Water and Sanitation Master Plan; Legislation: DWS briefing, with Minister

Water and Sanitation

29 August 2018
Chairperson: Mr M Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation briefed by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) on the Water and Sanitation Master Plan in the presence of the Minister.

Before the presentation commenced, Members discussed the disaster emanating from the matter surrounding the Rand Water Eikenhof Pump Station affected by the recent fire at one of the Eskom installations. The Committee wanted this matter to be investigated and for it to be reported back to the Committee. There was concern of sabotage which is even more concerning given that water is a key priority. As such there is a need to regard water infrastructure country-wide as National Key Points. The experience of Madibeng illustrates how unscrupulous business persons can lead to shutting down of pipes. Water infrastructure needs to be protected.

The presentation on the National Water and Sanitation Master Plan, “a call to action”, covered the objective of the plan, priority actions required until 2030 and beyond, roadmap and stakeholder engagements. Members were also taken through the GDP contribution per sector vs. water use per sector, legislative context and philosophy of the Plan, structure, and selected proposed actions. The presentation also covered management of water and sanitation, including in the provinces.

The Committee stressed that any water plan must be comprehensive and should guide the Plan in line with the National Development Plan so that it fits into the developmental agenda of the state. Questions were asked about a total budget for water and sanitation in the country, accounting for water stolen, the responsibilities of municipalities and their inclusion in programmes of the Department and funding required. Members expressed the Plan was very interesting, well-thought through and highlighted key challenges of the status of the water but there was a concern that the Department was not dealing in depth with the Plan and that the Committee was not consulted on the Plan before it was drafted – it was said another opportunity should be afforded to the Committee to workshop the report so that it can be discussed at length and Members can provide input. Parliament has not had its fair share in the process of consultation which led to the Master Plan. Some Members took umbrage that the Plan was presented in the Netherlands before it was presented to the Committee.

The Committee discussed challenges around waste water and pollution of rivers, maintenance and dredging. The Committee covered many matters. There is still a long way to go in the process of equitable distribution of land. Water is at the centre of this debate, which is currently in the public domain, especially for those who are going to farm. This is a matter which DWS should also be seized with to see how best to take it forward. Going forward, this is a matter that has to be at the centre of the agenda.

Members were not pleased that the Department had still not presented it with legislation which was expected to be tabled. . It is unfortunate that these processes have been very tedious. A meeting was convened by the House Chairperson two weeks ago where the Committee was informed that no new legislation shall be entertained any time after May. The Committee felt disrespected that DWS did not adhere to deadlines which it itself provided to the Committee.

Meeting report

Opening remarks by Chairperson

The Chairperson noted apologies from the Deputy Minister of Water and Sanitation, Ms Pam Tshwete and Ms H Kekana (ANC). 

The Chairperson asked for an update concerning the disaster emanating from the matter surrounding the Rand Water Eikenhof Pump Station affected by the recent fire at one of the Eskom installations.

Mr Gugile Nkwinti, Minister of Water and Sanitation, explained it was an act of vandalism.

Mr L Basson (DA) stated that, based on his interactions with Randwater, JNB City Power brought a new transformer that same night. They are pumping into the system as of this morning. 

Mr D Mnguni (ANC) highlighted that there is an indication the fire started outside the pipe station, which may indicate sabotage. Randwater should be encouraged to open a case. Water is a key priority and it is important for these structures to be declared National Key Points. When water is tampered with, there would be challenges in all respects.  

The Chairperson suggested that, based on the feeling in the room, whatever happened at that pumping station must be investigated and the matter must come back to the Committee. In 2015, where there was a clear case of vandalism, a case of cable theft at an adjacent Eskom substation that clearly led to power failure at the pumping station, there were two things which came out of that experience. First, for water pumping and other stations to explore what Randwater did. There is a need to explore a mixture of energy supply for the water and sanitation installations, including alternative energy. Second, there is a need to regard water infrastructure country-wide as National Key Points. The experience of Madibeng illustrates how unscrupulous business persons can lead to shutting down of pipes. Water infrastructure needs to be protected.

Ms M Khawula (EFF) briefed the gathering in the absence of a translator.    

Minister Nkwinti responded that he has approached the President with a view to declaring Sedibeng a National Key Point. The President responded positively to the request. In response to Ms Khawula, based on the experience of the strike at Amathole, it seems that vandalism has become a standard practice. A meeting will be held with shop stewards of all labour formations within DWS, in the nearest future, to raise the matter of safety and optimal operation of water and sanitation infrastructure. The meeting must speak to challenges of security at all water and sanitation installations. 

Mr Basson appreciated the Minister’s efforts to address the President on this question. Water treatment plants also need to be looked at. The biggest problem in both sectors, namely, clean water and purification of waste water, is non-maintenance. The MECs in the provinces need to take action against municipalities. It is their core function to ensure the infrastructure in their control is maintained. They must give a helping hand to those municipalities. If those municipalities are not capable of running the infrastructure, another plan has to be made. It is the MEC’s problem because those municipalities fall under them. If they do not take action against municipalities, no one will. It is becoming a disaster in the country.

Ms Khawula briefed the Committee.

The Chairperson stressed that problems experienced by water is as big as water itself. There will be a meeting next week to deal with the second and third quarterly reports. A major point of discussion must be the law of 2015 that was enacted towards tightening penalties for those who vandalise and steal infrastructure. It should not be only about waste water but about water infrastructure, for example, waste water treatment plants. 

Minister Nkwinti stressed, among others, that security of waste water treatment plants is actually the most pressing issue.

National Water and Sanitation Master Plan ‘A call to action’

Mr Trevor Balzer, DWS Deputy Director General: Strategic and Emergency Projects, briefed the Committee on the Water and Sanitation Master Plan. Looking at the objective of the Plan, priority actions required until 2030 and beyond is to ensure water security and equitable access to water and sanitation services for all in RSA. The presentation the covered the roadmap laid out in the Plan. Stakeholder engagements included government structures, national departments, professional bodies, civil groups, business associations, academic institutions and entities (WRC, TCTA, CMA, SALGA, CSIR). Among others, all planned and unforeseen engagements were achieved.

Members were then taken through the GDP contribution per sector vs. water use per sector, legislative context of the Plan and philosophy of the Plan. In terms of structure, the Plan consists of a Call to Action (Volume 1), a Plan to Action (Volume 2) and Schedule of Actions (Volume 3). Looking at the problem statement and key challenges, while the restitution of agricultural land was slower than intended, reallocation of water has not always kept pace with the transfer of that land. In some instances, previous owners traded away their existing lawful water use rights so that the water allocation was not transferred to land reform beneficiaries.

Mr Balzer clarified the selected proposed actions include to develop a business case for streamlined institutional rationalisation and organisational alignment in the water sector, establish financially sustainable CMAs  across the country, establish the National Water Resources and Services Authority, establish the National Water  Resources and Service Regulator, redefine the configuration of Water boards  to manage regional bulk water supply and assist municipalities to perform their primary water services mandate where necessary, manage regional water resources infrastructure, manage regional bulk WWTW.

The Schedule of Actions provides more detail on actions/interventions to be implemented, responsibilities, targets and timeframes, associated estimated costs and monitoring of performance.

Mr Balzer presented the management of Water and Sanitation and management thereof per province. In terms of Phakisa, on 27 June 2018, the Cabinet Committee noted the development of the first National Water and Sanitation Master Plan. Cabinet also supported a recommendation that the sector undertake a collaborative and embedded planning initiative utilising the Phakisa methodology adopted by government in 2013. The support of Cabinet for mobilisation of a Phakisa for Water and Sanitation is a game-changer for the DWS and the broader water sector. The presentation also covered the governance structure of DWS.

In summary, the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) was requested to assist and guide the Department in mobilising and implementing the Phakisa for the NW&SMP. Consultation with key partners for the implementation and participation in the Phakisa has commenced. Finalisation of the draft Volume 3 (Schedule of Actions for use during the Phakisa) and funding for the Phakisa is still to be secured.

Discussion

Minister Nkwinti stressed the intention of the Department to mobilise the sector to undertake the Phakisa by the end of the 2018/19 financial year. A planning period of 4 – 6 weeks is anticipated.

Ms Mochotlhi explained the purpose of the Water Plan. One of the matters that need to be critically looked at is funding and investment in water infrastructure in the interim. This question must be taken outside of the water sector to the financial sector to perhaps try to persuade thinking around investment in infrastructure. At the moment, the thinking is as follows: if it is social, government or the fiscus must carry that. If it is economic, the private sector must be approached. When they do not, or when they renege, it means infrastructure development is delayed. The speak needs to change to say that every water infrastructure needs to be looked at, as well as social and economic, and differentiate from commercial to a certain extent. If we continue in the manner in which we are proceeding right now, it results in development of infrastructure, for example, a dam, which it has put aside simply because there are no commercial up-takers. As a developmental state, we should not be throwing out infrastructure development simply because there are no commercial up-takers. This would mean that we would be totally oblivious of what water as a catalyst of economic development could do for us. In relation to funding of infrastructure, there is a programme in the Department called Financial Assistance Resource Programme.  They are funded to access water through, for example, grand water exploration and canals.  Without funding, very little can be done. Equity in water use becomes lip service if we do not think of how we can assist. As the Minister would elaborately put it, unless the socio-economic standards of all South Africans are changed, water quality becomes what we wish for. Most of what lands in resources is as a result of poor sanitation, a lack of services etc. This also talks to funding. Much as a Department has a mandate of strengthening the regulatory landscape, if things like these are not dealt with, then water security will become threatened. These are the aspects where the Department requires the assistance of its political principals, namely, funding towards water resources development and water quality.

The Chairperson stressed that any Water Plan must be comprehensive and should guide us into that plan. It is also encouraging that it fits into the National Development Plan so that it fits into a scenario as it pertains to a developmental agenda of the current state. A number of matters were raised which were a work in progress. In light of these reports, in the Netherlands, it has what is called a Total Water Budget. The Dutch government talks about 7 billion Euros per annum which speaks to the entire budget in so far as water is concerned.  The Committee asks itself as to what could be a total budget of water and sanitation in the country, taking into account all matters raised, especially the total budget on water investment. As it stands, local government, for example, has a budget for water, as does Basic Education etc. All of this put together should give an idea of a total budget outside of the Departments’ annual budget. Can the 41% of non-revenue water, which moves away from R7.2 billion to R10 billion, be clarified? How does DWS account for water that gets stolen? The DG said that Umzimvubu does not have any commercial uptakers. This is tied up with the social and economic aspects of water infrastructure. This must talk to how integrated government must be in action. At some point, in that part of the country where that dam is supposed to be, there was a 10 000 hectare activity there. For whatever reason, that activity has since shut down. This should be the off-take. This talks to how government can integrate its activities on the ground in action. It is there, it just needs to be unearthed. Lastly, at what point will there be new money in DWS? Some projects have come to a stop and there is no new activity going on.

Mr Mnguni stressed that a municipality is a very localised place. Do they have their own master plans? For municipalities, the purpose of the Water Service Authority was to contribute to the economy. Instead of them gaining economically, however, they are losing economically because of infrastructure not maintained. The municipalities are also in debt. What is the take of DWS and the suggestions when speaking to the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA)? It seems there is pressure on municipalities to perform the function of Water Service Authority, a function they do not know how to deal with. Previously, the water service authority was in DWS. Then, suddenly, municipalities had to take over. This is where chaos started and there was a decline, as Mr Balzer indicated. There is a financial model which the TCTA is pursuing which looks very sound. Why is DWS pursuing another financial model if there is another one that is working? Or are there challenges in copying this one? Concerning the National Water Infrastructure Engines, it was stressed that this must be established as a matter of urgency. If that is in place, it may fast-track the matter of funding investment. Lastly, the Committee received this Master Plan in the Netherlands. The Committee was present at the conference yet it was not informed about its own master plan.  Why does South Africa not copy the Netherlands’ water management and governance plan which is very impressive? The problem of water boards is that they will charge different kinds of tariffs and make a profit. They are not instituted to make a profit. If it looks like they are making a lot of money compared to servicing the community, it is problematic. When are communities going to be consulted about the water plan? Communities have to also take charge of water resources they receive.

Mr Basson expressed that the document is very interesting, well-thought through and highlighted key challenges of the status of the water. The concern is that in 2016, over a 10 year period, DWS needed about R800 billion. In terms of this document, the core problem in the country lied with waste water. In the DWS’s 2013-2014 Green Drop Report, 84% of waste water treatment plants, 824 plants, had a capacity of about 6 000 mega litres per day. With 84% of that polluting rivers, estimated at 4 200 mega litres per day, that is insufficiently treated and goes back into the system, this is creating a problem with a knock-on effect down the line. The plants in municipalities are not manufactured to clean the quality of that water. The problem starts with getting rivers clean. There is about a 5000% increase in the pollution of South Africa’s rivers. It is said that about 82% of rivers are polluted. How is this going to be dealt with? If the problem of sewerage water going back into the system cannot be fixed, the cleaning of water will never be corrected. If one looks at the quality of water received at Madibeng, the waste of water is very worrying. The backwash water goes to the Crocodile River. That is a lot of money. Where a plant was usually backwashed four times a day, it now has to be done 12 times a day just to get better quality water. This happens all over the country. A plan is needed to get this fixed. Small maintenance and better control can assist with this. This is really the start point. The information here speaks to what is really happening in the country. We, including municipalities, have challenges. Municipalities have to be included in the ‘we’ because they are the creators of the problems. A solution where municipalities are brought on board is needed. The arrogance of officials who are in charge of plants is so frustrating. They do not understand the problem. They are getting a lot of money but are not doing what they should do. One reason could be that they do not have a sufficient budget. A former Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, once said that municipalities need to put away 10%. For this to be resolved, COGTA must be brought on board and buy-in or the problem will never be solved. All plants in the country must be taken over or COGTA’s buy-in was needed. This discussion has to be had with the municipalities. Municipalities have to take this seriously as it hampers the economy of the municipality and they are selling water at a loss. This is why they will not the R9.9 billion because they are not making any money on water. The cost to clean water is too expensive. This is really a good document. It reveals everything about the water sector. Lastly, there is enough water. One has to work smart with the water, such as in the Netherlands. New technology can be used to use less water. Maybe DWS, with Agriculture, should look at making the water more expensive with a subsidy to look at new innovations so that less water can be used to free up some water. A new strategy was needed. Cape Town will never use 1 000 mega litres of water again. People became water wise. This is what people all over the country need to learn. With small innovations, less water can be used. There is a need to look at new structures of pricing of water and new innovations e.g. how water can be reused for changes to grey water which can be sold to industries.

Ms N Bilankulu (ANC) appreciated the presentation. What is the contribution of municipalities to this Master Plan?  When the Committee does oversight work, it seems the National Department, where there are projects, instead of going via the municipalities, just went straight into implementing the programmes. It seems as if municipalities are not consulted concerning programmes which are undertaken by DWS. Is there a way in which the tariffs of water boards will be regulated since there are different types of tariffs? The presentation refers to 10% of purchased land - who owns this 10%? Who has control over the land? Is it state or private-owned? Why are water factories under threat? What is DWS going to do in light of this threat?

Ms Khawula made her comments.

Mr D Kabini (ANC) requested that a workshop be held to go into the details of the report. The Department is not dealing in depth with the report and presentation to the Committee.  Can the Chairperson afford the Committee an opportunity have a workshop where the report can be discussed at length such that the Committee can give an input as to what should be included in the report?

The Chairperson, echoing Mr Kabini, stressed that Parliament has not had its fair share in the process of consultation which led to the Master Plan. The Committee requested a draft be forwarded to it. Unfortunately, a draft did not even come through even though the Committee wanted its fair share of participation. At the end of the day, it is also Parliament that takes the process forward especially as it relates to legislation. Civil society, especially black farmers, must also be brought on board, be in the know and be able to lodge their applications when there are opportunities.

Mr R Cebekhulu (IFP) asked what the Department’s plan is in dealing with challenges for which these dams were not built for. In terms of the plenty of rivers flowing into the sea, what is government doing to save that water for future uses, for example, in Cape Town? What is being done to prevent the dams from being insufficient to provide water, for example, for agriculture in the Western Cape?

Minister Nkwinti stressed that if one day, a bold decision was taken to transform what townships are known as today, the Hartbeespoort dam would be clean. It is important to speak about conditions in townships. There is raw sewage flowing in the streets. This is not a challenge which municipalities and the Minister can address on their own. The national department has taken the responsibility to work with communities to ensure communities themselves do not disrupt water services, including removing sludge for fertiliser. The Department is using this as a pilot project to see how it works. Resolving broken pipes is a long term objective of DWS for which the support of Parliament is required. There is some reorganisation to address pump stations.  The Department has already been to the North West. There is a team that has met with the Premier, the MEC and water boards. These actors are working together so as to pool together resources. Municipalities should be coached. This is one matter that needs to be discussed even at the workshop. Lastly, Operation Phakisa will involve municipalities and water user associations, who will need to be involved in the workshop. The Department has come to the decision to bring together TCTA and the Construction Unit. TCTA is going to be project manager. It is going to work together at, among others, Clanwilliam. Beginning on 8 October, the Committee is welcome to attend the inauguration thereof.   

Ms Mochotlhi, concerning the workshop, highlighted there are certain matters that can be addressed in the Master Plan, which is an illustration of the value chain and who does what. By way of example, what is the primary function of a water board? The Water Services Act defines the role of the water board providing “water services to other water services institutions…”  Furthermore, the TCTA model of funding uses the very model referred to which says that if it is social, then it is Treasury. If it is economic, then it requires off-takers. This requires that National Treasury gives guarantees.

The Chairperson asked for clarification on DWS’s response to dredging. There is an argument which says that it is much more economical to do dredging than to raise the walls of dams.

Minister Nkwinti responded that it is important for DWS firstly to use what it has.

Mr Balzer explained that what the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) tried to represent in the plan, when it speak to the R900 billion, is to reflect the total budget. The entire budget is not in the control of DWS. It is the money that is required in the sector. DWS has costed in some requirements around the ONM requirements for existing infrastructure as well. The replacement value of existing infrastructure is in the order of R1.3 trillion. In terms of the quantification of the value of water stolen, the regulatory branch can extrapolate quantities they are aware of. Concerning the tariffs and the regulator, once DWS has a regulator in place it will have a better handle on the way tariffs are determined. This applies to tariffs right down the value chain. In terms of technology, the new water treatment works at Madibeng is putting in the latest technology to treat the current poor water supply. Concerning the point that municipalities and water boards are not knowledgeable about DWS projects, the Department will follow up and determine where most of the problems are.  DWS is trying to communicate as best it can.  Projects within the municipal space are normally not implemented unless they form part of the Integrated Development Plans. Concerning the 10% land which is water factories, in assessing that land, DWS did not look at land ownership. That will be a mix of private-land ownership, government land ownership and municipal area. The Minister was at a launch of a programme by DEA and the SA National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) on restoration of ecological infrastructure. Currently, there is a project being funded by the Global Environmental Fund to look at restoration of some of the water factories and also declaration of strategic water source areas. On the question of saltation, there is a study that has been done for DWS by the Council for Scientific and industrial Research (CSIR) which has identified what DWS has lost in terms of saltation across South Africa’s major reservoirs. While there is a workshop in the Netherlands in November, there is also an initiative from the Netherlands to do a pilot project on dredging in South Africa.  

The Chairperson commented that many matters were covered. There is still a long way to go in the process of equitable distribution of land. Water is at the centre of this debate, which is currently in the public domain, especially for those who are going to farm. This is a matter which DWS should also be seized with to see how best to take it forward. Going forward, this is a matter that has to be at the centre of the agenda.

Minister Nkwinti highlighted that there is already a presidential initiative to bring this into fruition and the Committee can hold DWS to account.

The Chairperson affirmed that clearly government is seized with such a critical question. The point has been raised about the workshop, of which the Committee is finalising its programme.

Mr Kabini stressed that the Committee must be strong in order to become the custodian of the institution of Water and Sanitation. In this case, it seems as if it is afforded an opportunity – the Committee must defend this opportunity. The Committee must demand what it wanted to be presented.   

The Chairperson asked for the areas in which the Committee is weak to be clarified.

Mr Kabini stressed, for example, the Water Master Plan was received in the Netherlands, whereas it was supposed to be received by the Committee, where it can be interrogated and the Committee can have a standpoint on it. One cannot receive the Master Plan in the Netherlands and expect that what will be presented will be strong.   

The Chairperson thanked the Member for the contribution. The Committee will have to be guided, on the one hand, about Operation Phakisa and, on the other hand, schedule in its own programmes and arrange for the workshop.

Minister Nkwinti stressed that it is going to be very difficult from here to manage Cabinet and Committee processes. It relates to the separation of powers as inscribed in the Constitution.

The Chairperson was quite mindful of this tension that continues to exist. The Committee is mindful of processes that the Minister to be subjected to. DWS has a report by the Public Service Commission which dates back to December 2014. The Committee requests for that report at some point.  While the Executive has its own processes, Parliament too has its own processes. For example, the Executive may have a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report. The Committee has the right to request the SIU to present the report. The Committee has a piece of legislation it expected to be tabled before it. It has not been tabled as yet. The Committee requested DWS to brief it. Two matters are involved in this process - DWS tables the legislation when its own processes are done. It is unfortunate that these processes have been very tedious. A meeting was convened by the House Chairperson two weeks ago where the Committee was informed that no new legislation shall be entertained any time after May. Effectively, this legislation falls away. The new Parliament will have to entertain this legislation. The importance of this new legislation, which brings together water and sanitation, speaks to a number of important factors in so far as, among others, intergovernmental relations, the municipalities’ role and how all this is integrated are concerned. This is something that can be taken into a workshop which can serve as a feeder into that legislation. If the process was started now, it would just belong to the new Parliament after the 2019 election. It can be suggested that some or all Members should be part of that new Committee which then means that the process can be started.

Mr Mnguni agreed with the Chairperson, highlighting that, at the moment, Parliament has 56 Bills to deal with. Bills and legislation also have to go the NCOP and the NCOP’s schedule is already very tight. The new Minister has a lot of energy. Time has been wasted. DWS does not respect the due dates which were given by the Department itself. It is as if people do not like to listen. When returning to a place after a site visit, there should have been a difference. It looks like officials are undermining Members. In Sedibeng, while it cost R2.4 million for three pump stations, the Committee was told they cost more than R300 million. There is something not right with the Department officials. If care was not taken of the small amount of resources Treasury has given the Department, the entire value chain will be destroyed. Many people who lived in the suburbs were not affected by service delivery. If this is not dealt with it is not these people who will have a problem but their families. When senior management is not right, everything crumbles.  It is important for the Acting DG to crack the whip. When the Minister has to be advised, he should be advised correctly. Progress must be seen from the new management. Money should not just go out. Why is DWS building when it is failing to maintain the same one that is here which is not full? Why is chlorine put in the dirty affluent? Why is the Vaal River being dirtied? The attitude has to change.

The Chairperson explained that when the Committee was in the Free State, it was confronted by a very strange situation. The Chief Director explained the Construction Unit is supposed to play some role in taking over some of the Bucket Eradication programmes. In a meeting, she was told by a construction unit it is refusing to do work point blank and was not going to do what was expected of it. Therefore, the Construction Unit cannot be of help in the Bucket Eradication programme. From the point of view of legislation, time is not on the Committee’s side. At best, what can be done is to await that process. When legislation is brought to Parliament, the Committee will take instructions from that point of view.           

Committee Minutes dated 23 May 2018 and 22 August 2018

The Committee proceeded to consider and adopt minutes dated 23 May 2018 and 22 August 2018 with amendments.   

The meeting was adjourned.

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