implementation of disaster risk reduction measures by farming communities and to assist farming communities who were severely affected by natural disasters and could not cope with the effects using their own resources. She further said that assessments were conducted by both DAFF and DRDLR before the delivery of interventions. After the delivery, she said a verification process was followed up to ensure that what was promised to the farmers was in fact delivered. She also added that the DRDLR did not support commercial farmers.
She referred to the issue of the reprioritization of funds and said that the total budget for the 2015/16 financial year was R483 million and stated that no funding was allocated for the 2016/17 financial year. After this, she looked into the provinces details and highlighted the intervention measures as well as the delivery measures in each province (see page 5 – 10 of the presentation). She then thanked the chairperson.
The Chairperson said that the matter of the boreholes was going to be a big issue because the DRDLR did not answer the Members request for clarification on the costs of the boreholes. He therefore asked National Treasury to maybe be of help in this regard. He then gave over to the DWS to do their presentation.
Briefing by DWS
Mr Dan Mashitisho, Director General, DWS, introduced himself and his fellow delegates. He then asked Mr Trevor Balzer, Deputy Director-General, DWS, to take over the presentation. Mr Balzer said he would take the Committee through the presentation but he would also add some information which they would not see on the presentation because the report was prepared on 25 February 2017 and since then they have had a change in the readings of the level of water in the rivers and dams due to rainfall. He stated that he thus prepared some extra slides which he would show should they be required. He said he would talk on a question which the Director-General asked him concerning the issue of flood management. He also confirmed and concurred that they work closely with the NDMC and other sector departments in dealing with drought intervention.
He said that there would be some slides in his presentation which reflected some of the issues Dr Tau highlighted in his presentations and those issues he would not repeat in his own presentation but instead he would add some pertinent comments around those issues. He stated that he also believed that his admin staff circulated a copy of the seasonal climate watch document from the South African Weather Service (SAWS). He then started discussing the implications of prevailing rains on drought. He stated to the Chairperson that the reason for circulating it was in terms of dealing with the drought from a hydrological point of view and dealing with the floods; they needed to coordinate very closely with the Department of Agriculture particularly the agricultural research and SAWS. He said (referring to the slide on the overhead) that they were now close to their long term averages for the month of February and were currently in agreement with the predicted zone neutral which pointed to near normal precipitation conditions. He said, however, when you read these forecasts you would see that in the long range they indicated a possibility of a weak el Niño developing in spring this year.
He said that the rains might be temporary relief and his colleagues from the DRDLR stated that they believed the drought was far from over. He said that from their perspective the recovery from the drought would be far from over in terms of the recovery of the rivers, dams and ground water systems. He stated that caution needed to be exercised in terms of going forward particularly with the management of the reservoirs. He added that the information they had was quite dynamic therefore there was another document in circulation at the meeting which was a DWS weekly report based on the 27 February 2017 report. He then asked to use this additional report in order to refer to the current status of the dams since the previous day. He said DWS monitored on a continual basis, 211 of the major dams in the country and they provided weekly reports on that information which was published on their website. According to that report of the cycle from 20 February, it showed that the dams increased by 11% which was better than it was last time and they keep on rising due to the late summer rains in 2016.
He added that this was a result of excellent rains which fell over the past two weeks in the North West, Free State, parts of Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu Natal and some in Eastern and Northern Cape. As a result, several rivers in these provinces were flowing strongly and recorded good flows. He stated that out of the 211 dams, 65 were now at 100% or more, with this in mind, the short term forecast for rain was positive while the long term was very cautious. He said that as many other water systems were rising, the Western Cape system experienced a drop by 1.6% to 32.4%. Another place experiencing water drops was the Amathole District Municipality in the Eastern Cape which was experiencing serious shortages and the local authority was finding it difficult to maintain tankers. He went on to give a summary of water shortage figures per provinces, an overview of the National Status of dams and an overview of dams in the Integrated Vaal System as of 27 February. He mentioned that more information was available and was broken down to province by province but the issue of time would not allow him to continue. He then gave over to the Chairperson.
Briefing by National Treasury
Ms Ulrike Rwida, Chief Director: Urban Development and Infrastructure (UDI), National Treasury, stated that her presentation specifically dealt with the legislative framework and the budgeting process for disaster relief such as drought and she said she would talk about what that was, how National Treasury provided for it in the 2016 Division of Revenue Act and what they have done in the 2016 adjustment budget. She said the Public Finance Management Act gave the Minister the powers to table the budget which included powers and probably limitations on what he could table and when he could table the adjustment budget. She further added that there were specifics and limitations on how they could table the budget, for example, they could table it during unforeseen events or events that were unforeseen and unavoidable.
She stated that this was recommended by a Committee of the Cabinet which was chaired by the President in terms of section 16 and they also dealt with emergencies, for example; if they had to go to war, how did they appropriate money for that. So the drought relief funding was appropriated by section 32 (d) in which it was the Minister of Finance at the time of the budget. She added that what this really meant was that at the time of the February budget, National Treasury did not know what was needed by who, thus they did not know how to appropriate money to Parliament and to wherever it was needed. She said the Division of Revenue Act also provided grants to support disaster relief. This included immediate response grants provided by the Revenue Act such as the Provincial Disaster Grants, Provincial Sectoral grants, Municipal Disaster grants and Municipal Disaster Recovery grant.
She said in dealing with the drought, the 2016 Division of Revenue Act had special provisions which they never provided for before and this was provided for in terms of section 20 and 21 of the Revenue Act. She said section 20 basically set out the process on how they could move grants around to deal with the alleviation of a disaster such as drought and she would show the allocations later. She also said it set out the process, who was responsible, and there was a strong role for disaster management in this. She also added that something new that was never introduced before was the shifting of funds between the response grants and what this meant was they could shift grants from the provincial sectoral grants to municipal disaster grants; or the other way around if there was sufficient funding. She said that this was something completely new which they introduced last year; however what it fundamentally did was that it changed the provincial and municipal framework.
She noted (referring to the presentation) the allocation of R112 million to the provincial disaster grant and at the end of the third quarter there was no spending on this grant. That was, the NDMC did not use the grant to provide disaster or drought relief from these grants. For the municipal grants there was R270 million allocated and she stated that section 21 would have allowed the funds to be transferred for use towards disaster and drought relief if the COGTA, the transferring officer and the NDMC requested that.
The Chairperson stated that National Treasury sought not to address and engage some of the issues raised the by Portfolio Committee.
Ms Rwida responded and said that she was uncomfortable with engaging those issue because in her Department they were largely economists and not geologists, hydrologists etc.
The Chairperson said there was a lot of duplication with the issues raised by respective Departments and clearly there were a number of issues pertaining to norms and standards to be put in place. He said he also thought that the COGTA was going to raise the issue of maintenance of infrastructure because it was very important and critical. He noted that the environment Department was critical in this regard because they talked about warning signs and even if they were not there, the structure should be able to detect the early warnings and to predict what could happen. He also raised the issue of vandalism and theft of infrastructure, and said that he found it very odd that up until now they had not made an example of some of those that stole and vandalized the infrastructure. He strongly suggested that the example needed to be made out there of those that vandalized the infrastructure because he saw it as a sabotage of a political, social and economic nature.
He referred to this kind of action as dirty work and asserted that an example needed to be made. He asserted that “you are in charge as Government to ensure that there is law and order”. He said at some point, decisions and actions had to be taken. He stated that these were the issues he picked up and thought that the various Departments would address in their presentations. He then asked the Members to bring in their input.
Ms Steyn thanked the Chairperson and the presenters for the meetings and stated that it was long overdue. She announced that unfortunately she had to leave at 12:00 pm because she scheduled another meeting, thus she apologised. She asked COGTA regarding a Portfolio Committee meeting in KZN she read about whereby the Committee presented that the Department used about R124 million of the R150 million that was allocated to them for disaster funding but they heard a day or two later that actually only R7 million was actually used. She thought that all of these Departments should come and do their presentations in a one page thing led by COGTA because if one looked just at the boreholes which were mentioned as a point of concern, she was trying for 8 months to write to each Department and ask “give me a list of the boreholes you have drilled, how many boreholes have you drilled?” because in these presentations they were presented in a bulk, for example, 150 boreholes for the North West but the Committee did not know which Department did it. She asked “how many boreholes did your Department build and where they? Give me GPS coordinates because I want to go see where they are”. She stated that she was saying this because they were not drilled because she went there personally and asked the communities and farmers if there were any boreholes drilled that they knew of and they said no. She added that she only knew of three in KZN and seven in NW. She then suggested that they were called to give account and say where were they spending these billions like DWS which spent R9 billion, because people died of thirst as well as livestock in their millions in certain communities. She requested a proper presentation on how the funds were spent. She expressed that she did not want answers at the moment but they had to come back and give a proper report.
Ms T Baker (DA) said that she would like to agree with her colleague particularly with regards to the boreholes and water tanks because they needed to know what was spent and where was it spent? What was the actual area? She continued by referring to the presentation and saying that she was not sure about the figures given there because if she added up the amount spent for KZN it added up to R900 million and she actually stopped counting when she got to that point, and stressed that it was in one province alone. She expressed that she was not sure about the reliability of the information in these documents because the reports did not speak to each other. She then asked which one should be taken as actual because for example in the NW one document said R77 million while another says R100 million was spent. She stated that this was a huge problem for her because it called credibility into question.
Mr Basson noted that according to the document R290 million was spent on desalination of the plant. He said they did some homework and found that the tender was given to someone who did refuge removal to install the plant. He said the cost to install such a plant was R165 million and they gave R290 million. He then asserted that more than a R130 million was stolen of taxpayers’ money and said that it was unacceptable and it was not a norm. He said he was not happy because they could not find tender documents in South Africa relating to this plant in Richards Bay. On the issue of tankers, he mentioned that there was looting of infrastructure in municipalities so that the tankers were withdrawn. He said there was no discussion with the municipalities. He said he had a sense that all these Departments did not know how to spend money because some of the money was not even used but returned as unspent to National Treasury. He also said that there was no water in the Western Cape and referred to the dam which had sand in it and there were numerous requests to the municipality that this problem be rectified but it was not. He said before the rains came, the canal systems had to be cleared of the sand so that the water could reach the people. He said they needed to get answers because particularly in this province, officials in the Department just did not care because they ignored the problems after numerous discussions with the manager. He felt that the Department did not take the Committee seriously. He also said that he wanted to know more about the boreholes.
Mr D Mnguni (ANC) said that their role as the Committee was to do oversight over the Departments and the Executive and it was difficult to do so when there was not reliable information. It was difficult to improve the service for the people on the ground because they were the ones which had to verify. He stated that when they received unreliable information, the people down there would revolt because they were not receiving these services which they were supposed to receive. He felt that COGTA as the coordinating Department did not meet with the other Departments before the meeting because the figures did not speak to each other.
Mr T Manyoni (ANC) said that he thought a lack of maintenance was a problem. He said they asked the Departments at an earlier meeting what measures were being put up to deal with the crisis and the Departments said, desalination. After that, they received a report that said a desalination project took place in Richards Bay and no other area was indicated where the programme was implemented because most of the dams were full of sand before the rains began. He said the issue of tankering needed to be investigated more. He said the issue of tankering must also be taken seriously and the Departments must give a report on what was really happening.
Ms M Khawula (EFF) spoke in IsiZulu and her translator said she did not know what to do because the people from COGTA who were supposed to give them direction were not doing so. She said the presentations did not make sense to her, for example, where they spoke about the infrastructure and boreholes. She asked the question why the figures for boreholes were not the same for each province because they got the same service. She said that in the past there was an education system called Bantu education and she would like to know if there was also Bantu Water and Sanitation because it looked like all these issues affected black people more. She said she never saw a white person or another race protesting for water and she said most of the challenges of water shortage was not addressed. She asked where the Departments said they took water and gave to people and her question was where they got this water from because Government said that there was no water. She referred to the boreholes and said that most people did not have these so called boreholes and she disagreed that the boreholes was drilled.
The Chairperson asked about the mitigation programmes in the rural areas and asserted that they did not hear much about work being done in the rural areas. He said that he was very interested to hear what the Department had in store together with the weather department. He asked about the figure in terms of cost of refurbishing around the country and from that figure to where we were now, how much has been spent. Referring to the boreholes, he said the variation in costs was concerning but he understood that it depended on the engineering processes. He added that they needed to hear about that and standardise norms. He gave the delegation to respond to the questions and comments.
Ms Rwida from National Treasury was the first to respond to the questions and comments of the Members. She said they had no spending on the municipal and provincial disaster grants, and the NDMC chose not to use those funds.
Mr Mashititso from DWS spoke about the desalination process and said that they could submit more documents. He added that they did not know because this was a new technology and said it would be advisable to check the various technology because the most cost effective might not be the most effective but they would need to follow up on it.
Mr T Balzer referred to the queries that were made about the boreholes and said that they had to give account of the boreholes in the National Assembly in 2016 and those issues were engaged. He said they would go back and check if that response covered all areas which were raised today and they would come back with a response if they were allowed to do that. He also referred to the question of whether it was feasible to drill boreholes during the drought and his view was yes it was feasible. He said 17% of our water came from the boreholes and they wanted to increase that to 18%. Referring to the question about desalination in Richards Bay but he had to come forward with the better costs. He added that he would follow up on the issues concerning the dams and their clearing of the sand.
Mr Mashititso said water tankering was more cost effective than the water pipes but with regards to the Maluti area, water tankering was not the solution. He also referred to the issue of infrastructure in the municipalities and their inadequacy.
The Chairperson was not satisfied with the responses given by the Departments and said that it must not be business as usual and stated that their interest as a Portfolio Committee was on the programmes the Department was running. He asked what programmes were there in order to avoid duplication. He really stressed the issue of programmes and how they were coordinated. He referred to what the Minister of Finance said “Money is not the issue but the problem was the capacity to spend that money”.
Mr Chauke said when they checked in the beginning, they found that some of the Director Generals and the Ministers of Departments were not present. He stressed the issue of accountability. He said that Members were complaining that the Departments were not coordinated. He said that these Departments were not well coordinated and the reports did not reflect current issues thus they must be updated. For example, he said the dam in Swartruggens was not full at all, it was full of mud and the water was evaporating so they must not come and tell lies. He then made a suggestion to the Chairperson that instead of the delegations responding, they must be held accountable and come back to present a proper report.
Mr Basson said he feels insulted by the responses because he felt that they were being taken for fools by the delegations.
The Chairperson said that they were not going to allow presenters to respond. He said he wanted a report that talked about specific programmes not what plans the Department had. He further said that they did want to hear stories.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries briefing
- Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs briefing
- Department of Rural Development and Land Reform briefing
- South African Weather Service briefing
- Disaster relief funding: National Treasury briefing
- Department of Water and Sanitation briefing