Western and Eastern Cape drought crisis

Water and Sanitation

07 February 2018
Chairperson: Mr Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation held a lively meeting on the current drought in the country to discuss the current status and challenges. The Committee was joined by Members from several Portfolio Committees who had been invited to attend the presentations.

The intention of the meeting was for the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and the Minister of Water and Sanitation to give an integrated update to Members on the drought that had been declared in three provinces, i.e. Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape, and to inform Members of plans by the National Disaster Management Centre to manage the disaster. The aim had been to hear what everyone was doing and for Members to consider how all role players could be aligned in respect of all the interventions and to see where synergies could be established.

Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs stated that the Western Cape, Northern Cape, and the Eastern Cape had been declared provincial drought areas. The drought conditions were having profound and negative implications on the economies of the affected provinces, with a subsequent impact on the economy of rest of the country. The situation was compounded by climate change, as well as the increasing demand for water resources in response to the needs of the increasing population. However, he was very confident that he would be able to manage the disaster with the assistance of his teams.

The National Disaster Management Centre, which reported to the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, would be the lead entity in managing the disaster. The Centre would be guided by the Minister, who, in turn, would be guided by the Inter-Ministerial Task Team. All the relevant Ministers and senior officials from their Departments were members of the Task Team. The Heads of the National and Provincial Disaster Management Centres were making an assessment of the situation and would give advice about classifying the drought as a national disaster. He stressed that it was not only the Western Cape that was suffering from drought, and that, besides the Eastern and Northern Cape, there were pockets of drought throughout the country. All role players were working on the crisis, and the presentation was an Inter-Ministerial Task Team report which began with the Weather Services Report and ended with the proposals by the Government Communication and Information Service.

The Head of the National Disaster Management Centre referred to the challenges facing the Centre in managing the drought which had to include the prioritisation of unsustainable and costly temporary measures such as water carting, as well as exorbitant costs for drilling and equipping of boreholes. Short terms solutions were in place, including water usage restrictions, rainwater harvesting and re-use of grey water, while longer-term solutions such as drilling and refurbishment of boreholes, a focus on Waste Water Treatment Works and Water Treatment Works and the war on leaks were being implemented.

Several Committee Members noted that the presentation had not changed from the presentation made by the National Disaster Management Centre in October 2017.

The Acting Chairperson called on the Minister to assert national control over the situation as government had allowed the space to be contaminated politically by its failure to come on board immediately and assist municipalities at the local level. He noted the reports of farmers who had released dammed water as a gesture. The question was who owned the water. It was a question that had to be answered sooner or later because water was a national asset and he wanted to see urgent legislation addressing the matter. The question of who owned the land and whether farmers were hoarding water was hotly debated.

Funding was another hotly debated topic. Members referred to the fact that the Department of Water and Sanitation had expended its funds trying to assist local municipalities that did not have money for pipelines from reservoirs and other water-related infrastructure, while the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, which was responsible for local government had an underspend of R300 million. The City of Cape Town was also in the firing line as it had received R74.8 million in August 2017 for emergency drought relief measures but had only spent 24% by the end of December and 40% by the end of January. The Council explained that the procurement process took time, as did drilling for water, and that the City had been held up awaiting water licences from the Department of Water and Sanitation. One of the Members raised the discrepancy between the R8 billion that the Disaster Centre had said was required nationally to address the drought and the R7 billion required by Nelson Mandela Bay Metro alone. National Treasury budget constraints was a real concern for Members when funds were needed to supply drinking water to people.

Members raised questions about the efficacy and cost of desalination plants while a great deal of water loss was the result of infrastructure that was not maintained. Members also noted many boreholes that had been drilled but were not producing water for a variety of reasons. The wastewater plant at Umhlanga, which turned effluent and wastewater into drinking water for the elite Zimbali Estate, was held up as an example of how re-use of water was less costly and more effective than other methods of augmenting water supplies.

The question of how the drought crisis was described was debated. Members were unhappy with the term used by the City of Cape Town of "Day Zero" and accused the City of both scaremongering and sowing confusion as the City kept changing the date for Day Zero. Several Members stated that the term made no sense and they did not know what it meant. Members were adamant that the City had to allow the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to communicate with the country in respect of the drought. He had a nationally developed strategy and no other role players or politicians should speak on the matter of water.

The Department of Water and Sanitation made a more technical presentation. The Acting Director-General indicated that a multi-pronged strategy would be implemented as the Western Cape water supply system which served the city of Cape Town, also served surrounding urban centers and irrigators along the Berg, Eerste and Sonderend Rivers, and was under stress at a level approximately 13% lower than 2017.  The system would be at its lowest in May/June 2018. He presented an overview of the Western Cape water supply system and statistics on dam levels. He concluded the presentation by stressing that the drought in the Western Cape was dire with dam levels falling week on week while water use was still above the targeted use. Efforts to comply with water restrictions had to be intensified.

The presentation by AgriSA and AgriWestern Cape highlighted the devastating effects of the drought on the multi-billion Rand agricultural industry in the Western Cape which had led to huge job losses, crop failures, the death of livestock, the enormous cost to farmers, the loss of market share and at least two suicides. To date, the drought had cost agriculture in the Western Cape R7 billion.

Municipalities reported on the dire state of water resources and the efforts that they had undertaken to alleviate the drought. The earth was so dry that a downpour of 100ml of rain in the Eastern Cape had resulted in a 0.5% rise in dam levels. The Head of the Department of Western Cape Provincial Department of Local Government, Planning and Environment stated that, after addressing drought and water issues in Knysna, Beaufort West and Kannaland, Bitou and Saldanha Bay, he was cautiously optimistic that rural local municipalities would make it through the year. The focus had shifted to the municipalities sharing the Western Cape water supply scheme with the City of Cape Town. The Director for Water and Sanitation in the City of Cape Town stated that the City had worked tirelessly for 17 years, and especially since the mid-2000s, to address the potential water shortage. Cape Town city had been increasing by 4 % each year, but water usage had flatlined for the past 15 years and per capita consumption had been reduced as a result of the implementation of the water management plan. Once the drought hit, it had been difficult to reduce consumption as there was already an efficiency in the system and fairly extensive re-use of grey water and wastewater.

Members noted that there were rural towns where there was no longer a water supply or where water flowed for only a couple of hours a day.

In its presentation, the South African Institute of Civil Engineering declared that Cape Town would not run out of water as long as usage was correctly managed and forcibly implemented, if necessary. The Institute also offered assistance in that it would train senior municipal officials across the country on water management and the management of water treatment and wastewater treatment plants because those skills were clearly lacking.

Members became heated when considering all the issues laid before them and the plethora of challenges that had to be addressed. One of the Members stated that it was not a normal situation where the three spheres of government could send out different messages just because the Constitution allowed them to do so. He wanted the representatives of Western Cape Province and local government to take note. Different messages could create a revolution that could burn the country down. He called on the country to pray for rain. Members emphasised the need for the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and the Department of Water and Sanitation to work together and to communicate with provincial and municipal authorities about what was needed and what the Departments planned to do. The need for a common message was stressed.

 

Meeting report

In the absence of the Chairperson who would be late, the Secretary called for nominations for the position of Acting Chairperson.  Mr L Basson (DA) nominated Mr H Chauke (ANC) which was seconded by Ms D Manana (ANC). Mr Chauke accepted the position of Acting Chairperson.

The meeting was a follow-up of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team held the previous day. Three Ministers had been invited: Minister of Water Affairs and Sanitation, Nomvula Mokonyane; Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Des van Rooyen, and the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, Gugile Nkwinti, who had sent apologies. The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwane, had also sent his apologies.

The Committee had invited presentations from provincial government and local government, the South African Institution of Civil Engineering and the Overberg Water Board, as well as the Departments of Water and Sanitation; Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

Members from several Portfolio Committees had been invited to attend the presentations.

Mr N Paulsen (EFF) asked why the Chairperson was not there when there was a crisis on hand.

The Acting Chairperson explained that he had had a problem when he had awoken in the morning but would attend shortly. He requested that Members accept the Chairperson's apology and accept the process by which he had been elected Acting Chairperson so that the meeting could continue. He explained that it was not only the Chair who would be able to find a solution to the problem. Everyone would have to put their heads together and would have to be guided by the plan in place. Everyone who was there was a leader in his or her own right and would be able to make the decisions.

Ms A Steyn (DA) asked the Chairperson to recognise that the meeting had been slotted to start at 10:00 not 9:00 and so a number of people who were late had probably not been informed in time and would not be on time. The Acting Chairperson be aware of the situation.

Mr L Basson (DA) added that some of the people from the Eastern Cape had only flown out that morning, expecting a 10:00 start.

The Acting Chairperson informed Members that the Minister for Water and Sanitation would be leaving the meeting at 10:00 as she had to attend the Cabinet meeting. He added that the Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs would remain throughout the meeting.

Ms M Khawula (EFF) made comments in her mother tongue.

The Chairperson responded in the same language

Mr Basson stated that it was unacceptable that the Minister, in an important meeting such as it was, intended to leave in 20 minutes when the meeting had not even started. It created a problem that the Minister found her work in Cabinet more important than the drought in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and all over the country. He asked that the Minister reconsider, apologise to Cabinet and stick with the current meeting so that the problems of the drought could be resolved.

Ms D Manana (ANC) told Mr Basson that, unfortunately, the Committee could not tell the Minister to stay because she had some other issues. The meeting should have started at 9:00 but Administration was to blame. Members could not tell the Minister not to go to the Cabinet meeting because Cabinet wanted her to brief them on the matter. She asked Mr Basson if he knew how sensitive that thing was.

The Acting Chairperson interjected, asking colleagues to maintain the decorum of the meeting. He had said that there was an apology from the Minister and that she would request to leave at 10 am to attend Cabinet. Their approach should be to persuade the Minister, but Members needed to hear from the Minister and then Members could try and persuade her to stay. The Minister could weigh up her options. It was possible that they would be dealing with the very same topic in Cabinet that Members were dealing with. Members should not point at one another and there should be no politics at the meeting because the work that they were going to do was for all of them, and they would begin to understand each other, and get the message to the public. The public was looking at them to give answers to the challenges currently facing the country. The Chairperson asked the Minister if she wanted to respond to the point made by colleagues.

Minister of Water Affairs Nomvula Mokonyane stated that she had to go to the Cabinet Committee Meeting. She reminded Members, especially those of the Portfolio Committee that she accounted to, that it was a follow-up meeting and that they had agreed there would be an integrated report on Disaster Management linked to the drought. They had a team led by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs who was the convener of National Disaster Management. They were not going to make two extremely different presentations to the meeting and her being there was a demonstration of her respect for Parliament and an understanding of the fact that they all had to appear there. She begged their indulgence and asked the Acting Chairperson to allow Minister van Rooyen to lead an integrated presentation as it was going to be done by Dr Tau, as well as Trevor Balzer, on behalf of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team (IMTT) on Disaster Management. Her attendance was a gesture of understanding.

The Acting Chairperson noted that there was only one presentation and therefore the Minister could attend the Cabinet meeting while the senior managers who dealt with the matter on a day-to-day basis would make the presentation. He trusted that the meeting was in agreement.

Mr Basson was not satisfied as the Minister was once again dodging her responsibility. She was going to leave them when they had a lot of questions that they had to ask her about what she had done. They wanted to know about her involvement in the drought crisis, as the Minister of Water and Sanitation and what she was going to do and yet she was going to leave the meeting. He asked whether they would receive those answers from the Minister.

The Acting Chairperson stated that the Members should process things in the Portfolio Committee meeting. He suggested that, for the sake of progress, they should invite the presentation but they before they did so, they still had 10 minutes and the Minister might want to comment on critical areas, although most would be covered in the presentation. Alternatively, Mr Basson could ask specific questions that he wished to raise at that time, but he did not want to hold up the Minister. Minister van Rooyen would be remaining for the meeting. It was not a once-off meeting. There would be a follow-up because they had to deal with this.

Mr Basson said that he had a few questions, one of which he would ask now. Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) had proposed that the desalination plants on its ships give water to the City of Cape Town. If the relevant information were given to the Minister, would she assist in getting the necessary permissions for water to be downloaded from the ships?

Ms L Maseko (ANC) said that they had wasted too much time. Mr Basson should have discussed that subjective matter with the Minister directly. It was a joint Committee meeting and not the first or last meeting, and they did not have time for Water and Sanitation to hold them up. Mr Basson could ask at any time.

Mr P van Dalen (DA) asked the Minister for information about the current status of the Clanwilliam Dam.

The Acting Chairperson said that Members were going to spoil the opportunity to hear from the two senior people in the Department. Mr Basson should have a bilateral with Minister. The meeting should proceed.

Ms M Dunjwa (ANC) did not want to hear matters of the Portfolio Committee of Water and Sanitation. Members had been invited to hear the presentation. The Acting Chairperson should invite Minister van Rooyen to make the presentation. There were other presentations and they would combine questions. The Minister could leave at 10:00.

Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs input
COGTA Minister, Des van Rooyen, said that the presentation would be made by Dr Mmaphaka Tau, who was the Head of the National Disaster Management Centre.

Minister van Rooyen said that it was their collective honour to make the presentation on the current status of the drought. Members were all aware that in 2015 the President had established an Inter-Ministerial Task Team and that team had been actively championing an integrated approach to ensure that the country responded effectively to the drought. The team had already met twice that year - at end of January and on 6 February - to receive status reports on the drought and to consider their integrated response.

The Minister gave a brief update on the national situation on drought. The country remained wracked by drought with the three Cape provinces affected - the Western Cape, Northern Cape, and the Eastern Cape. The three provinces had been declared provincial drought areas. The drought conditions were having profound negative implications on the economies of the affected provinces, with a subsequent impact on the economy of rest of the country.

The tourism sector was also feeling the shock, particularly in the Western Cape. Cape Town Tourism had been informed by its members that they had received cancellations from local and international visitors. Tourists were looking for clarity and wanted to know what the contingency measures were. As long as there was uncertainty about the water crisis, there would be an impact. Therefore, it was important that they collaborated and worked together to provide clarity.

The situation was compounded by climate change as well as the increasing demand for water resources in response to the needs of the increasing population, increasing built environment, and, of course, settlement. It was important that Members agreed with the Task Team that the drought was not seen in isolation from the primary development challenge facing the country. It was critical to analyse the daily development challenges which either increased vulnerability to drought or increased its severity.

The collective leadership had to work tirelessly in a concerted manner to address the relevant factors. The factors included the state of local government, an inability to provide services in a sustainable manner and to maintain those services, and the capacity of management at Disaster Management Centres at local, provincial and national levels. He had to indicate, as it would be properly emphasised in the comprehensive presentation, that most municipalities, and certain provinces, ran at a low capacity with few resources for that specific function.

The effects of the current drought could be seen in social, economic and environmental dimensions. For instance, the Western Cape agricultural sector reported a 10% decline in production, leading to a serious contraction in the sector and therefore fewer exports and job losses. There were also potential market closures which could lead to serious consequences for the export of fruit, compounded by the effect of climate change and the ever-increasing need for services and resources. These sectors required urgent attention to ensure that the country was placed on a developmental footing to provide services in a sustainable manner in line with the National Development Plan Vision 2030.

What were the current measures to manage the drought? One had to acknowledge that the country was world-renowned for its Disaster Management System. It was in line with the Constitution and the country's Disaster Management Act and was regarded as one of the best globally. The emphasis was placed on prevention, preparedness, and emergency response. Notable was that it prescribed key institutional measures, both politically and technically, which were required in the management of risk, both proactively and reactively. How the country handled some of the major emergencies and disasters, such as the floods in KwaZulu-Natal, meant that the capacity to deal with such was definitely there.

South Africa was the chairperson of the South African Development Community (SADC) and as a result, the country was also looking at ways in which cross-border and regional drought was mitigated to ensure resilience for the region. Measures included a regional Inter-Ministerial Conference on Disaster Management which would be preceded by a technical meeting scheduled for March 2018. The Head of the National Disaster Management Centre would lead the technical process.

What were the notable interventions that had been realised since the outbreak of the severe drought? A number of measures had been implemented and were bearing fruit. The measures included issuing early warning messages on a regular basis; drilling and equipping of boreholes across all provinces; application of water restrictions to regulate the use of water; provision of animal feed and fodder; water tankering in areas of severe need; promotion of the use of drought resistant cultivars; reduction of water usage by industries and other users such as crop farmers. The change of the timing of cultivation and irrigation was another important factor. The Minister noted that the list was very long, and he could not mention all of them. He had to indicate there had been some substantial financial allocation assigned to various programmes. Last year an amount of R74.8 million was allocated to the Western Cape government.

The Task Team was currently considering fresh applications that had been received from the three provinces. The interventions were receiving the full blessing and guidance of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team (IMTT). Key decisions had been taken and he would cite some important decisions that he thought they should share with the Members. The Task Team had approved and begun implementing the communication strategy on the drought. They were holding regular briefings with the public, using media briefings as well as press statements. The Minister was currently guided by the collective of the IMTT that were supporting the Heads of the National and Provincial Disaster Management Centres to classify the drought as a national disaster. They hoped to have the process finalised before 14 February 2018. Consultations were in the final stages to prepare information for the IMTT to consider mandating the Minister to declare a national state of disaster. The IMTT was hoping to finalise the matter within a month. They had to collate information from nine provinces. The declaration of the drought as a national disaster would give the ability to the national executive to coordinate the disaster. The declaration would empower the Minister or his delegate to issue regulations or directives to deal with the disaster. That would go a long way in enhancing current measures dealing with the disaster. It would also ensure that provinces which were not currently declared could be covered through measures to prevent and mediate the drought by risk reduction measures. Disaster prevention was better than disaster management because it was very costly to manage a disaster. The declaration would empower the Minister to look into all the other provinces. The IMTT agreed that it should meet monthly instead of quarterly because of the severity of the situation. Every month the nation would be updated on the approach to the problem at hand.

The Minister said Dr Tau from the National Disaster Management Centre would make the combined presentation that included all role players, including the South African Weather Service (SAWS) and the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS).

The Acting Chairperson thanked the Minister for his input.

Inter-Ministerial Task Team Report on Drought and Intervention Measures
Dr Mmaphaka Tau, Head: National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC), spoke to the role of COGTA in the National Disaster Management Centre and the composition of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team. He referred to Weather Service rain charts that showed that there was little prospect for real rain for the Western Cape, specifically the Cape Peninsula, over the next three months. The presentation referred to all challenges and achievements in dealing with the drought to date. There a specific reference to funding, although, because of the current strain on the fiscus, the first requirement was the re-prioritisation of current budgets. The presentation focussed on funding that had been made available to the agricultural sector, water and sanitation and disaster measures, but the amounts were inadequate. Dr Tau referred to challenges, potential solutions, and the roll-out plan.

Challenges that hindered the drought included the prioritisation of unsustainable and costly temporary measures such as water carting as opposed to repairing existing boreholes or drilling new ones; delayed implementation of funded drought-related projects due to insufficient capacity; poor integration of disaster management planning, and exorbitant costs for drilling and equipping of boreholes.

Solutions in place included water restrictions, restrictions on all surface and groundwater abstractions within the Western Cape, removal of invasive alien species, procurement and transportation of fodder to affected farmers, aggressive awareness campaigns and rainwater harvesting and re-use of grey water.

Solutions over a period of time included drilling and refurbishment of boreholes, an audit on the state of Waste Water Treatment Works and Water Treatment Works, 100 artisans and water and wastewater process controllers will be deployed to needy municipalities, training of municipal officials on water treatment processes. A range of longer-term solutions had been developed and would be implemented over time.

The IMTT had adopted an integrated communication strategy. It would maintain oversight of implementation of funded projects and would report regularly to Parliament. As for the way forward, a national disaster would be declared on or before 14 February 2018. Robust public awareness, advocacy, and community road shows would commence immediately. The IMTT had resolved to meet monthly to receive reports and guide national interventions.

Discussion
The Acting Chairperson thanked Dr Tau for the presentation which gave a framework to what COGTA and other key stakeholders were involved in and, secondly, it had taken quite some time to arrange the meeting and hence they had allowed the space to be contaminated politically by their failure to come on board immediately and get into assisting municipalities at the local level. There was confusion because leaders were pronouncing on issues of water and had taken positions on water which had not been informed by the entire plan from Disaster Management. The sooner the national team succeeded in asserting themselves, especially the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, in working with local government, the better.

He noted that various other stakeholders had arrived in the course of the presentation.

The presentation had dealt with models of funding and strategy but did not pin down the details and as the local authorities made their presentations, the Members would be able to pick up on that. Northern Cape would present. The Minister had made it clear that it was not just an issue of the Western Cape. He asked if Members wanted to ask questions now or hear the presentation from the Western Cape. He understood that the day would be a long day, but when everyone left the meeting, they should all speak with one voice.

Ms Steyn proposed that Members asked questions on the Inter-Ministerial Task Team presentation as it was supposed to be a consolidation of departments. The other presentations could be presented afterwards and questions raised again. If there were too many presentations, the questions would get mixed up and become long. It was important to finalise the Department's inputs before moving on. The first question should be to the Department.

Mr Basson requested that the Western Cape Province give its presentation before the City of Cape Town.

Mr N Masondo (ANC) suggested that the Members tried to avoid an unnecessarily long meeting that went into the night.

It was agreed that was that discussion would take place on Dr Tau’s presentation and then presentations would be clustered three at a time.

Minister van Rooyen explained that the report had been an Inter-Ministerial Task Team report and so it included all members of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team. The report had begun with the Weather Service report and ended with proposals by GCIS. There was, therefore, no need for presentations by the other departments as they had been included. He supported the proposal for a discussion at that point.

The Acting Chairperson said that there was also a more detailed presentation by the Department of Water and Sanitation which would add further information. The detail in the Department of Water and Sanitation presentation would be of more relevance to the Eastern and Western Cape. He suggested the Department of Water and Sanitation added to the responses rather than make a separate report. When Members left the meeting, they would fully understand the situation. When the Western Cape left the meeting, they would fully understand the role of the National Department and National Disaster Management and there would be no more confusion. They would know what National Department responsible for in the drought and what was expected of them. The Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation had had too much of the confusion.

The Acting Chairperson wanted to hear from all role players. He noted the gesture made by farmers who had released water. The question was who owned the water. It was a question that had to be answered sooner or later. Who was allowed to keep water for storage? Kilolitres and kilolitres of water were kept somewhere, and it came out last night and people celebrated seeing the water flowing into the river, knowing that it would arrive in Cape Town at the weekend. The Department of Water and Sanitation had been told that there were 4 000 dams in the country. Only 350 were under the control of the Department of Water and Sanitation. That was a skewed distribution. Who controlled the 3 500 dams? There was something wrong there. It was a political question, but it had to be resolved. One was seeing people in the Cape Town suburbs with containers. People in the rural areas had been denied water since time immemorial and therefore had always collected water in containers. Now they found that there was water in private hands. The government had to take control of that water. He invited questions of clarity and comments from Members.

Ms M Khawula (translation) was fully aware that funds were allocated for natural occurrences such as drought. However, it was disturbing when the Members came to meetings and people had to report, but there was nothing to show that was tangible. She asked why they were not having someone who could see to it that those funds were utilised for the purposes that they were intended. It was so easy to talk, and she wished that one day officials would explain to Members why there were boreholes where there was no water. When Members went on oversight, they needed to go with the officials so that the officials could explain to Members why there were boreholes where there was no water or why boreholes were dysfunctional. The Portfolio Committee had visited Mpumalanga where they had witnessed a very disturbing and saddening situation. There was one black farmer, Mr Maseko, who had been given land very near to where the previous Premier, Mr David Mabuza, lived. However, the land that he had been given, had no water and no electricity. She would like the Committee to really look at that and see if something could be done to deal with such situations.

The Acting Chairperson pointed out that Mr Mabuza was the current chairperson of Mpumalanga.

Ms N Bilankulu (ANC) asked what the strategies were and what monitoring tools they were going to put in place. Borehole interventions had taken place and yet communities were failing to get water. So, what were they going to do about it? What strategies were going to put in place? Secondly, she referred to the increasing prices and asked how that going to be managed. Unskilled officials were a problem. The report said that by the end of March, people would be trained. How sure were they? The National Department was implementing in municipalities but without engaging the municipalities. Yet at the end of the day, the municipalities were expected to account for the projects.

Ms L Maseko (ANC) referred to the gesture of opening floodgates. When one flew over Cape Town, it was very green so there was some water that was privately owned. There was a need for legislation to ensure that the Department controlled water as a commodity. The country was at the mercy of those who had water. Secondly, she did not know if senior officials were in attendance at joint meetings. Low-level officials had no influence, so it was necessary for at least a DDG to attend. Communities were facing disaster in the Eastern Cape and the government needed to find solutions. Rain harvesting and rain retention and capturing needed to be done properly. As the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Science and Technology, Ms Maseko said that, through the Technology Innovation Programme, a person had developed a tank system which was able to flush toilets. She had not heard or seen that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) was being utilised.

The Acting Chairperson noted that the Water Research Commission was in attendance.

Mr A Madella (ANC) had not heard about the Minister of Social Development whose Department was responsible for the interests and welfare of people with disabilities, the aged and children, the vulnerable section of the community. When it came to disaster or when it came to war, those sectors were the sectors that were overlooked. He was not sure, but it might be the case in that particular situation. He was thinking of water collection points that would be erected in Cape Town and he had seen the "nagmerrie" (nightmare) of thousands of people queueing for water. Clearly, a person with a disability, who was infirm, or an aged person would not be able to access water in the queues. Those people could not even carry the 25 litre containers. He was afraid that those questions were getting lost in the presentations. If it was there, the presenters needed to let the Members know. He had seen the release of the Piet River Dam water and a billion litres flowing to Cape Town. The question he had was about Theewaterskloof which was affected by the drought. Knysna Reservoir was the other one. The Theewaterskloof Dam, the biggest dam in the province, contained less than 12.5% water while on its doorstep in Grabouw there was a dam that was so full that it could donate so much water. He was not objecting to the water being released because he, living in Cape Town, would benefit but he was looking at the contradiction. He would expect that Mr Buthelezi of the Overberg Water Board would play a role there because water was a national asset. He had read an interesting blog by Sandra Dixon who had raised a fundamental question, especially in the context of the water made available. The question was why there was no reduction in the use of water by the agricultural sector until ten days previously, whereas citizens had been forced to go with less water. Were no steps taken to convince them to reduce their usage?

The Acting Chairperson noted that he had made three points. The point about Social Development was very relevant and required answers.

Ms D Manana (ANC) said that the presentation had suggested that, in terms of infrastructure and maintenance, the three identified provinces would be given priority. How was the IMTT going to ensure that those provinces that had not yet been declared drought areas were not experiencing the very same problems? Were there any plans to penalise those municipalities that were not using the MIG (Municipal Infrastructure Grant) in the correct way for the refurbishment and replenishment of infrastructure as those municipalities had to save water. On the additional funding requested for drought and drought prevention measures, what was the grand total of the additional funding requested for the Western Cape City of Cape Town.

There were complaints that Members of Water and Sanitation were not getting an opportunity to ask questions. An argument with the Acting Chairperson ensued.

Dr P Maesele (ANC) said that drought was a predictable phenomenon that did not just come, and everyone had known that it was coming but no one had done anything about it and so the country had failed. That was why there was a disaster. They could not give the money to those who had already failed to do anything about it. He believed that it was incumbent upon the Committee to do something about the little resources that were there to deal with the short-term, medium-term and long-term problems. The Committee should not have handed over to those people who could not run things. The Committee was there to deal with the problem and not to hand over money to those who had failed and suggest that they do better that time. If those people asked for money, they should only give them the money when things were working.

The Acting Chairperson said that Members had to talk about the plans that the meeting needed to hear. The speaker had noted that drought was predictable. Drought was predicted in 1990 and that 27 years down the line, there would be no water in the Western Cape. What had happened since 1990? The Members wanted to hear about what had happened in the municipality since then. It was about planning.

Mr van Dalen said that the Minister had said that Western Cape had only spent 25% of the money allocated by the Department to date. He wanted to know if the information was correct and if so, could the members be informed as to why only 25% had been spent? If not, could the Western Cape please advise in its presentation as to what was the truth or was someone misleading the Minister? He had read in the newspaper that morning that the National Minister had said that people wanted a disaster declared because they wanted money. He believed that it was a very insensitive comment and perhaps the Minister could explain what he had meant. He had not been at the meeting, so he was not sure about the matter. Bulk water was the mandate of the National Department of Water and Sanitation. If the Department could not supply the City of Cape Town with water, what plans were there for Day Zero. Bulk water was the sole mandate of Government. The National Department could not say that it was not its responsibility and that it was the fact that the city and the province should have done more.

Mr van Dalen believed that was important to make the difference between drinking water and water for other uses. There might be 4 000 dams, but how much water was there in the dams as together the water might fit in a single large dam? He would like to know how much water there was in those dams. And was it drinkable? He understood why someone did not want to declare a disaster because it would entail a lot more work, but the presentation had made it clear that the situation was not going to resolve anytime soon. The outlook was that intervention was needed and it was needed immediately. They could not wait until doomsday arrived and the mortality went up and then the government and Parliament would say that they should have done something earlier and express their regrets to the country. He pleaded with the National Minister to do something about it.

The Acting Chairperson responded that the point made was that there were 4 000 dams under private ownership. That was the information and it did not matter how big they were. It was a political issue that they would have to solve in Parliament.

Ms Steyn also referred to the 4 000 dams. She believed that there was a need to discuss water in South Africa and who owned it, but the Members also needed to thank the farmers who had given the water. They did not know if it was going to rain and the crops would die later in the year. It cost R100 000 to plant a hectare of fruit trees in South Africa. The Committee had to thank the farmers regardless of who owned the water. She was happy to hear that a national disaster was to be declared. She had first asked for a declaration of a national disaster on 14 February 2016, as both Ministers would know. At that time, she had been told that 30 million people were experiencing drought. The point of declaring a disaster had passed long ago. The Department was a disaster itself as the presentation had not changed since the presentation of the previous year. They had learnt nothing new. Drought equally affected communities in KwaZulu-Natal and North West. Some towns had been without a drop of drinking water for three years. How many Inter-Ministerial Task Team meetings had been held in the previous year, and what communication and what planning had come from that team?

In Butterworth R200 million had been spent on water and sanitation. What had the money been for as there was nothing to show for that money? The allocation of funding in the 2016 period was not enough as the National Disaster Fund had had only R111 million. In the same year, the Department of Local Government did not spend R300 million. At the previous meeting, she had been told that the money had not been spent because no one had asked for the money. At the same time 30 million South Africans had a shortage of water or no water. She knew there was no water. In the Eastern Cape, people walked 20 km to dig holes in streams to try and find water. It was time to put fire to the Department of Disaster. What were they doing?

The Chairperson noted that her point referred to the capacity of local government to spend money. Cape Town had received money but had not had the capacity to spend it and the Western Cape had more capacity and more engineers than other local municipalities, but something had gone wrong and the city had no capacity.

Mr Basson said that the presentation had not differed at all from the one made on 25 October 2017. There were endless presentations, but no action was taken. There were no visible changes on the ground. There was fighting between everyone who was involved about their responsibilities. It was the sole responsibility of the Minister and Department of Water and Sanitation to supply bulk water. The Minister knew her responsibility and she was not assisting South Africa by not making decisive changes in what was going on.

He had a question for the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. The presentation had noted that a national disaster would most probably be declared by 15 February 2018, and he trusted that the Minister would adhere to that deadline. What mechanisms would the Minister put in place to ensure that­ the grant funds made available under the national disaster would be spent efficiently? R341 million had been given to the water sector in 2016. What did they do with that money? They built a desalination plant in Richards Bay which had cost R290 million. The local cost of a desalination plant was R160 million, using the same specs. The Minister had made R400 million available to put up a desalination plant in Cape Town. The Minister had to say what that would cost in the market currently, and specifically in Cape Town. South African companies were exporting desalination plants to the whole world, not importing from China. What measures would the Minister put in place to ensure that there was value for money and when would it happen? People in the Eastern, Western and Northern Cape could no longer live on promises without action. He wanted confirmation that the money would be made available within a week of 15 February 2018 so that the Committees could do planning.

The Acting Chairperson said that Mr Basson should say “we” as the Committee and not “I” as he was not alone in his concern about the drought. It was a matter that affected all Members.

Mr X Ngwezi (IFP) was thankful that the Members had gathered together to try and pave the way forward on the matter. The Members should also find ways of dealing with those provinces that were not currently affected. It was fine that they were dealing with the two provinces at the moment, but they knew that the drought would spread to other provinces in time. The Committees had taken too long to deal with the matter of the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape. He was appealing that the cheap politicking should come to an end before it began to take human lives. As politicians, they needed to revisit who owns and controls water as it had the potential of dividing the nation. He believed that monthly meetings of the IMTT were too infrequent when they were living in a time of crisis. He wanted to know from the technocrats if three weeks would be too short a time.

The Acting Chairperson thanked him for the points made, including the ownership of water. Parliament appreciated the water from the farmers and the issue of ownership was something different. He called on those who had water and were not using it, to release it. They could not run away from ownership of water. In 1652, from the time of Jan van Riebeek, who had been in control of water in South Africa? You could not give the land back to people without giving them water so Parliament had to address this.

Mr S Mncwabe (NFP) asked if early warnings about drought had been given, why had nothing been done? If that had been done, why did Members find themselves in that dilemma where they had to rush and resolve the matter? With regard to the issue of private ownership of water, he asked how one donated a natural resource? He wanted to challenge the two Ministers regarding expropriation of land, but they had to start with the expropriation of land with dams on the land. It was not for people to decide whether to release water or not. Even God was not in charge of water. The Minister had to take charge of them. Those dams had to be taken back to the state.

Mr N Paulsen (EFF) said that it was very disappointing that the Mayors of Cape Town and Nelson Mandela had not honoured their invitations to attend the meeting. North West had had the worst drought in 80 years since 2013 so he was amused that when drought hit Cape Town, everyone started jumping up and down. He wanted to know from both Ministers what their Departments had done in addressing the drought in North West where people were walking for miles to collect water from a communal well point, including in the middle of the night. What lessons had been learned that could be applied to the current drought? The weather was like the ANC and would never self-correct.

The Acting Chairperson asked him not to provoke the ANC.

Mr Paulsen noted that around Cape Town there were 80 natural springs and the Khoisan had called the area “Sweet Waters”. Now only the Premier of Western Cape had a system in place using spring water after it had cost taxpayers R92 000 for a connection system. Did the Minister and the Department have plans afoot to redirect the natural water springs in Cape Town for common supply? People were queueing for spring water at Newlands and St James because it was free and just flowed into the sea. The people wanted sweet water in their taps. It was necessary to determine the cost of alternate water supplies across the country as the weather would not self-correct. The Department should consider a pipeline carrying water in the same way as they had a pipeline carrying fuel across the country.

Section 25(2) of the Constitution set out requirements for the lawful expropriation of land when it was in the public interest or for public purposes. If dams were owned by private individuals, and the government was not taking back the land with the dams from those private owners, how could one ever expect the ANC to take back land?

The Acting Chairperson thanked him for making some good points.

Ms A Tuck (ANC) asked about the 4 000 dams. She wanted to know if they all had licences. She would like to have a breakdown of who the dams or licences belonged to and how many dams were in the Western Cape. The Western Cape was undermining the national government by allowing people to donate water. The government had to meet with the owners of the dams in South Africa. Everyone became emotional when they talked about the Western Cape and about the drought there. She drove past Clanwilliam and saw nice green farms and she even saw people swimming in water, perhaps in the donated water. What she saw in the Western Cape was that the poorest of the poor suffered. People in Belhar had been buying water since early last year when other people got it in their taps. The drought was not only in the Western Cape but all over South Africa.

The Acting Chairperson said COGTA should suggest what should be done about the challenges.

Mr M Johnson (ANC), Water and Sanitation Portfolio Committee Chairperson, apologised for arriving late. He noted that in 1990, a drought in Cape Town had been forecast for within 17 years. What had the Cape Town Municipality done to avert that crisis? Not only Cape Town, but he was trying to hone in on a specific point. For him, that had to be addressed. The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) had a Water Master Plan. The Committee had asked where the water was mostly located and had queried the patterns of rainfall. He trusted that DWS was working with other experts such as the Agricultural Research Council as that would bring them some answers as they had readily available information in their own hands. Statisticians said that if one could not measure, one could not manage. If one did not plan, one could not manage. It talked to the urgency of legislation to deal with the inequities as far as water was concerned.

Mr Johnson was happy the two Ministers were there because his point also related to maintenance of water infrastructure. Saving of water resources was fundamentally about water leaking from non-maintained infrastructure. It did not help to build desalination plants when infrastructure was not maintained. They had to start where the water was lost, i.e. where it was leaking. The question was what the purpose was of building any dam. One individual had a big dam at Jozini as he had thousands of hectares of plantations, but the surrounding areas had no access to the dam. The purpose of building a dam had to be revisited in the context of the proposed legislation. He had not heard much about the re-use of water. In Ballito, a plant produced normal drinking water out of wastewater. The exclusive Zimbali Estate used that water for drinking and other daily purposes. The cost of such a plant was a fraction of the desalination plant. The technology of producing water from wastewater was not expensive.  The licence rule should be as it is for a Minerals licence - if you do not use it, you lose it. He spoke of the use of water at Rhodes University. Water was a constitutional right.

The Acting Chairperson said that the inputs drew attention to the legislation to be drafted. He noted that in Gert Sibande Municipality all the water treatment plants had collapsed. The only thing that the staff had understood was to add chlorine, and then it had blocked, and the wastewater had flowed into the Vaal River which was contaminated. But there was R55 million unspent on infrastructure. Local concerns would be raised in the presentations that follwed. He pointed out that Members were not trying to disrupt agriculture but to speak of water rights. There was lack of coordination when it came to boreholes. One municipality had spent a great deal of money on 12 boreholes, but only six worked. He noted that a commitment had been made to deal with drought across the country and not only in the Western Cape. He pointed out that the Committee had been dealing with drought for a very long time, for example, the Giyani project. It was the problems and confusion in the Western Cape that had required the Committee's intervention. The objective of the meeting was to come up with solutions and a communication strategy. Everyone had to know who was in charge of drought. It was a very important meeting.

COGTA response
COGTA Minister Des van Rooyen said that the questions and comments would help the team to deal with the challenge in hand. He had noted 32 questions and the technical committee would respond. He emphasised that everyone in the inter-ministerial team was a senior official. It included the acting DG from COGTA and the acting DG from Water and Sanitation as well as the Head of the National Disaster Management Centre as well as senior people from other departments.

Dr Tau responded that he would deal with questions on the coordination responsibility of COGTA and on funding. Other questions would be handled by his colleague from Water and Sanitation. He confirmed that all members of the team were senior officials. The Department of Social Development was part of the team – he had just omitted to mention the Department, which was a critical stakeholder who had been assisting with relief measures in all provinces.  The new request for funds (slide 29) for the Western Cape City of Cape Town was R6.8 billion for water infrastructure.

The Acting Chairperson asked him to deal with spending and the capacity to spend.

Dr Tau explained that of the R74.8 million provided to the Western Cape in August 2017, of which R40 million for agriculture, was confirmed at the end of 2017. As at 31 December 2017, 24.3% had been spent. They had learnt the previous day that just over 40% had been spent and the rest of the money had been committed. The funds should have been spent over a period of three months but an extension to spend the money had been granted.

The Acting Chairperson said that he was going to try and guide the responses. He asked Dr Tau to elaborate on why Cape Town could not spend money when the city had been given money. Did Cape Town have the capacity to spend? If money was not spent, it should go back to Treasury. Otherwise, it should be given to someone who could spend the money and make the plans.

Ms Steyn asked if Mr Tau could respond to the R200 million given to Butterworth.

Dr Tau responded that he had engaged with the Western Cape Province on reasons for underspending. The provincial officials would also elaborate on the problems of spending when they made their presentation. The issues could be grouped into two categories. The first was procurement issues and the second one was the authorisations required in terms of water licences. He could confirm that the water licences had since been issued by Department Water and Sanitation and therefore the work would unfold as planned.

Slide 21 was about non-spending. He explained that when dealing with drought in 2016, a request to Treasury had exceeded the amount of R111 million available in the provincial and municipal disaster grant but, because of the dire situation, over R500 million was accessed from contingency reserves. R212 million was for agriculture and R341 million for Water and Sanitation. Part of the money was used for the Khutsong sinkhole, but there had been a saving. The question about the R200 million for Butterworth would be answered in the Eastern Cape presentation.

On mechanisms to ensure spending of the funds, business plans were requested, and they translated into project plans managed by multi-disciplinary project steering committees and monitored according to project milestones. But, as indicated, there could be procurement challenges and licensing challenges which could affect the process.

When would the money be available after the declaration of disaster? The purpose of the declaration was to allow for extraordinary measures and that might imply the issuing of directives, re-prioritizing the budget, fast-tracking supply chain management processes. It did not automatically imply an additional funding injection. If all measures had been explored and applied and the situation still could not be managed, an application could be made to Treasury for additional funding. In the Eastern Cape R3 million had been re-prioritised.

He appreciated the need to deal with other provinces as the function of the Disaster Management Centre was also to prevent risks and the key point was to prevent the escalation of the disaster. All provinces would benefit by preventing the disaster situation.

The team had looked at all scientific reports and scenarios and it also looked at the implications of population growth on infrastructure. The team was always forward-looking.

The Acting Chairperson thought that Dr Tau could predict the future and so he could share what he saw. Or maybe the Minister could do that in closing.

Minister of Water and Sanitation response
The Minister of Water and Sanitation said that she would ask the team to respond. They could advise about the legislation for donations, ownership, and access to water, and about the legislative review that would deal with the legislative obligations raised by the EFF Member. The sun had to rise. The sunset clause had to be changed so that all had access to the resource of water as a resource. Three colleagues from the Portfolio Committee had raised the issue. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform was also working on the matter. The bulk of the dams in the country were built for energy or for agriculture irrespective of whether there were communities around. Jozini dam, which had been built over 43 years ago, was since 2016, giving water to 26 villages. Many other municipalities now also had access to water.

Part of the challenge was around water security and the inability to reticulate and therefore planning became important as well as the securing of funds. There was a need to ensure that, once a dam had been built, the water could be reticulated. In the OR Tambo district, the Umtata dam was full, but reticulation was going at a snail’s pace. DWS was working with the municipality and addressing the inability of municipalities to deal with reticulation, especially in terms of capacity, and to understand the roles and responsibilities. Reticulation was the competency of local government and so the Department was working with COGTA.

The lawmakers had to reflect on what had happened since 1994 and the adoption of the Constitution which could help the government on land expropriation, including land that had water, the use of water and access to water as a national asset. The other thing that she really wanted to plead for was that Members did not give advice about particular companies that should be used. It was not a bidding committee. If it was on the other side, this would have been said to be a corrupt act. Where people wanted to donate, they had to check the merits of that donation and what was in it and whether it was perceived to be for the privileged. Those companies should go through the proper processes and be attended to. For the record, in Richard's Bay, the DWS had spent R290 million. In the Western Cape, it was around R230 million which included additional piping. DWS was already moving with the City of Cape Town, so she pleaded with Members to refrain from giving proposals indirectly as there was a process. It was not the first time that Mr Basson had raised the issue of the ship donating water and he should stop raising the ship so that there was no preferential treatment. The Department had been making consistent interventions in North West but needed to find a way forward to save the situation.

Alternative water sources related to the overreliance in South Africa on groundwater had been raised before. There was not enough re-use of water as was happening in KwaZulu-Natal and rain harvesting as well as desalination. South Africa had a coastline that was very long and could meet the country's needs.

The Water Commission would speak about plans that should have been implemented when they knew about warnings. The Minister registered a good working relationship with AgriSA and the Water and Sanitation Department had made them realise about issues of land ownership and land expropriation so that agriculture would not be destroyed.

The Minister replied that bulk water supply was being implemented with the City. DWS had not set Day Zero because they had plans and had been working. The Acting DG and Dr Tau said that there had been protracted processes in making the Province understand its responsibility in regard to agriculture and its responsibility to work on a 20- to 25-year plan to deal with water. Colleagues and Members should by now have an appreciation of the work that DWS had been doing. What had happened over the last three weeks, she did not know. The Departments had been working well together, including with Mayor De Lille. They were pleading that other people should not be brought in as there was then a challenge with coordination and bringing systems of government together. Committee Members who had summoned the Ministers to the House, should talk at a multi-party level and recognise the systems of government and refrain from dealing with the matters in another manner. The response in Nelson Mandela was different from those people who had announced Day Zero. Nelson Mandela Bay Metro had a proper plan around water distribution points. It was necessary to deal with the commodification of water. There was a need to look at legislation and the Committee had agreed that they needed to see under whose names the dams were registered.

The Acting Chairperson noted the reference to grey water and what went into the sea. The Members would have to talk about that. He needed clarity on the story of Day Zero. What was that thing called Day Zero? It reminded him of Y2K for computers. Members of the public needed to know. The price of water had gone up. Those who could afford were buying water and those who could not, were panicking. The price of Jojo tanks had gone up and there were no BEE companies in tanks and pumps. Some monopoly was benefitting.

The matter of everyone under the sun talking about water had to end. If COGTA was the one to speak, then only Minister van Rooyen should be speaking. They could not have people that they did not know speaking about water. The President had put Minister van Rooyen in that position. No one else should speak about water. The Minister of Water and Sanitation was hit at every day. People complained about water reticulation when it was the responsibility of local government and not DWS. Members needed answers and clarity.

The Acting Chairperson said that in the last DWS Annual Report, the Committee had been dealing with over-expenditure because of the drought. The Committee had to intervene because the Department responsible for drought had never intervened and when it did, it gave only R200 million when the expenditure was more than R5 billion. The DG had said that the Department overspent regularly. That was something that the Committee would have to investigate. The Department responsible for dealing with the drought must end all of the confusion.

Mr Chauke asked the Minister to speak about solutions. The Department had organised a week in Durban and the Water Research Commission would be there to listen to all companies involved in water as there are other solutions. Mr Basson should not keep raising his point because as the Minister had said there were other solutions. The Department should not be jumping and calling for tenders. It was important to do more with less. He asked Minister to talk about Day Zero.

The Minister of Water and Sanitation explained that the situation was that resources had been over-used within a short space of time without any control or management of the demand for resources. If the lack of demand management continued, it put more pressure on the source. Cape Town had looked at the dam levels and realised you could not extract below a capacity of 13.5%. That possibility could be avoided. The demand had to be managed by adhering to the restrictions and overseeing the application of those restrictions, particularly to big users. Hence the restrictions of 60% for agriculture and 45% for industry and household use. Management needed to look at alternative sources and implement them, such as the drilling that DWS was doing, looking at the aquifers and desalination. Two municipalities in the Western Cape were already using grey water for agriculture and drinking water. Other municipalities had to put systems in place for wastewater treatment.

In the event that there was no water, Minister Mokonyane said that one had to plan for a disaster and that this work fell under COGTA. There had to be points where there would be a distribution of water and systems to provide water beyond the dams and there had to be systems for human consumption. What was of importance, was that the sector had not said come April or whatever. The projection had to be under the National DWS, even if it was picked up by local Disaster Management Committee, rather than being raised at the political level where interventions became uncoordinated in the sense that panic was created and the vulnerable were punished. How did they allow 30 000 boreholes in private households in Cape Town? Best practices needed to be implemented and the conditions of property development had to be changed and the re-use of water had to be encouraged. DWS was working with the City of Cape Town and the Province in disaster management.

Day Zero was the point where there was nothing. However, she was saying that if plans, as indicated, were implemented and usage restricted, there would be no Day Zero.

Deputy Mayor of Cape Town, Ian Nielsen, said that there needed to be clarity on Day Zero. Cape Town defined it as a movement from Level 6b to Level 7 when half of the system would be shut off.

The Acting Chairperson said that Mr Nielsen would get a chance to speak when Cape Town had to present. He should also talk about grey water and the war on leaks.

Mr Johnson took the Chair and indicated that the meeting would have to speed up as people had flights to catch. It was work in progress and so the meeting would move on to the next presenters. Members should not simply be talking. The meeting had to move on to solutions: short, medium and long term.

Western Cape: briefing by National Department of Water and Sanitation
Mr Trevor Balzer, Acting Director General of the Department of Water and Sanitation, gave a brief presentation. He indicated that a multi-pronged strategy would be implemented as the Western Cape water supply system which served the City of Cape Town, and surrounding urban centers and irrigators along the Berg, Eerste and Sonderend Rivers, were under stress and were approximately 13% lower than in 2017.  The system would be at its lowest in May/June. He presented an overview of the Western Cape water supply system and statistics on dam levels.

The intervention strategy included project coordination, the use of ground water resources, desalination plants, optimisation of existing systems, operations, and maintenance. Key interventions in the system’s optimization included the installation of a supplementary pump at Misverstand Dam, re-configuring the operational philosophy of the Theewaterskloof Dam that was designed to fail at 10%, removing sediments from the canals leading to the Voelsvlei Dam. Agricultural labour impacted by the drought would be utilised. Continuous water level monitoring would take place.

Three desalination plants were being planned, although the cost for three plants would be R 1.3 billion. A number of groundwater projects were being planned and, in some cases, drilling was already underway.

Mr Balzer concluded by stressing that the drought in the Western Cape was dire, with dam levels falling week on week while water use was still above the targeted level. Efforts to comply with water restrictions had to be intensified.

The Chairperson suggested that questions not be taken at that point and he requested that presenters zoom in on solutions as he had to restrict their time.

The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs noted that his team was still busy with the responses to the many questions. The Chairperson suggested that the meeting continue with the presentations and thereafter the meeting would come back to responses to questions.

Kouga Local Municipality Drought Crisis
Executive Mayor of Kouga, Elza van Lingen, represented Kouga Municipality and Mr Hector Felton, City Engineer, represented the municipality.

Mr Felton said that the Churchill Dam stood at 18% and the area’s major dam, Kouga Dam, at 7%. He noted that Patensie, with an average rainfall of 428 mm had last had rain on 1 September 2015. It was the worst drought in over 100 years. Although the municipality had declared a drought disaster in May 2017, the province had made its declaration only in December 2017 so there were no funds available. Day Zero was 31 March 2018 in areas such as Hankey and Patensie.

Mr Felton recognised that there were leaking water pipes and water meters and the municipality would be stepping in with a leak application that helped to find leaks. One could take a photograph and then it went to the call out centre which called the maintenance staff to the precise place of the leak. Business plans had been drawn up the previous year and were being implemented. The municipality was linked to Nelson Mandela Bay Metro which had similar interventions.

Permission had been given for two extra water tankers and to drill at the foot of the Kouga Dam. The Municipality had drilled on municipal land in Hankey and had received permission from the Department of Road Works to lay pipes alongside the road. They hoped to emulate Jeffrey’s Bay use of grey water as drinking water. Approval had been given for Reverse Osmosis plants. The business plan sent to COGTA in July 2017 and had been approved but the municipality did not know if funds would be provided. Capital funding from municipality funds was being used. Water was the primary crisis. Water restrictions were strictly enforced, however, statistics from StatsSA did not match the actual number of people living in areas such as Patensie. The final plan was carting of water.

The Chairperson asked presenters to focus on solutions and implementation.

Nelson Mandela Bay Metro
Mr Barry Martin, the Senior Engineer for Sanitation in Nelson Mandela Bay Metro presented. Nelson Mandela Bay Metro was experiencing one of the worst droughts in history and below average rainfall was predicted for next three months. An additional 75 000 houses in Nelson Mandela Bay and improved levels of services had increased the water shortage. Despite recent rains, dam levels had receded to 26.14% and 100mm rain had only raised Kouga Dam by 0.5% which showed how dry the ground was. A local State of Disaster had been declared on 22 May 2017.

The Metro had implemented water restrictions and improved public awareness as well as operations and maintenance. Water conservation and demand management had been stepped up. Increased restrictions had been imposed on individual high users.

He presented a financial analysis of the cost of drought interventions. The Metro had applied to the National Disaster Management Centre for additional funds but had not yet had a response. The Metro had plans to increase water supply, including maximising the use of water from the Gariep Dam and treated at the Nooitgedacht Water Treatment Works, exploring groundwater, fast-tracking improvements to the older dams, accessing dead storage water in the Churchill and Impofu Dams, promoting the use of private boreholes and rainwater harvesting tanks.

To reduce water demand, recycled water would be used for all construction purposes, for flower beds, grass, etc.  Boreholes were being drilled at municipal swimming pools and sports fields. 30 out of 60 wards in the Metro could run out of water.

South African Institute of Civil Engineering (SAICE)
Mr Neil McCloud, SAICE member, said the presentation was looking at the problem from a high level. He referred to the saying that “God was responsible for floods and governments were responsible for drought.” The current drought had a recurrence interval of approximately 1 in 400 years. The next augmentation scheme had been planned for 2022/3. The augmentation of Voëlvlei Dam was unlikely to be ready before 2021.

Cape Town would get through the drought if restrictions on dam withdrawals were enforced. The level of water in the dams would not drop below 10% in the current year if restrictions were adhered to and one assumed another low rainfall year.

There were key systemic reasons for the crisis. They included a loss of institutional memory in organisations responsible for water supply, inexperienced management, lack of experienced engineering professionals in key positions in all spheres of government, ineffective planning and leadership from the Department of Water and Sanitation, poor support for initiatives directed at local government, limited use of private sector resources and expertise, restrictive supply chain regulations and political interference instead of oversight.

Members had to remember that a broken Johannesburg water and sanitation system had been completely reformed in five years. It could be done.

AgriSA and Agri Western Cape
Mr Carl Opperman, CEO of Agri Western Cape, warned that global warming was real. Vredendal at 48.3% recently had been the hottest place in the world on that day. He pointed out the anomaly in agriculture in the Western Cape. In winter, the province had 90% of its rain but only 25% of the agricultural demand for water; in summer, the region had 10% of its rain but 75% of the demand for water. It was therefore critical to store the winter runoff in dams to be available in summer for irrigation.

The effect on agriculture in the Western Cape was severe. Farmers on the West Coast were only getting 17% of their usual water allocation. The agri-economy had shown a 40% decline of R4.69 billion as well as market share. Some farms would go bankrupt. The effect was not only on livestock, although, in some areas, there had been heavy losses of livestock as they died from lack of food and water. There was also no lucerne seeds for the following year. Wild animals, even onyx, were dying in groups. Fodder was being shared with small-scale farmers.

There had been a massive drop in volumes of horticulture, affecting 208 000 workers plus families and eliminating 22 000 seasonal jobs. Fruit producers had developed drought strategies such as the removal of older orchards, although replacing an apple orchard cost R250 000 and another R250 000 for the nets. Moisture meters and other devices were being used to ensure minimum water usage. The Wine Industry estimates showed that a 1% reduction in the wine production in total equated to a loss of R50 million and the present crop was showing a reduction of 16% to 20% from 2017. The Olifants River area expected a 60% crop reduction due to an 83% cut in water supplies. The farmers expected a loss of R 2 billion in wine sales in an industry that added R36 billion to the economy.

Grain producers were using their wheat fields as grazing for cattle as they saw no yields. Indications showed that wheat production would be lower again in 2018. In the Ceres area, 50% fewer onions and 80% fewer potatoes would be planted and the tomato puree factory in Lutzville remained closed as there were no tomatoes.

The drought was putting pressure on the economic and socio-economic wellbeing of the rural areas and value chain. Farmers would require the support of interest rate subsidies and/or state guarantees to service carry-over (outstanding) debt incurred because of crop failures, and to facilitate affordable production credit in the upcoming season, should climatic conditions resume. There was a need to revisit of the National Credit Act for in-debt farmers and farmers under financial duress. Other recommendations included the introduction of interest rate subsidies and state guarantees; cash grants for small-scale farmers; increased climate change research capacity; revisiting policies that hampered the building of new catchment dams; the development and implementation of plans for the humanitarian needs of poor and unemployed people because of the drought and subsequent economic conditions.

Requier Wait, Head of Economics and Trade at AgriSA, made suggestions on how farmers could be supported so that the industry did not collapse. At the time, the cost of the drought in the Western Cape had cost R7 billion.

Eastern Cape Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs
Mr Themba Hani, General Manager: Municipal Economic Development Facilitation, COGTA Eastern Cape, was accompanied by the Head of Disaster Management in the Eastern Cape. Mr Hani presented a detailed report on the state of the drought in the Eastern Cape.

Five municipalities had been declared disaster areas: Amathole District Municipality, Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, Sarah Baartman District Municipality, Makana Local Municipality and Kouga Local Municipality. OR Tambo District Municipality intended declaring a disaster shortly. Municipalities were still finding it difficult coping with the effects of drought. Most had exhausted their operational budgets on road water tankering. The intervention implementation by the Water Services Authority (WSA) was complicated and extremely slow, meaning that interventions were often not ready on time.

Rainfall had been very patchy with some dams being full while some areas of the Eastern Cape remained very dry, although the first spring rains had given some welcome relief, although the Eastern Cape Province was still in the grip of a serious drought. It had been forecast that the western parts the Eastern Cape might still have drier than normal conditions. The WSA had reprioritised its capital budget and had exhausted possibilities. The money from the Water and Sanitation infrastructure grants was being reprioritized. Kouga Local Municipality had reprioritised its Municipal Infrastructure Grant allocations, with approval from COCGTA. The Nooitgedacht Project was to be brought forward and fast-tracked and the Disaster Management Centre was soon to conclude processes on drought relief funds. The Eastern Cape Disaster Management Centre was building capacity to effectively coordinate and manage the drought disaster. The Centre had a disaster strategy and held monthly meetings.

Western Cape Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs
Mr Graeme Paulse, Head of Water and Sanitation, Western Cape Government, said that there was good cooperation between the three spheres of government in the Western Cape. The Minister was meeting the Premier of the Western Cape that afternoon and there had been meetings between the Minister and the MEC on the drought. The Joint Action Committee met weekly and a combined assessment of the entire province had been undertaken. Geohydrologists had been appointed in each municipality.

The Western Cape Water Supply System (WCWSS) served the City of Cape Town and surrounding urban centres and irrigators along the Berg, Eerste and Sonderend Rivers.

The combined storage of the system showed that the system was under stress. It was approximately 13% lower than in 2017. Domestic and industrial users supply had been reduced to 45% and agricultural use to 60%. Level 6B standardized restrictions had been gazetted.

The Western Cape Cabinet had prioritized R75 million for assisting municipalities and recently approved an extra R2.5 million for water augmentation to implement short, medium and long-term strategies. The team had worked on both municipalities surrounding Cape Town, as well as rural municipalities and had resolved problems in Knysna, Beaufort West, and Kannaland and Bitou. In Saldanha Bay, licences for water had been granted and the municipality was looking at the Langebaan Road and Elandsfontein aquifers. National DWS had very recently granted the water licences that the province had been waiting for.

Mr Paulse was cautiously optimistic that rural local municipalities would make it through the year. The focus had shifted to the municipalities sharing the Western Cape water supply scheme with the City of Cape Town.

Minister van Rooyen informed the Chairperson that the presentation by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries had been incorporated into the presentation that he and the Head of the National Disaster Management Centre had made and, therefore, DAFF did not need to make a separate presentation. DAFF could respond to any questions that were relevant to its responsibilities.

Cape Town Water Outlook 2018: Cape Town City
Councillor Ian Nielsen, Deputy Mayor of Cape Town City, and head of Drought Management noted that the water supply system was very complex. Cape Town had experienced a very severe drought in 2017 with the lowest rainfall on record. 16 global climate models predicted an overall decline in rainfall for Cape Town in the future with more dry years and fewer wetter years, but predictions varied widely in terms of exactly how much rain would fall.

There was no question that both the City and agriculture had to adhere to the restrictions imposed on the system. For Cape Town, that meant demand had to be managed down to below 450 Ml per day. Measures put in place to reduce demand included punitive drought tariffs, demand management devices and flow restrictors, more aggressive pressure management and accelerated leak detection and repair

Augmenting water supplies was expensive. The cost of runoff was R5.20/kl whereas temporary desalination was greater than R40/kl. Financial challenges included recovering the full costs, including the cost of water resilience programmes and adequate depreciation which was legally required to balance the budget, while at the same time retaining affordability for poor people. There was an increased resilience to tariffs although the tariff reflected the value of water and supported sustainability.

In summary, Councillor Nielsen said that Day Zero could be avoided by reducing demand, which the City of Cape Town, was attempting to do by moving to level 6B restrictions and introducing punitive drought tariffs. It would continue with all demand-management initiatives and physically restrict Cape Town to 450 Ml per day and the City would influence agricultural restrictions to stay within its allocation. Communications would be improved to ensure consistent messaging across government and stakeholders would be engaged in active citizenry. He said that the message could not be that there was no Day Zero, but that it could be avoided if everyone adhered to the water restrictions.

The Chairperson proposed that instead of asking questions, Members talk to solutions as the meeting was about collaboration and Parliament, having taken responsibility to ensure that the response to the drought, was aligned. The meeting should produce results that would take the matter forward rather than Members getting engaged in discussions that will not take the process forward.

Ms said that the meeting was long overdue. She appreciated the Chairperson's facilitation of the meeting that was long overdue. She did not have specific solutions, but it was clear that the many talks had not been aligned. Cape Town was not the only place without water and there had been no focus on how to solve the problems. Parliament had had presentations by three municipalities but there were many, more in an even worse situation. The Committees needed a proper presentation from COGTA with Disaster Management that showed what was going on in the country. The misalignment also came in the funding. Disaster Management said that a total of R8 billion was needed for the three provinces. However, the Eastern Cape, alone, spoke of needing R 7 billion. Someone was not talking to someone somewhere. The Committees needed a presentation on every municipality in the same situation. She agreed that the drought could be beaten but augmentation was necessary as the weather predictions showed rain would decrease across the country. Certain parts of the country had missed the summer rainfall. Some towns had been on water restrictions for 2 hours a day for 3 years and when the electricity was cut off then there was no water. A lot more money was needed, and everyone had to pull together so that the country did not only avoid disaster in Cape Town and Nelson Mandela Bay.

Mr van Dalen repeated his question about the R74.8 million, of which, according to the Minister, only 24% had been spent. The impression was created that the province could not spend the money because of mismanagement and a lack of capacity. The Minister needed to state that expenditure was 45% and not 24% and clear up this matter. Could government give an assurance that the 197 MGl of water allocated to the City of Cape Town would be given to the city? If they knew whether the city would receive it, their planning could be more accurate. He asked the Minister to find it his heart to declare a national disaster.

Mr Paulsen wanted to know about the dams that were very full in the Western Cape, but the presenters only showed empty dams. The real story was a lot different to what had been presented as he had seen water on farms. A presenter said that the dams were 13% lower than the previous year. Could one still pump the water? He believed that the water crisis was being exaggerated in Cape Town. On the other hand, the City of Cape Town wanted to rezone the agricultural land in Philippi. It was hell-bent on rezoning the fertile agricultural land for housing. The Philippi aquifer could produce 120 Ml a day, but only if there was minimal construction on the land. So why did the city want to sell Philippi? Farmers on the land could make a killing with a rezoning. As the Civil Engineering person had said there would be no Day Zero. 200 collection points for 4 million people would be chaotic. If they had that amount of water, then they should just fill the dam. It was scaremongering tactics. If COGTA was responsible for communication, why did the city give a communication contract to a former party leader?

Mr Chauke commented that the IMTT had been non-functional previously, but Parliament now knew that there was coordination. The problems were not isolated to Cape Town. It was a bigger problem. The stakeholders, the leading Departments had to give leadership. His colleague had spoken of a communications firm being appointed that company did not have a clue as to what was happening. The Minister of COGTA had to take charge of communication. After every meeting of the IMTT, the Committees needed a briefing. Parliamentarians need to understand the capacity issues. What was the basic capacity that each municipality required? Local municipalities did not have the capacity to manage the water situation. A programme that should run on its own was the "War on Leaks." Almost 30% of water was lost because of water leaks. Grey water was dirty water but that could be recycled. The impact of the desalination plants had to be considered. Why build desalination plants that did not address the problem? Infrastructure that was ageing and that should be addressed.

The issue of who owns water had to be prioritised. One could not have a National Department in control of water, but that Department did not manage it. Everything should work within a national plan. It had been a wonderful engagement, but the next question was how to get information from the municipalities. There had been a disaster for four years and now that Cape Town had a crisis, people had to jump. There had been no leadership to guide people. The Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation had been calling for a national water plan for some time and now that plan had to be developed.

Ms Khawula (translated) would like to know who was benefiting from the boreholes. Almost everywhere pipes were lying around but the boreholes were not supplying water. She needed someone to shed light on the issue of the irrigation boards. Who did the irrigation boards report to or account to, seeing that the people were being taken for a ride if one looked at some of the places where people were made to pay for water. Some of the irrigation boards had been in existence since apartheid days and she would like that looked at. She wanted to raise the issue of the R70 million that had been injected into Standerton. The money had been put into that place but when they asked the Mayor what had happened to it, no answer was forthcoming. She would also like that to be looked at. The last point related to the project in Amersfoort, which should have been completed between June and August last year but had not been completed as yet.

Mr Basson informed Minister van Rooyen that 84% of municipalities could not maintain their water infrastructure. On 25 October 2017, the Minister of Water and Sanitation had said, in Minister van Rooyen's presence, that she would no longer intervene in municipalities because it was the responsibility of his Department. In the previous year, COGTA had under-spent R3.2 billion of the budget, which was returned to National Treasury. He wanted to know since DWS was no longer intervening in municipalities, what was the outstanding amount in the Minister's budget, and how had he addressed the other municipalities, not only those that were experiencing drought, that did not have water for some of their communities. For example, the Hartbeespoort Dam was full but some communities in the Brits had no water due to no maintenance of infrastructure. Mr Basson understood that despite the fact that the financial year was nearly over, that the Minister still had nearly R1 billion in his budget. How would he spend it and how would he address lack of maintenance of infrastructure?

He wanted to know about the Nooitgedacht Scheme from the Acting DG. What was the status of the scheme since the budget had been cut? Had he re-instated the budget and, if so, to what amount?

Dr Maesela said that the Members could sit there and define and refine the problem, but the important thing was how much practical work was being done to solve the problem. The Departments of Water and Sanitation, Rural Development and others contested for water and so they did not know what water there was. And then someone decided to donate water when they had too much. The Departments did not talk to each other. Considering the fact that South Africa was fast becoming a desert, and it was well-known that it was a water scarce country, what were they doing about it? The government should take advantage of the state of crisis and put all the resources into it to solve the problem nationally for the next 50 years. Without water, there was no life. It should be like a Marshall Plan. Everyone could talk about drinking water but after drinking the water and taking a bath, one wanted to have a meal. The government should turn the challenge into an opportunity.

The Chairperson said that there was time for a response to those questions and the earlier questions. Even those who had not made a presentation should feel free to contribute responses. He agreed that there was a need for a "Marshall Water Plan." He had hoped for more contributions from the Members and fewer questions, but the Minister and the Departments should feel free to respond to the questions.

Each year the Members talked about budget constraints and every year the budget went down. As in any crisis that emerged, opportunities presented themselves. Where there was a budget constraint, it called on all of the Members, apart from tightening the belt, to do more with less. As an example, there was too much talk about desalination plants. There was a plant in Ballito, he did not know who owned it, which produced potable water out of wastewater to an affluent Estate called Zimbali in Durban. There was also a person displaying a grey water plant that cost a fraction of desalination. Why was the country not making use of the turning of grey water into drinking water? It was as if someone had lined up all the desalination plants and somebody was about to cash in. That was wrong. The budget was inadequate, but no one was looking at innovations. Too many innovations were not being looked at while they were being taken to countries around the world. That was what the Members should be talking about. Saving water should become a culture. Agriculture had talked about smart innovations that ensured less water was used, but the Members were not talking about that. The leaks had to be stopped. The two Departments had to find each other in respect of the war on leaks, even though it was not in their APPs or their budgets. Instead of looking for other solutions, the country should save what it had in order to provide for that future that the Members had been talking about. Last year in October, the Committee had been asking for coordination and collaboration. COGTA had to be able to bring to the Committee the collaboration that would take them forward. The process from the IMTT was to be applauded.

Responses
The Minister asked the Acting DGs to respond to questions before he wrapped up.

COGTA Acting DG of answered the question on Nooitgedacht. The budget was exactly the same as it had been beginning of the year. Project Managers had noted that Nooitgedacht had been lagging behind and so there had been an intention to reduce the budget but there was still R93 million for the year. The R200 million had been made available by National Treasury during the budget adjustment period. It had been allocated to Butterworth for bulk water pipelines in the area. It had not been given to a single municipality. It had been a conditional grant to the Department to start the bulk pipeline process in that area. The procurement process had taken place and it was estimated that the contractor would be on site as from 15 February 2018.

Trevor Balzer, Acting DG at the Department of Water and Sanitation, addressed the issue of re-use of water. If the Members looked at the City of Cape Town's resilience programme, it included two re-use plants in Cape Town. Re-use was also contained in the Masterplan. The grey water was also in the plans. The water mix currently consisted of surface water, groundwater and return flows but going forward, the water mix according to the master plan, would contain a smaller ratio of surface water, an increased ratio of ground water, and greater emphasis on re-use of water, and also desalination and AMD (Asset Management).

Concerning the matter of expropriation, he acknowledged that it was difficult as the national Water Act would have to be reviewed, but coupled with the issue of compensation, payment might be difficult in the light of the financial situation. A better option was to look at the water licence and add conditions to the licences. Section 49 of the Water Act made provision for that. The water tankers were a challenge, but the Minister could manage that.

Peter Flower, Director of Water and Sanitation: City of Cape Town, explained that the Philippi horticultural area was not the only area under which one found the Cape Flats aquifer. It extended right across the Cape flats from Somerset West to Muizenberg but he could not comment on the re-zoning as he was responsible for Water and Sanitation. Day Zero had been a scaremongering tactic that had been created in the social media and the definition of Day Zero was the next stage, Level 7, i.e. when water would not flow through pipes. It was not a quantity dictated by Cape Town City, but the bulk water supply allocation for the city. The supply to industrial and business sites would not be stopped – only residential areas. There had been no co-operation in driving usage down, so increased tariffs and the lowering of pressure, plus the potential of a Day Zero, were attempts to make citizens and businesses of Cape Town reduce water usage. There had been a response to Day Zero and usage had declined. Irrigation Boards had had their supply cut off, which had moved Day Zero to the winter months.  

The City of Cape Town had worked tirelessly for last 17 years, to address the potential water shortage, especially since the mid-2000s. Cape Town, as a city, had been increasing in size by 4 % each year, but water usage had flatlined for 15 years and per capita consumption had been reduced as a result of the implementation of the water management plan. Once the drought hit, it was difficult to reduce consumption as there was already an efficiency in the system driven through a number of interventions, including pressure management, replacement of the mains which reduced the burst rate from 68 bursts per 100 km per annum to 25 bursts per 100km per annum. That was significant given that there were 11 000 km of water pipeline in the city. Physical leakage, or loss of water, was around 15% which compared very favourably internationally and was well below half of the national average.

There was a question about grey water and he was not sure whether there was confusion between greywater and wastewater. Grey water was the term given to non-sewerage water such as the bath water, the dishwasher, washing machine water and hand basin water. Effluent and wastewater included the toilet water. Cape Town had, for a number of years, being recycling effluent and wastewater through a treatment process and returning it for non-potable use such as industrial areas and horticulture. There was quite a network of supply pipelines from the wastewater plant into industrial areas, supplying golf courses, recreational areas and, in some cases, to agriculture for non-food products. 9% of wastewater was returned for use, which reduced the use of potable water for those purposes.

In response to the input from the Cape Town Director for Water and Sanitation, Mr Masondo said that the centre lay with the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Minister van Rooyen. He raised the point because the colleague from Cape Town had spoken about communication. The national Communication strategy was important. The consultant appointed to manage the communication strategy in Cape Town was not correct. It was the lack of leadership that had led the City of Cape Town to develop its own communication strategy. But now, there must be one message and his take was that the centre lay with the Department of COGTA. The Committee should get a commitment from the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape Government to use only the national communication strategy.

The Chairperson noticed that that had been a direct response to Mr Paulsen’s question and he wondered whether the Minister would also like to comment on that point.

Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs response
Minister van Rooyen noted that there was an avalanche of issues that required his response and answers, but he would focus on the interventions and solutions and, if there was still time, he would respond to general questions and comments. He welcomed presentations made by private role players. Their recommendations would be discussed and the IMTT would provide a response to them. Some of the recommendations were very helpful.

He needed to respond to the question about the inclusion of other municipalities. The National Disaster Management Centre had not started yesterday, but had been interacting with affected local municipalities since even before he had become a Minister. The information about how municipalities had been working with the National Disaster Management Centre was readily available. The Minister asked the Committee to allow him and his Department to make a presentation on their interventions. They had also worked with provinces when working with those municipalities.

The first intervention that the Minister wanted to draw to the attention of the Members of the Joint Committee was the wastewater treatment works in municipalities because the status of those treatment works meant that the quality of water had been compromised. That limited access to quality water, which the country could not afford as it was a water scarce country. The Municipal Infrastructure Support Agency (MISA) had engaged a company which fell under the jurisdiction of the Ekurhuleni Municipality and which had extensive capacity on wastewater treatments issues. The Department had signed an MOU with the entity after National Treasury had given permission. The entity would conduct an assessment of the wastewater treatment plants to see which needed urgent intervention. The assessment would be specific to each municipality and they would begin with those that were most urgently in need of attention.

Secondly, MISA was recruiting 100 qualified artisans and water process controllers. They would be appointed to the municipalities that had challenges in dealing with technical issues relating to water by March 2018. The South African Institute of Civil Engineering would be training municipal officials on advanced water treatment issues. There was a delay in procuring services to build new water treatment plants. Measures were required to ease procurement challenges at municipal levels. To resolve procurement issues, municipalities would be able to use suppliers on a national procurement list which would assist them to deal with the fluctuating prices, especially of boreholes, as prices would have been negotiated at a national level. Suppliers could then not take advantage of municipalities.

There was the question of misalignment between bulk and reticulation projects. Some projects had happened without collaboration between the national Department and Municipalities. Some reservoirs had become white elephants as the municipality had not had the funds to supply piping from the reservoirs, and that was frustrating the communities. To arrest the situation, and to address funding, COGTA had started an initiative working with the Department of Water and Sanitation to cost the serious backlog caused by the misalignment. It would also address the overlapping of functions between the two Departments.

If the disaster status were reclassified so that it was a national disaster, and not just the three provinces, Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, then all provinces could receive assistance. The problem was, of course, how to deal with the funding and, at an appropriate time, the Minister would give feedback on that matter. The Department was dealing with a problem that affected 257 municipalities in nine provinces, although it would differ from one municipality and one province to another. It was not only the three provinces that were affected by drought and so the submissions that the Department had received for financial assistance were extensive. Under the current fiscal constraints, the Department would have to be very cautious and meticulous about how it struck a balance. It had to prioritise funds for the current crisis as well as set aside funds to prevent a potential disaster. The IMTT meeting the previous day, had decided that the current provincial disaster status should be reclassified as a national disaster and that would lead to the declaration of the national disaster, meaning that the focus would be national.

He noted that there had been an allegation in the public space about money used by the City of Cape Town on communication. It had to be remembered that the national government was allocating resources to affected provinces and municipalities so there was a question as to how to account for the usage of funds by the Cape Town Municipality. National was allocating the resources so how could Cape Town use the money, not less than a billion, for communication, especially as a former leader of a political party had been cited as one of the service providers. The Minister was seeking answers from the city and he was waiting for more information. The media may have got it wrong and so he did not want to rely on media statements.

The other issue was that of expenditure patterns. It was an accepted principle that everyone involved would have to do away with inefficiencies when money was allocated from the National Fiscus. Money had been allocated in August and only 24.3% had been spent by December, which should be a matter of concern for everyone. That was why the issue had been addressed today and explanations sought. It had been reported in December and MEC Bredell had explained that it had improved since December, plus he had explained the problem relating to the lack of flexibility of the supply chain management systems. The issue of dealing with inefficiencies had to be a concern for all and, for that reason, the IMTT would be looking into chain processes where a disaster had been declared. The presentation from SAICE had confirmed the inflexibility of the supply chain management system and therefore it would be more flexible when it came to emergencies or disasters. That was the problem that had been raised by the expenditure pattern of the City of Cape Town. It had been clarified that currently just over 40% had been spent, but one had to agree that after six months, that money should have been spent. That was why AgriSA was saying that the support was not adequate. That was why specific recommendations had been made to deal with those issues going forward.

Members who had questions about their constituencies should send a submission as there were various reasons for a borehole being dry.

The Minister had attempted to address all questions. Some issues such as the needs of vulnerable people being supported during the disaster, would be taken to the IMTT and there those issues would inform the discussion. The government needed buy-in from the community. There was a need to simplify the message as people would ask what had happened that Day Zero had not arrived. There was no scientific evidence for some of the concerns. The City of Cape Town and the Western Cape Province might have a different approach to the matter but the IMTT could not just dismiss those concerns so the IMTT had decided to allow the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape Province to present the scientific bases of their concerns at the next IMTT meeting. That was important because they did not want to communicate ambiguously. When there was talk of Day Zero, everyone should have the same understanding. People did not understand what was happening because the date for Day Zero kept changing. Once the IMTT understood the scientific basis of the concerns, simplified messages could be created for all role players.

Lastly, the Minister had heard Mr Chauke's passion for centralized communication, but it was a very difficult one. Besides the legislative powers for all sphere of government to communicate on their own, there were ideological interests in most of the developmental issues. So, the government could not dictate how political parties communicated on those developmental issues and what they said about the performance of the local municipality, the province, or even national. He sympathised with Mr Chauke's view because it would help if everyone communicated one message so, after the declaration of a disaster, the IMTT would try its level best to centralise communication and ensure that it shared one message with all. For that reason, there would be monthly press releases and there would be an outreach to the community. For the moment, the IMTT was making a plea for all role players to be responsible when they communicated with the people because it was important to boost confidence in the leaders and authorities at the local, provincial and national levels.

It was important to investors. The communication of Day Zero had been an issue in Davos. Fires in Knysna had had a negative impact on tourism. There was, therefore, a responsible international communication campaign. A myopic view drove confusing messages. He asked that role players take advantage of the expertise of the South African Weather Services and other entities that had come onboard. He pleaded with political parties to be responsible and the IMTT would play its part as it had a simple, straightforward communication plan.

Ms Khawula (translated) said that the Minister asked Members to tell him of the places that the Members knew had problems, because the very same officials that he was referring to, were the ones not doing the work. She thought that really needed to be addressed.

Mr Basson had a question about the disaster funds. For example, the Western Cape had received R74.8 million with strict instructions as to how the money had to be spent, e.g. R40 million for livestock, R20 for the City of Cape Town, etc. The challenge was that when they received the money, they had to prepare a tender, go out on tender, evaluate and then appoint. The Act stipulated that the money had to be spent within three months. In some instances, for example, drilling, it was impossible to do it within three months. If it was not done in three months, it was assumed that the recipients had not made use of the funds made available to them. If a national disaster was declared, how would the Minister deal with that? It was going to be an issue. it would not be possible to spend the money within the allocated time. Could he clarify the situation?

Mr Chauke was hammering the point that it was the view of the Committee that different messages were going out and that was problematic. It was not a normal situation where the three spheres of government could send out different messages because the Constitution allowed them to do so. He wanted the representatives of Western Cape Province and local government to take note. Different messages could create a revolution that could burn the country down. He assured the Chairperson that that could happen. The City had not even presented their communication strategy. A resolution needed to be taken. The Committee did not want politics in the matter and that had to be the responsibility of every political party. The Leader of the Opposition had spoken about water all over the country and about Day Zero. Politicians had to interpret the message from the national government. They were having meetings all over the place. Other political parties had stood back and waited for a common understanding.

Mr Chauke said that another point was to do with mass mobilisation as people had to be together at a time of disaster. Prayers could bring people together. During the drought in Gauteng, Limpopo people had got together and prayed. He had been told that in the Western Cape people did not pray for rain. The people had to be together when there was a disaster. Everyone should pray for rain. He wanted to encourage his colleagues in the Western Cape to pray for rain. It was very, very important. He had been told that someone prayed for rain in Gauteng and there was a storm. There was a need to mobilise society. Nothing stopped the Committee from calling anyone to appear before the Committee and the explaining why they spoke other things and did not say what they were supposed to say. The disaster was not a political football.

The Chairperson said that the Committee did not operate along party lines. Members saw themselves as members of a single Committee and they did not allow party grandstanding in their meetings as their focus the improvement of the lives of people for the better. Another matter that had not been discussed was the role of the private sector. That issue had not been raised. He referred to a visit to a platinum mine in North West where they had committed to save water and to improve on infrastructure and they had created a partnership. Likewise, Sasol and the local municipality had a partnership where Sasol helped to maintain the municipal waterworks. Granted it was an inter-Ministerial Committee but he suggested that the Ministers discuss the role that the private sector could play in addressing the disaster.

The Minister, the Joint Committee, and the presenters had covered a great deal of work during the day. The aim had been to hear what everyone was doing and to see how they could align all the interventions and to see where synergies could be established. They had spoken about the war on leaks and the two Departments having to find each other. The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and the Department of Water and Sanitation had to work together for the simple reason that local government infrastructure had to be protected. The 37% leaks were found mostly in local government institutions. There had to be a partnership with the Department of Water and Sanitation, especially in respect of leaks. It was no good working with individual Water Boards. It was COGTA employees who would be working on the leaks.

Ms Khawula (translation) told the Minister that even as the Committee discussed the matter, those people who worked under him were the ones that he should be making a follow-up on. She had not had any response to some of the disaster-related issues that she had reported in similar forums. A case in point was one of Mr Maseko who was a Black farmer from Mbombela in Mpumalanga who did not have water or electricity. Those were the issues that she was raising, and she had had no response from the people working under the Minister. Those were the issues that the Committee Members found on oversight visits. She also had a sanitation problem, and could those issues also be addressed.

The Chairperson explained that some of the issues had to do with Sanitation and that the Minister had earlier asked Members to make written submissions about constituency issues.

The Minister responded to the question of whether a national disaster would empower the Minister, himself, to give directives but also to formulate regulations, within the legislative framework. He would deal with impediments in the supply chain network. For the present, a declaration would be enough to empower the Minister. Regarding the communication issues, a single message was the ideal situation and he would strive for that ideal situation.  He responded to Ms Khawula saying that she could submit, and he would personally follow up, even if he had to send officials to get the information. As far as oversight visit issues were concerned, a report should have been submitted to the relevant sector meeting so that the Departments could follow up. If something had been submitted to COGTA, he would be interested to know, but maybe the reports had not been forwarded to him, or any other Minister, so the first option would be best.

Mr Chauke explained that the Report had not yet been finalised and sent to the relevant authorities.

The Chairperson asked the Acting DG of Water and Sanitation when legislation was being sent to Parliament. The Acting DG said that the legislation was at a cluster meeting and so he would like the opportunity to get the correct information and respond in writing.

Mr Chauke interjected, stating that he was the Whip for Water and Sanitation. Nothing stopped the Portfolio Committee from drafting a Committee Bill. The Department was never ready. The Water Plan had also not come through, so he warned the Department that if they dilly-dallied, Members would introduce a Committee Bill. It was a short year because the following year was an election year. If the Department was going to dilly-dally with the legislation that dealt with the question of who owns the land, the Committee would deal with it in a Committee Bill as that legislation talked to transformation.

The Chairperson concluded that a number of solutions had been put forward, ranging from desalination, re-use of water, boreholes to AMD as a long-term solution. The IMTT would meet on a monthly basis and so the Committee programme would have to be adjusted to follow those sessions. He said that it was work-in-progress and the Committee would require regular reports.

Instead of working on responses to the State of the Nation Address, the Water and Sanitation Committee would address outstanding matters the following week.

Meeting adjourned.

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