Water provision to Limpopo residents

Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation

03 March 2020
Chairperson: Ms M Semenya (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Following a February 2020 oversight visit by the Committee to assess water and sanitation infrastructure in Giyani and Polokwane, the Committee called in the National and Limpopo Department of Water and Sanitation to brief it on Limpopo water and sanitation performance and challenges specifically via Nandoni and De Hoop Dams. The Committee found it unacceptable that in spite of a huge financial investment in bulk infrastructure, communities still had not received water.

DWS explained that a major struggle is budget constraints which has resulted in some projects running behind schedule. This can be resolved through investments by the private sector if returns on investments can be assured through acquiring adequate skilled personnel for project planning and project management. It said that there had to be a better way of getting all the grants - such as the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) Regional Bulk Infrastructure Grant - to complement each other as the alignment of grants vary.

Although some bulk infrastructure has been put in place, reticulation has remained an ongoing setback. Reticulation is a municipal function but municipalities failed to develop the needed reticulation infrastructure to pump water to villages. Reticulation is a CoGTA mandate and therefore both departments need to address this challenge.

It identified lack of maintenance of the infrastructure as a key challenge despite municipalities being given a maintenance budget.

The political environment is a challenging on the ground and it noted challenges with traditional leaders, councillors and communities. This needed the intervention of political heads. It said the District Development Model, if implemented properly, will assist in problem solving within municipalities. When institutionalised, the model will allow for resource sharing within districts and therefore assist municipalities in achieving their tasked duties.

DWS noted the difficulty in retaining experienced engineers. The current system is not ideal for smaller municipalities as they cannot afford professional engineers.

The Committee insisted on fast-tracking the delivery of water to the affected communities. Members  recommended that they engage communities and the traditional leaders. The Western Cape Province model was suggested where the provincial government has a pool of approved engineers which can be allocated to a specific municipality for a specific function and are paid according to an approved set amount. If this model is used, municipalities will not need to issue tenders or negotiate salaries.

Meeting report

The Chairperson noted an apology from the Minister and Deputy Minister.

Provision of water to Limpopo residents from Nandoni and De Hoop Dam briefing
Ms Lucy Kobe, DWS Limpopo Head, said that Limpopo is a semi-arid to arid province with a high varying temperature which leads to high evaporation rate. Most of the rivers in Limpopo flow periodically and this affects the availability of water. As of 20 February, both dams had high capacity levels: Nandoni (102%) and De Hoop (93%). However, the current water demands exceed the water supply.

Nandoni Dam overview
The Nandoni Dam was constructed in the year 1998 to 2005 and services three water service authorities.
The five pipelines from the Nandoni dam to Mukomaasinanndu pipeline, Mavambe, Thohoyandou, Makhado and Nsami supplies a total of 72 settlements, with the Nsami pipeline still under construction. Sinthumule Kutama Bulk Water Supply (BWS) project (Valdezia reservoir to Mowkop) which was to be completed by June 2019 but later revised to November 2020 is still under construction. Nandoni Water Treatment Works to Vuwani (NR7) initiated in October 2014 is yet to be completed with an expenditure of R115 million. The completion timeframe for the bulk pipeline to Giyani and Malamulele was also revised to September 2020.

De Hoop Dam overview
The De Hoop Dam was constructed in June 2007 and officially opened in March 2014. It services four water service authorities. There are four water pipelines, with two still under planning and design that supply four settlements and Burgerfort which is supplied through the Labelelo scheme in the interim. The present challenges to date include delays in finalising acquisition of land, removal of stockpile, land acquisition and funding availability.

Mooihoek bulk water supply project
The project of construction of water pipelines and a reservoir that will supply water to Burgersfort and communities en route is anticipated to be completed in March 2022. The pipeline is still under construction and the challenges to date are unauthorised connections and community building of structures on top of completed pipelines.

Nebo bulk water supply project
The pipeline will supply water to the 40 villages in Nebo Plateau and currently areas are benefiting from completed phases. The anticipated completion is March 2021. The challenges to date are poor performance of contractors and delayed commission of pipelines.

Strategic challenges and considerations
Mr Mbulelo Tshangana, Water and Sanitation Acting Director General, said that the intention of the presentation was to highlight the issues around bulk water supply in Limpopo, focusing specifically on the two dams. One major struggle DWS is currently dealing with is the budget constraints, which has resulted in some of the projects running behind schedule. It would be ideal for all projects run on schedule so that the water can be supplied where it is most needed. It is not enough to have water sources, but water service needs to be prioritised. The bulk water distribution, which will be conveyed via the pipelines, is for meant for reticulation to households and the system should be reliable for distribution of water to households. All projects are intended to cover this objective.

He pointed out that operating within a political environment is a challenging task and the Deputy Minister, the Minister and the Portfolio Committee have a role to play as this links to some of the challenges encountered on the ground. The role of administrators is not to engage with traditional leaders – that is a role to be played by the political heads. The starting point for success in project implementation is for administrators to perform their own roles such as engaging with the communities. In some cases there have been challenges with the councillors and these need to be addressed. The President called a meeting and the intention is to initiate a model that will address challenges through the District Development Model, which if implemented properly, will assist in problem solving within municipalities.

Mr Tshangana said that the core funding for strategic bulk infrastructure works in some cases and in some it does not. Core funding is needed to prioritise bulk distribution and reticulation and therefore there has to be a better way of getting all these grants - such as the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) Regional Bulk Infrastructure Grant - to complement each other as the alignment of grants vary.

He highlighted that even in areas where bulk infrastructure has been delivered there is question of reliability of the infrastructure that has been delivered. This is a key challenge since infrastructure needs to be maintained. Statistics South Africa states that access to services in the country currently sits at 90% which means most households have access to water. However, the challenges are with the maintenance of the infrastructure.

Both municipalities and the Department are expected to provide and maintain bulk infrastructure and these need to be aligned. South Africa is struggling to retain experienced engineers, the majority of which are aging and the conveyer belt which is assigned to get new engineers actively involved in projects is not as effective as it needs to be. The municipalities where regional bulk infrastructure has been distributed do not have professional engineers and rely on service providers which is risky as there should be in-house professionals. To address this challenge the Department is working with Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA) and Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) to see how best to manage the crisis as municipalities continue to not have the capacity needed for the assigned projects.

Mr L Basson (DA) said that the Department sits with a dilemma in financing of projects. The Minister shared that the private sector needs to assist in financing. He suggested that it is better for the Department to borrow the money for projects and budget for the payments over a period of time. He emphasised that at the end of the day communities need to be supplied with water and funding should not be an obstacle.

The current system is not ideal for smaller municipalities as they cannot afford professional engineers. The Western Cape Province uses a model where the provincial government has a pool of approved engineers which can be allocated to a specific municipality for a specific function and are paid according to an approved amount. The Department, Limpopo and CoGTA should consider the idea as it is unacceptable that the bulk infrastructure is in its current state. If this model is used, municipalities will not need to issue tenders or negotiate salaries.

Mr X Ngwezi (IFP) pointed out that on page 11 it has been depicted that the Nandoni to Nsami pipeline project is under construction. He asked if this referred to the reticulation process or the bulk infrastructure supply. The presentation should go beyond mentioning villages without infrastructure but rather give clarity on the number of people/households that these pipelines will benefit. He suggested this be clarified in the future.

Reticulation is within the scope of CoGTA and therefore both the Department and CoGTA should be present in these meetings to account for their responsibility. To deal with the challenges within the municipalities, there should be laws put in place to prevent these problems.

Mr S August (GOOD) asked about Department plans in addressing reticulation as this has been an ongoing challenge in places such as Giyani where there have been periods of up to seven days without water supply.

He asked about the Department's skills in project management and project readiness as there are still delays on some projects eight years from commencement date. How does the Department deal with contractors who default on their duties?

Mr August added that there should be presentation explaining the District Development Model (DDM) so the Committee is able to understand what is being discussed.

Ms G Tseke (ANC) mentioned that on page 23 it reported that to complete the Olifants River Water Resources Development Project (ORWRDP) Phase 2E and 2F there needs to be off-budget funding. She asked if in this instance, the mandate of the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA) is not being compromised and what the implications of that are. The Olifants River Water project (ORWDP-2D) was initiated in March 2015 but is still in the design stage while the money that has been spent to date is huge and there is no information on how this will be resolved.

She highlighted that it is important to get the breakdown on how many jobs have been created through all the projects.

Ms N Mvana (ANC) pointed out that the presentation gives a picture that all is well. However, reality does not paint the same picture. She was concerned about the time taken to complete the projects. The Committee needs to know when the communities will receive water. What was visible from one of their community visits was that the Department was not engaging with the community.

Mr N Tseki (ANC) said that there needs to be a complete project plan, and this should be a principle. The challenges presented will not be ongoing challenges if project planning is dealt with. If the private sector is to be involved in a project, all stakeholders should have been included before the initiation of the process. He asked where Majosi pipeline and Vondo South RWS NN20D are linked to.

Ms N Sihlwayi (ANC) mentioned that Limpopo has a population of 5.6 million, five district municipalities and 23 local municipalities. She asked if all the district municipalities are involved in the issues discussed and if those that are not mentioned are without water challenges.

She asked for clarity on the plan for Giyani and if it intervenes in the old dysfunctionality or it is specifically targeted at new areas or districts. There are pipelines distributed to some villages while some have none and asked if those without pipelines shown already have water supply. Page 18 stated that the storage of water commenced in September 2011. She asked what was happening to the water before that time and from where it was sourced. She asked if there is reticulation but not the availability of water sources.

Addressing the challenges in Limpopo, Ms Sihlwayi said that during the Committee visit there was visible conflict with councillors. Traditional authorities also have a programme for development and business has turned water to their own needs without the consent from municipalities. If people were involved in the early stages of the projects these conflicts would have been avoided. The Department must engage communities and there should be clear communication and people should be capacitated on how development works.

Ms Sihlwayi asked when it would be ideal for the Committee to intervene when projects are delayed as they are unaware of a number of challenges within the Department and suggested that there should be transparency between the Committee and the Department. The Giyani issue should be solved as the Department had promised to resolve the problems within the area.

Mr M Mabika (DA) said after the Committee visited Giyani, it becomes difficult to believe what the Department had presented as this does not correlate with reality. Page 15 highlights that the overall progress is 53.6% while there is nothing that reflects that in Giyani. He asked for the estimated set timeframe for increased water security. As 60% of the budget has already been spent, this implies that the project is moving towards completion which is not the reality.

He asked for an update on the R6 million infrastructure that has been completed but is currently not being used. The answer given to the question about non-functioning infrastructure, was the lack of engineering skills, which is not a valid reason. There needs to be clarity on what steps are being taken to address the pending issues as there is more money needed to complete the project.

Mr Tseki noted that project completion dates have been revised and he asked for the reasons for these decisions. He asked what the cost implications are when such decisions are made.

The Chairperson mentioned that the municipalities were instructed to be present in the meeting in order to address reticulation and explain why people do not have access to water. Their absence leaves the Committee without answers.

Department response
Mr Tshangana explained that CoGTA is the driver of the DDM and it is only fitting that it should present the concept to the Committee.

Ms Sihlwayi said that the Department officials should respond to the questions not the DG. Her concern was that those responsible for work done at ground level should respond and not the DG speak on their behalf.

The Chairperson said the Member was out of order as it is the responsibility of the DG to account to the Committee.

Mr Tshangana replied that the DDM is a strategic, new model that the President has introduced, and it has been launched in three districts (OR Tambo, eThekwini and Waterberg Districts). The biggest challenge that the Department is facing is reticulation, and not so much on the water sources as these are available. Reticulation is a municipal function according to the Constitution. However, the reality is that municipalities and water service providers are struggling when it comes to reticulation and the Department can assist in such cases.

When the concept Siyenza Manje was introduced in 2004, the intention was to have a pool of engineers to support municipalities. However, the programme was not institutionalised and as such it was not sustained. The DDM is to institutionalise the approach of coming up with a single plan within a district so that all parties involved are clear on what needs to be done within that same district. Instead of blaming municipalities, all resources will be pooled together to deal with the problems at a district level. The districts will also share resources under the sharing arrangement.

The Department will not be able to solve all the problems in Limpopo using the current fiscus and the question is what can be done to leverage funding from the private sector. A model to address this was designed and presented by DBSA and the DWS. The model aims to use a portion to leverage more funding from the private sector. It is evident that the biggest challenge is not funding but a lack of project management and private funders want to be sure of the return on their investment. This is a proper financing mechanism which has been used in countries such as Brazil and Singapore unlike the front loading mechanism which has its own limitations.

Mr Tshangana clarified that there are two Giyani projects. The Nandoni and Mopane pipeline both are to serve the same problem which is bulk distribution and reticulation. He emphasised that the provision of bulk pipeline is a means to an end and is provided with the intention for reticulation. The Department wants to take on the reticulation challenge although this is the responsibility of municipalities, together with CoGTA.

The reason for water not coming out of taps is directly linked to the reliability and maintenance of the infrastructure and that budget goes to municipalities. A decision needs to be made if there is a better institution to manage infrastructure maintenance.

Ms Kobe replied that the number of jobs created can be clarified at a later stage as the figures have not been fully supplied for every project.

The private sector related to the Olifants River Water Resources Development Project (ORWRDP) Phase 2B pipeline is the mining house and the volume of water needed is both for economic and social benefit. The Department has been struggling with acquiring funding from the private sector as the stipulated budget is found to be exorbitant.

In reply to the question on the lack of information on district municipalities, Ms Kobe replied that the presentation dealt specifically on the Nandoni and De Hoop Dams.

Mr Leonardo Manus, DWS Acting DDG: Infrastructure Development, replied that ORWRDP-2E and ORWRDP-2F are still in planning phase and they connect to the Polokwane schemes. The ORWRDP-2B pipeline is an offset as water will be taken to Mogalakwena Local Municipality and hence the need to complete Phase 2. [inaudible] Currently the fiscus has been reducing year on year, and the department decided not to take up loans as this would have resulted in higher water costs that would not be affordable for Polokwane local residents. Project planning and implementation [inaudible].

In addressing project readiness, Mr Manus admitted that for all bulk projects the department needs the Implementation Readiness Study (IRS) as this will assist when there are projects that have not been budgeted for. This has helped before. However, the social factors that arise have not been accounted for during the planning process and this has exacerbated some of the delays.

A Limpopo department official noted that the progress seen in Giyani is the result of two projects  [inaudible].

Mr Tshangana added that it is the responsibility of the Departments to provide leadership to sort out some of the challenges which may arise. In Limpopo, some of the municipalities are not comfortable with the Department using implementing agents in their areas especially where there are water service authorities. The bulk pipelines passing through villages are a challenge as communities resort to protests. Such challenges cannot be resolved by municipalities as they are already overworked.

Even in areas where there has been a success in reticulation, such as that seen in the Eastern Cape, there still remains the challenge of infrastructure maintenance to ensure continued water supply. There will be reticulation in the province of Limpopo, however, the challenge of maintenance remains.

With the DDM, the Department will be in a better position to prioritise as budgeting at a municipal level is different to budgeting at a provincial and national level. In project planning, the Project Readiness Matrix has to be prioritised. However, even if this has been implemented, the built environment is structured in a way that there will always be challenges that arise.

Mr Tshangana said that there needs to be a meeting with the traditional leaders and the Deputy Minister has been asked to intervene in these cases.

The Chairperson said that there is a gap that needs to be clarified within the three spheres of government. She asked that the DG conveys the Committee's concerns to these three spheres. The Committee would like to see collaboration between the parties to address the challenges and to speed up the provision of water to the people. The presentations should include all necessary information which would be helpful to answer the Committee's questions.

Limpopo Municipal Performance on Water Services
Mr Leonardo Manus, DWS Acting DDG: Infrastructure Development, presented.

Part A: Municipal performance as per regulator evaluation
Limpopo municipality waste water treatment works (WWTW) comprises 61 waste water treatment facilities, with an 80% performance percentage, design capacity of 198.4 Ml/d an average inflow of 159.3 Ml/d. The Limpopo wastewater quality compliance involves monitoring a number of systems. Not all systems are currently being monitored. These were all outlined (see document) such as Greater Sekhukune has 17 systems which are inconsistently monitored; a single system is monitored in Mogalakwena; and some data in Mopani is not complying with standards. Several interventions have been put in place to ensure compliance: A number of WWTW have been issued with notices or directives and a court order for Modimolle-Mookgophong Local Municipality.

Challenges were identified as follows:
• WWTWs are overloaded (they are due for upgrade)
• Partially treated effluent – poor process controlling
• Poor sludge management
• Process controllers and maintenance team are not complying with the Regulation 813
• Poor Operation and Maintenance.
• Limited access to waste water treatment works
• The Waste Water Risk Abatement Plan are not reviewed and implemented
• Non uploading of effluent quality results on the IRIS of a monthly basis
• Non responsive to issued notices and directives.

Part B: Status of water services technical reports – MIG monthly reporting as at February 2020
Challenges: Poor quality of technical reports, lack of integrated planning, non-compliance with reporting guidelines, incomplete funding and implementing unregistered projects. One out of 10 water services authorities have approved Water Services Development Plans (WSDP).

Water Services Authorities (WSAs) should:
• Commit to comply with MIG schedule
• Improve on water services planning
•  Review and adopt Water Services Development Plans
•  Conduct  feasibility studies to inform tech reports
• Appoint Professional Engineers for water services planning
• Effect final PSP payment after delivering recommended
• Adhere to the Technical Reports guidelines / format
• Always submit signed Technical Report
• Complete funded projects
• Register project before implementation

Part C: Grant spending trend on transfers from 2017/18 to 2019/20
The MTEF regional bulk infrastructure grant for the Polokwane municipality amount was: 2017/18 35%, 18/19 100% 19/20 46% so overall 66.4%. The Water services infrastructure grant for Limpopo municipalities was 2017/18 75%, 18/19 67%, 19/20 65%. Expenditure by municipalities is slow, it will pick up during last quarter of the municipal financial year ending 30 June.

Ms S Mokgotho (EFF) noted on page 13 that the challenges stated are the same challenges the Committee saw during their visit to Giyani. The Department had promised to resolve these challenges. There was evidently poor operation and maintenance of wastewater treatment plants and nothing has been done so far.

They have been told that operators and process controllers are supposed to make sure that plants are maintained but seemingly these officials are not performing their duties. She asked if there are interventions and strict measures being taken by the Department towards such individuals. With no proper control and maintenance the introduction of the DDM will result in fruitless expenditure.

Mr Tseki said the department is indeed facing challenges. He asked if the information given on pages 5, 7, 8 and 10 can be linked when it comes to performance as productivity varies. He referred to the challenge on page 13 about process controllers and maintenance teams not complying with the National Water Act Regulation 813. He asked if these individuals are simply not complying or is it due to the conditions there that they cannot comply with the regulations. DWS noted one of the problems is when storm water moves into the wastewater pipes, which then increases the total capacity. The community needs to be educated on such matters. DWS should find ways to deal with lack of planning as this cannot be taken as a valid reason. He asked for clarity on the figures in the table on page 20.

The Chairperson asked what the budget allocated to Mogalakwena was spent on as people remain without water. Moving forward, there needs to be a plan in place to deal with the challenges clearly stipulating timeframes and avoiding changing deadlines.

Department response
Mr Tshangana acknowledged that there is a big problem. The wastewater treatment plants are not functioning which has environmental implications that become costly to rehabilitate. 58% of wastewater treatment plants are not functional. CoGTA needs to assist as its mandate is to provide support to municipalities. Most wastewater treatment plants are old and have reached the end of their lifecycle which is why performance has degraded. New technologies function optimally and DWS wants to look into these.

Mr Tshangana mentioned that in the restructuring of the Department, there has been talk on establishing a Water Infrastructure Managing Agent and a Cash Management Agency which can assist with taking over some of the municipalities.

The consolidation the municipal and regional structured grants has been a conversation that started in 2015 and is being headed by National Treasury and is not yet completed. Consolidation of grants has to be done with care as the biggest problem is not the capital part but the [inaudible].

Ms Kobe replied that there is a typing error page 20 that will be fixed. Clear information on the projects will be made available to the Committee.

Mr Tseki asked that the Fetakgomo and Thabazimbi Local Municipalities be explained.

Ms Kobe explained that Thabazimbi was allocated R20 million when they submitted a draft business plan, however, they could not finalise their plan. That is why that municipality project could not be done.

Mr Manus noted that page 12 explains the measures taken by DWS in dealing with institutions which do not comply with stated regulations. Municipal officials are appointed by the municipalities and do not report to DWS. However, they are trying to ensure that networks are formed amongst municipalities.

The wastewater treatment plants need to be operated optimally to avoid the dysfunction in the system. There are three points of entry for storm water and the entry of the water into the systems dilutes wastewater and results in significant problems.

Mr Tshangana remarked that the entire system needs to work as many wastewater treatment plants are not functioning, and this contributes to the pollution seen in the Vaal River.

The Chairperson mentioned that advocacy is important in educating people on what could potentially damage the system. In Mopane there was a wastewater treatment plant that was new but not working and she asked why unspent money is sent back to Treasury rather than being used to fix the plant.

Ms Kobe replied that when the municipalities plan water projects they need to be under the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) and the Water for Growth and Development (WfGD) framework as DWS is unable to intervene if this is not the case.

The Chairperson asked that DWS emphasise to the municipalities that when money is not spent and is sent to National Treasury, it is not returned back. This affects the ability of the Committee to advocate for grant allocations to the Department from National Treasury, resulting in targets not being achieved.

Meeting adjourned.

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