This meeting was mainly for Members of the Committee and officials of the Department to share and gather information. It was the first meeting of the Committee under the new administration, so it served multiple purposes. For the most part, it was there for the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation (DHSWS) to make a brief presentation on its plans and objectives coming to the second half of the year.
Much of what was discussed included reports that related to the previous administration, so many of the questions relating to that period could not be answered as adequately as the Committee had hoped. What was also apparent was that the Department had a lot of people who were in acting positions. The Committee wanted this to be changed as soon as possible, because they felt that it would hinder the kind of work that the Department was supposed to be doing if they had not filled the vacancies that were necessary to execute those responsibilities. It was agreed that the Department would come back with answers that had more substance at a later stage.
The Deputy Minister: Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, congratulated the Members on being part of this Committee. He made a brief presentation on the plans of the Department in this administration and for this financial year. He talked about how the President had decided to keep the two Departments separate, despite the fact that they would be under the leadership of Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, with two Deputy Ministers leading their respective Departments.
The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) focused mainly on its programmes for the next five years and their plans to meet their targets. These programmes covered administration, water planning and information management, infrastructure development and water sector regulation. These all had different budget and time lines as to when the Department planned to complete the strategic objectives that were intertwined with each project
The Chairperson highlighted the importance of this Committee, in particular for the betterment of peoples’ lives in South Africa. Water was life and a very important and scarce resource. A lot should therefore be done by the Committee to make sure that it scrutinised the work of the Department. The Deputy Minister and the Department were an important part of the executive, who as a result should be held to account for the power that they had. As Chairperson, he would facilitate that process, to make sure that everything was done well throughout the tenure of this Committee.
Mr K Motsamai (EFF, Gauteng) raised a point of order. He said that the documents for the meeting had been handed out the day before. They should have been given adequate time to study the report and understand it well.
The Chairperson asked for introductions to be completed first, and Mr Motsamai’s query could be attended to later in the meeting.
Ms M Mmola (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked for members of the delegations to be introduced because they had never met them before, so it was appropriate for them to be properly introduced to the Select Committee.
The Chairperson reintroduced himself and asked for the suggestions to be noted. He asked that the Deputy Minister be allowed to make his introductory remarks, especially since this was the first official meeting for the Committee under the new administration.
Deputy Minister’s overview
Mr David Mahlobo, Deputy Minister: Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, said that everyone in the room was there because they had been mandated by the people to serve them well. He was looking forward to working with the Committee to make this mandate achievable. It was not going to be easy to achieve, but his commitment would be transparent, and would he account to the Committee whenever this was needed.
The Department had done a good job in the fifth administration, but there had been challenges. It had delivered more than four million homes, but even that had not been without challenges. There was still the issue of ownership of these homes. There was a backlog in the issuing of title deeds to the people.
He emphasised the importance of human settlements in South Africa. Even though the government had made significant strides in making water accessible to the communities, a number of problems were still at play. He referred to people having to walk long distances to get to clean water, taps not working in places where infrastructure had been installed, and the looming matter of water scarcity in this country.
The purpose of this meeting was to provide a high-level overview of the Department’s plan for this financial year. The budgets would later be recalibrated. Everything had to be fitted in to the overall picture of the National Development Plan (NDP). Some changes would have to be made, and these would mostly pertain to implementation. The Department would be following a new implementation model, one that was going to be more comprehensive regarding what the projects were going to be, when they were going to be, how they were going to be, and the different times frames during which they were going to be completed.
Mr Motsamai raised a point of order, saying he would rather the meeting went to the agenda so that the main issues could be dealt with in time.
The Chairperson responded that the reason the Deputy Minister was being so elaborate in his remarks was because this was the first meeting under the new administration. He not only had to introduce his plan, but also provide a clear definition of the two Departments that had been merged under the new Ministry of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation.
Deputy Minister Mahlobo told the Committee about how the President had decided to keep the two Departments separate, although they would be under the overall leadership of Minister Lindiwe Sisulu. He asked for the members of his delegation to be introduced the Committee.
Mr Squire Mahlangu, who would be the Acting Director-General in the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), and whose official designation was the Accounting Officer for the Department, introduced some members of his delegation. They were
Mr Joseph Shabane; Ms Sindisiwe Ngxongo, Chief Operations Officer; Ms Funani Mahlatsi, Chief Financial Officer; and Mr Milile Kraba, Parliamentary Liaison Officer.
Mr Motsamai raised a point of order and said because there were a number of complexities in the presentation by the Department -- which he was yet to understand because he had not been given enough time to read through the APP and other documents -- it should perhaps be tabled at a later meeting when everyone would have thoroughly read it.
Mr A Gxoyiya (ANC, Northern Cape) responded that this presentation was being tabled specifically for information sharing purposes. It would not be wrong not to have the right questions at this stage, because there would be a time later in the year when the Department would be called to answer to this presentation. As it stood now, their main goal was to report on the findings that they had made for this financial year. Postponing this meeting would put the Committee under pressure, as it would mean there would have to be rescheduling of a lot meetings that had been planned for the year. That would be a logistical nightmare, as Members also sat on other Committees as well.
The Chairperson advised that time would be designated for the presentation and for the subsequent engagements to ensure that the meeting had structure. There was a lot to get through, so setting time limits would be essential in making sure that everyone got to speak, and even more important was the time for Members to engage with the reports that they were being presented with.
Mr Mbulelo Tshangana, Director General: Department of Human Settlements (DHS) made a brief introductory presentation to the Committee before excusing himself to join Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and Deputy Minister Pam Tshwete at another meeting.
Annual Performance Plan: Department of Water and Sanitation
Deputy Minister Mahlobo said there might be a need to look at the legacy report of the previous Committee to get a better understanding of some of the issues that the Department was struggling with. He conceded that there were a number of problems, like people who were on suspension because of maladministration and the Department’s inadequate technical facilities in dealing with matters that required skill. It was all a matter of stabilisation, and this was partly the reason why there were many officials who were in acting positions
The presentation was headed by Mr Squire Mahlangu, who would be the Acting Director-General in the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS). There were four programmes that the Department would be undertaking:
Programme One -- Administration
The aim of this project was to provide strategic leadership, management and support services to the Department. It was also there to develop and promote international relations on water resources between neighbouring countries. The objective was targeted and sustained African and global cooperation in support of the national water and sanitation agenda, and informed and empowered communities and responsive government securing integrated and sustainable partnerships to support the water and sanitation development agenda. The plan was to have completed 100% of these strategic objectives by 2021/22. For the years 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22 the costs of this project would be R1.8 billion, R1.99 billion and R2.1 billion respectively
Programme Two -- Water Planning and Information Management
The aim of this project was to ensure that the country’s water resources were protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled in a sustainable manner for the benefit of all people and the environment. It further aimed to develop a knowledge base and implement effective policies, procedures and integrated planning strategies for water resources, and water and sanitation services. The strategic focus areas for this programme were enhanced management of water and sanitation information, integrity of freshwater ecosystems protected, and enhanced water use efficiency and management of water quantity. For the years 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22, the cost of this project would be R970.3 million; R1.03 billion and R1.1 billion respectively.
Programme Three -- Water Infrastructure Development
This programme involves developing, rehabilitating and refurbishing raw water resources and water and sanitation services infrastructure to meet the socio-economic and environmental needs of South Africa. The strategic objective of this project was adequate water availability and enhanced provision of a sustainable and reliable water supply and sanitation services, a safe, reliable and sustainable water supply, and water and sanitation services infrastructure. The programme would focus on targeted rural development initiatives that supported smallholder farmers, and created job opportunities that expanded economic opportunities for historically excluded and vulnerable groups. For the years 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22, the cost of this project would be R13.2 billion, R13.9 billion and R14.9 billion respectively.
Programme Four -- Water Sector Regulation
This programme was to ensure the development, implementation, monitoring and review of regulations across the water and sanitation value chain, in accordance with the provisions of the National Water Act (1998), the Water Services Act (1997) and related water and sanitation policies. The strategic objectives of this programme were for water resources to be protected through water supply and sanitation services regulation, compliance monitoring and enforcement; freshwater eco-systems protected from Acid Mine Drainage (AMD); equitable water allocation and availability for socio-economic development; and sound governance and oversight of the DWS public entities. For the years 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22 the cost of this project would be R462.6 million, R440 million and R453.3 million respectively.
Because of time constraints for the meeting, Mr Mahlangu could not go in-depth with the budget allocations of the Department.
Department of Human Settlements: APP budget
The presentation of the Department of Human Settlements (DHS) was cut very short due to time constraints, and focused mainly on a breakdown of the budget allocation in the APP. In the current financial year, the Cabinet had introduced further baseline budget cuts that amounted to over R2.2 billion over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), from R107.8 billion to R105.2 billion.
The Department’s 2019/20 budget allocation was R33.9 billion, which was broken down as follows:
- R31.7 billion (93.9%) was allocated to grants. Of that, R18.8 billion would be going to Human Settlements and the remaining R12 billion would be allocated to the Urban Settlements Development Grant (USDG).
- R1.2 billion was allocated to Human Settlements entities.
- R843.3 million was for the Department’s operations.
Of the R843.9 million allocated for operations, 48.1% was going towards compensation of employees, 51.5% for goods and services, and R3.4 million (0.4%) was for capital assets.
In the overall budget, an additional R814.5 million had been allocated specifically for the Integrated National Electrification Programme (INEP). A further R647 million had been allocated for the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Disaster Recovery Grant.
Ms S Shaik (ANC, Limpopo) wanted more clarity on the timelines of the different projects -- the dates on which they were planned to be completed. She said that when it came to presentations of this nature, she would like for there to be a clear indication of the plans of the Department going forward so that the Committee had a clear understanding behind the decisions being taken to bring these programmes to life. She had noticed that there were a couple of issues that the provinces seemed to be facing. What measures the Department had put in place to support provinces struggling to execute these programmes? What happened to the objectives that had not been achieved -- what did the Department do in such instances, and what happened to the funds that had been allocated to those projects?
Ms Mmola wanted to find out why the Northern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga had only four projects. She also wanted to know whether there was a plan to deal with the title deeds backlog.
Mr Gxoyiya commented that people like military veterans, who had fought long and hard for the democracy enjoyed today, should not be without the security of having title deeds for their properties. He also asked if Members could be given the Auditor General’s (AG’s) report so that it could be used to assess the success of the Department’s current programmes.
Ms Z Ncitha (ANC, Eastern Cape) said there was a concerning number of illegal occupants on private land, and wanted to find out if the Department had any plans to curb the increase in illegal occupations in South Africa. She also enquired about the support that was given to municipalities, particularly regarding the progress that the Department had made with the training it was giving to them, so that it could be monitored.
Mr E Mthethwa (ANC, KZN)) had a particular in interest on what the Department was doing to monitor the use of private land. He mentioned that a number of land owners buy land and sell it years later so that they can make profit off of it, but did not have any intention of developing it. What was the Department doing about that? This was in context of the fact that there could not simply be vacant land that could be used for the benefit of the people, but was not being made available because the land owner was waiting for it increase in value. He also wanted to know what measures the Department had when provinces under-delivered on their targets for a particular financial year.
The Chairperson referred to the performance of the Department for the last five years in the previous administration, and said it had managed to achieve only 52% of all its set targets. He wanted clarity on why this was, and importantly, what the Department was doing about it. He also commented on the objectives that have been set by the Department, commenting that they did not seem to be corresponding well with the mandate that had been set by the President regarding implementation and alignment with the National Development Plan (NDP). He said that the presentation had given no details on the impact that its programmes had on the people -- how they had impacted on the lives of women and children, for example. It also seemed as if the Department was not paying much attention to sustainable rural development, as there did not seem to be any plans to encourage rural development. People in rural provinces needed opportunities to sustain themselves, and the lack of these was what pushes them to come to the cities.
He also wanted to know what the role of the Department’s entities was, and what their function was in improving rural development. He added that the Department had to do better when came to providing for military veterans, saying that of the 3 000 houses that were supposed to have been built for them, only 500 had actually been built.
Deputy Minister Mahlobo responded to some of the questions. He indicated that the APP report contained a lot detail about the current programmes being run by the Department, and suggested that the Department should perhaps come back at a later stage to respond to all the in-depth questions relating to the current programmes.
When it came to the issue of unlawful occupation of land, this was an inter-governmental matter that could not be dealt with only by the Department of Human Settlements, but required the collaboration of different departments to curb this challenge. He said that this was what the President meant when he was talking about integrated human settlements. The same applied to the matter of vacant land not being put to good use, even though it could be developed for the benefit of those in it, or near it. Essentially, the Department was asking if it could be given an opportunity to further engage with the Committee on its current and previous programmes.
Mr Mthethwa asked the DHS to come up with more comprehensive answers the next time around. He said the Department seemed to be under-performing, and wanted them to come up with answers as to why this was happening. There were a lot of officials in acting positions, and this had to be attended to quickly, because two things result from someone assuming an acting role -- they were overworked in fulfilling both their original designation and the new acting role, or one of the two would suffer from neglect as the other may be too demanding.
He had also noticed that there were a significant number of outsourced companies working with local governments. From what he understood, the government was moving away from hiring external work, so why was this happening? Was it because of a lack on technical skills in the Department? He also commented that the Northern Cape had two rivers where the water was allowed to wash into the ocean. Considering that there was now mining activity taking place in that province, perhaps more steps should be taken to channel this water so that it became usable for the benefit of the people living there. Better measures had to be taken to improve the quality of water so it could be declared safe to use in that province.
Ms Ncitha asked for a detailed report on Zimvubu dam -- what had been completed, what had not, and how long it would be before it was completed.
Mr Motsamai commented on the matter of having soldiers being used to cover work that have been done by the Department, saying the role of soldiers was to protect the country in times distress. He also noted that along the Vaal River, people were drinking water from the same place as animals.
Mr Mahlobo again acknowledged that his delegation would need more time in dealing with the in-depth nature of the questions that had been asked by the Committee. He said there was a municipal programme established by the President to improve their capabilities. He said that it was not necessarily that they were not capacitated with the tools and infrastructure, but just needed to learn how to use them in a manner that was appropriate.
The meeting was adjourned.