COVID-19 initiatives on water, sanitation & de-densification: briefing by Minister and DHS

Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation

21 April 2020
Chairperson: Ms R Semenya (ANC) & Mr C Dodovu (ANC, North West)
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Meeting Summary

Audio can be downloaded at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1IIoQ992RyuCgNKi6x4TgVN7yyaBqb8wA/view?usp=sharing

COVID-19: Regulations and Guidelines
Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002|
Media Statement - 18 April 2020
Media Statement 1 - 21 April 2020
Media Statement 2- April 2020

The joint Portfolio Committee and Select Committee on Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation were addressed jointly by the Minister, Deputy Minister, Director-General and chairperson of the National Command Centre. 

A report was given on the impact and initiatives undertaken in providing water and sanitation to communities, as well as the initiatives undertaken on de-densification of settlements during the COVID-19 lockdown period. Praise was given for the efforts of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) and the Department of Human Settlements (DHS), while issues involving challenges with implementation were discussed.

Due to the proclamation of a state of disaster, the DHS was governed by the Disaster Management Act (2002), necessitating the establishment of a National Command Centre, chaired by the chief executive officer of Rand Water. By 20 April, 7 698 water tanks had been installed across the country, while 1 239 water tankers had been delivered as well. These figures were moving targets which changed on a daily basis as more delivery occurred.

In the DWS, R306 million had been secured from the Department, and a further R831 million had been requested from the National Treasury.

The DHS reported that de-densification projects had been expedited to curb the spread of COVID-19, as overcrowding had been identified as a major issue, particularly in informal settlements, city centres and hostels. A ruling had been made by that no evictions were to be made during this time, as they were now illegal. Both the DWS and DHS were providing hygiene support to officials and some households where possible, but the budget for this was limited. 

The Committee commended both departments for the work done so far, but also raised pertinent questions about the implementation and co-ordination of efforts, key issues and the approaches to be adopted after the era of the COVID-19 pandemic had ended.

Meeting report

Co-chairperson Dodovu started the meeting by stating that the meeting was historic, as it took place at a time when the country was facing a crisis of immense magnitude. The government needed to respond to the crisis by mitigating issues associated with water, sanitation and human settlements. Two presentations would be given about the implications of and responses to COVID-19. The first would relate to water and sanitation, and the second to human settlements.

Because of the nature of the virtual meeting, it was decided that both presentations would be given, after which questions would be taken, when more Members had been able to log in.

Mr Dodovu warmly commended the exemplary leadership of the Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Ms Lindiwe Sisulu, and invited her to present her address.

Minister on COVID-19 impact

Minister Sisulu briefed the Members regarding the impact of the COVID-19 virus on communities without access to a continuous supply of piped potable water, and initiatives undertaken by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) and the related expenditure.

She said she needed to leave within an hour for an urgent doctor’s appointment, before returning to Johannesburg to meet with aggrieved community members, as promised. However, there were staff members attending on her behalf who could take further questions.

Since the announcement of the state of disaster by the President, significant changes had been made. The Department had suspended the work as usual and put in place a Command Council and Command Centre. This unit (NATJOINTS) would do security assessments for the Department. Directors-General of the DWS and Department of Human Settlements (DHS) reported to the Command Council on a regular basis, and it met two to three times per week, or as needed. Both Departments’ key priority at this time was to change the way they worked in order to ensure the delivery of essential services.

Water and Sanitation

Minister Sisulu turned her attention first to water and sanitation issues.

The Command Centre had been established by regulation under the National Disaster Act (2002) and was based at the Rand Water Board. The chairperson of the Command Centre was the chief executive officer (CEO) of Rand Water, which was connected to all water boards, municipalities and relevant municipal managers. The Command Centre had been visited by the President, with approximately 96 people in attendance via video link. Because the DWS had been declared an essential service, everyone in the Department from director upwards had been working on a regular basis, and for longer hours than normal.

Because of the instructions and drive by the President, the Department of Health (DoH) and World Health Organisation (WHO) to get citizens washing their hands, efforts by the Ministry of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation had been diverted to emphasise the provision of water.  The Minister described the almost ‘military approach’ to addressing this through the Command Centre. 

Achievements

The Minister congratulated her team on their exceptional achievements during the first two weeks of the nationwide lockdown. Areas had been identified within municipalities for water tankers to be stationed, such as easily accessible places like schools and hospitals. Furthermore, an agreement had been reached with the Minister of Education that water could be obtained from schools in areas under particular distress. It was unfortunate that this had fallen away because of the vandalism of schools, however.

The DWS had also secured exclusive access to water tanks from manufacturers, and had purchased these for municipalities in distress throughout South Africa.  Within two weeks, approximately 8 000 tanks had been distributed. This was to continue.

Water tanks were owned by the Department to ensure that the water was of high enough quality, and to centralise the distribution of water under the Central Command. Months before the COVID-19 lockdown, it had been decided between the DHS and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) that the private delivery of water would no longer be allowed because of the possibility of corruption in the system. This had been conveyed to all municipalities. Eventually, the DHS intended to buy all the trucks delivering water, and to allow the previous businesses to drive government-owned trucks.

On a regular basis, staff of the DHS met with the Command Centre. They had also established a toll-free number, which would be provided to Members. The portal would allow for individuals to log faults/problems with the provision of water. Going forward, this approach would be taken to provide water to communities who did not have access to water after the lockdown. Tanks would remain cemented and under the protection of security by the municipalities.

The Minister addressed the question frequently asked by the press -- whether a pandemic like COVID-19 was needed to ensure a basic service such as water delivery – and said that for every advance society had made, there had been an obstacle to overcome. For the DHS, this particular obstacle – the COVID-19 lockdown -- had been in the wind in the Department’s sails. She also promised regular briefing notes to Members of Parliament and Members of the Select Committee.

Challenges

Minister Sisulu said there had been a lag in the distribution of tanks, which was being addressed. This was because, in order for a tank to be of use, it needed to be mounted on a platform. The provision of the platforms was the role of municipalities, which faced challenges in accessing the cement and bricks needed to mount and fix the tanks in position, because hardware shops were closed. All supplies from hardware stores had dried up, which had caused delays. The Minister of Trade and Industry had thus been approached to declare hardware stores essential services selling essential goods. The opening of hardware stores was expected to allow the rollout of water tanks to continue. 

Human Settlements

The Minister commented that the Department’s work had changed somewhat because of social distancing and lockdown. For example, in order to self-isolate and observe social distancing, space was required. The most vulnerable in society were those who were unable to observe social distancing, either because of overcrowding, or the government’s inability to provide the essential services such as water and electricity.

Informal settlements

Informal settlements had been identified as areas of high vulnerability. The upgrading of informal settlements had always been planned, and the daily mushrooming of informal settlements was never intended. The reality was that dealing with informal settlements generally resulted in a form of antagonism between the people in the townships and the government. The DHS has identified most of the densely populated townships which would be targeted as priority projects.

In the Western Cape, Dunoon had been identified, as it was part of an existing pilot project – the N2 Gateway -- for development. It had taken ten years to develop the N2 Gateway project because of court proceedings between the community and the government. As a result of a judgment by the Constitutional Court, a housing code had been developed as a framework for how informal settlements would be upgraded in future. The Minister had been on a visit with the Western Cape Member of the Executive Council (MEC) to see how they could de-densify Dunoon.

Minister Sisulu said she had taken the opportunity to call on all local non-government organisations (NGOs) to advise and mitigate the potential tension between the community and government. This had ultimately been a productive approach. There was currently a contract between the Minister and NGOs outlining the concept of de-densification (‘blocking’ and ‘reblocking’). ‘Blocking’ had helped, for example, with creating designated areas for dwellings, such that when an ambulance or fire truck  needed to access an informal settlement, the settlement was more accessible. As re-blocking continued during COVID-19, residents of the informal settlements could volunteer to be given land by the government, as close to the informal settlement as possible. The Minister stressed that informal settlements were their own communities, with their own social fabric, and as such would be re-blocked with much sensitivity. Ultimately, informal settlements would be restructured so that there would be roads within them. The long-term plan was to upgrade all informal settlements.

Regulations regarding informal settlements

In response to evictions that had been happening during the relocations, various regulations had been established regarding what could and could not be done. One such regulation was that it was illegal to invade land. At the same time, a more important regulation was that it was now illegal to evict people from where they were, as codified. There had been a number of cases where investigations had been made about why evictions had taken place, and whether these involved exceptional circumstances. In KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), for example, the court had ordered that an illegal occupant be removed, and had given permission for the housing project in Durban to continue. A second example was in Macassar (Western Cape), where the people themselves, along with an NGO, had taken the government to court. Ultimately, the court had ordered that the 49 families be allowed to live where they had been, and that confiscated materials be returned. A commitment had been made in good faith, and as such the Minister had visited the area with the MEC and all those in charge of human settlements in Cape Town. Construction of structures for the 49 families was also under way. A regulation had been made clear to police -- that there were to be no evictions.  Regarding invasions, the Minister felt it was impossible for invasions of land to happen during the lockdown, as police were also patrolling these areas.

Informal settlements identified for pilot projects

In KwaZulu-Natal, the Kennedy Road informal settlement had been identified by the Natjoints, but this may need to be changed to a different informal settlement, which the MEC would advise on. The Natjoints provided advice to the Council, which Cabinet acted upon.

In Gauteng, Tshwete and Diepsloot informal settlements had been identified as the most vulnerable areas, which local government had accepted without excluding the upgrading of the other settlements.

In the Eastern Cape, Dolphin Village had been identified on the insistence of the President, who had visited the area himself.

The basis of all township upgrades was governed by the Constitutional Court.

The Minister added that there was a gathering of disgruntled people in Johannesburg who she would be visiting to mitigate tensions, as any confrontation would be especially problematic in this time of crisis.

Discussion

Co-chairperson Dodovu thanked the Minister, and proposed that officials take the Members through the details of what she had outlined. However, if any Member felt they had a pressing question to address to the Minister, they could do this briefly in the remaining time.

Mr F du Toit (FF+, North-West) asked about the ‘blocking’ and ‘reblocking’ of informal settlements. How would NGOs be remunerated, and what amount had been allocated for this?

Mr X Ngwezi (ANC) questioned the banning of the private distribution of water, referring to water trucks hired by municipalities. For example, in a particular district he knew of, only two trucks had delivered water out of the 50 trucks promised. He asked the Minister to follow up on such matters, as her address was not reflected on the ground.

The Minister said the Department had not yet contracted the NGOs because it had not yet been ascertained how informal settlements would be de-densified. She added that ‘social distancing’ and ‘washing one’s hands’ were middle class solutions, but the poor remained vulnerable. The formalisation of the relationship between the government and NGOs was yet to take place, at which point the Director General (DG) would ascertain whether any remuneration would be given for this. The Minister of Social Development would also be consulted in this process, as many NGOs were on her database.

Regarding  the decisions about the privatisation of water delivery, the Minister explained that she had delivered the outcome of the decisions made in government, and that the attending staff -- including the CEO of Rand Water and Directors-General -- would answer to specific instances, such as the non-delivery mentioned. She admitted that the decisions would often not be carried out perfectly the first or second time, but that progress was nonetheless being made to rectify this. She stressed that the priority at this point was delivering water to keep people safe from COVID-19.

Ms E Powell (DA) referred to the statement made by the Minister that should system and approach arising from the COVID-19 pandemic work, the DHS would be continuing in such a manner even after lockdown. She asked for the implications of this on the existing legislation and the constitutional competencies of each sphere of government. This was in light of the fact that current actions taken were provided for in the Disaster Management Act (2002), and would expire.

Ms R Mohlala (EFF) raised the issue of the demolition of structures, asking how the Minister and the DHS would address instances where consequence management was needed.

Ms N Sihlwayi (ANC) asked about evictions and invasions. Though they were illegal, she wanted clarity on this rule.

Ms S Mokgotho (EFF) raised an issue regarding the Moses Kotane Municipality in the North West province, where there was an independent service provider employed by the municipality for the Tweelagte and Mabeskraal Villages. She questioned this in light of the ruling that the provision of water delivery would not be privatised, and requested the Minister and the Department to make an investigation into this. She also reported that she had witnessed the illegal destruction of shelters in Ward 121, Johannesburg, and asked for a report on this.

Ms M Mmola (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked about the installation of water tanks, commenting that only eight water tanks out of 651 had been installed in Mpumalanga. Additionally, regarding hygiene awareness, she referred to the ‘0’ reflected for the provision of protective suits and masks in Mpumalanga, and wanted an explanation for this. Another request was that the issue of boreholes in rural areas and the provision of ventilated improved pit (VIP) toilets in former homelands areas should be expedited.

Mr Ngwezi said he speculated sabotage -- the deliberate ending of the meeting and the politicisation of the COVID-19 pandemic -- because the secretary and Co-chairperson Dodovu had been muted.

Mr Du Toit pleaded with the Members to continue asking questions and to not ‘play politics’. He asked the Minister whether she intended to use more than R306 million of Regional Bulk Infrastructure Grant (RBIG) funds.

Mr K Motsamai (EFF, Gauteng) asked about the delivery of water tanks to district municipalities. He had not seen a single tank, and raised a concern that if the tankers were not 4X4 vehicles, they would struggle to reach rural areas which were mostly difficult to access by road, and would ultimately be unable to reach the ‘poorest of the poor.’

Minister’s response

The Minister responded to the questions raised, as well as the statement by Mr Ngwezi.

She condemned the statement about ‘politicising the pandemic’, arguing that the crisis meant the government and officials did not have that luxury. She pointed out that who people voted for was irrelevant at this time, and that the government was working long hours for their people. The Minister then requested Mr Ngwezi to withdraw his statement.

She had taken note of the problems raised, highlighting the possibility of 4X4 tankers where routes became inaccessible for trucks. Regarding the non-delivery of trucks in Mpumalanga, the uneven response had been the result of decapacitated municipalities struggling with closed hardware stores. She apologised for this, and said these errors were unforeseen and unintentional. She promised that the DWS would look into the concerns regarding boreholes and VIP toilets, which the officials present would note. Anything to do with money and statistics could be answered by the Director-General.

Minister Sisulu gave an assurance that there were to be no evictions, particularly by the ‘Red Ants,’ and said she was making sure of this by visiting the informal settlement in Johannesburg herself. Regarding evictions, while the constitution governed evictions prior to lockdown, the one sole piece of legislation governing the country at the time was the National Disaster Act. Regarding the private hire of trucks in Moses Kotane, staff members would need to follow-up on this, as she was unfamiliar with day to day instances.

Mr Ngwezi requested to address the Minister on a point of privilege. Co-Chairperson Semenya initially raised concerns about time, but ultimately allowed him to continue regarding the point he had been asked to withdraw.

Mr Ngwezi said that with due respect, he would not withdraw his statement, as he was also writing a letter at the time of the meeting about the politicisation of the COVID-19 pandemic. He acknowledged that the matter may be somewhat personal, but he believed his statement was informed by facts.

The Minister then requested to be excused, because of her previous urgent appointment.

Water and Sanitation

Mr Mbulelo Tshangana, Acting DG: Department of Water and Sanitation, said that the Minister had already addressed the governance issues, implementation status, budget and expenditure, provincial budget re-allocation, and sustainability. His presentation would therefore cover the strategy beyond the COVID-19 interventions, and the way forward.

Rand Water had been appointed to act as the operations implementer, in accordance with the ‘Implementing Agent Arrangements.’ The use water boards such as Sedibeng, Amatola, Overberg and Magalies Water had been leveraged to secure procurement during the COVID-29 pandemic. He pointed out that prior to COVID-19, a state of disaster had already been declared in relation to the prevailing drought in four provinces – the Eastern Cape, Free State, Northern Cape and Limpopo.

DWS COVID-19 operations

The functions of the National COVID-19 Water & Sanitation Command Centre included centralised procurement, co-ordination of implementation, project coordination (daily ‘Zoom’ teleconferencing), and project monitoring and evaluation with the Geographic Information System (GIS).  Regional partnerships were also utilised, including communication with municipalities, CoGTA and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) through daily meetings at 12h00, which were joined by the Deputy Minister at 14h00. Since 27 March, a total of 5 312 calls had been received at the DWS contact centre (0800 200 200), with Limpopo recording most calls.

The spread of the resource allocation had shown that some, but not all, tanks had been delivered to various municipalities. According to the Department, as at 20 April, a total of 18 875 tanks had been allocated to be distributed. Of this, 14 737 tanks had been delivered, but only 7 698 had been installed nationally. Breakdowns were provided for each province. The Eastern Cape, for example, had been allocated the most tanks (5 395), of which 4 678 had been delivered.

He said that 171 tankers had been delivered and were in use -- ‘tanks’ referred to water storage (often JoJo tanks), while ‘tankers’ were the delivery trucks delivering this service. Following the announcement by the President, the DWS’s remaining budget had been used to deliver water tankers and tanks. The DWS had also been asked to synchronise their plans better with CoGTA, which was also scaling up the provision of water tanks. The DWS had requested an additional R831 million in order to scale up the operation by providing water tanks and tankers. The figures of water tanks and tanker provision changed by the hour based on the number distributed, and so an app had been designed internally and was in use to monitor the delivery of tankers and tanks.

A challenge was faced, in particular with the Northern Cape, as the distance travelled by trucks was vast. Furthermore, there had been a hiccup in providing tanks to the Western Cape, as the City of Cape Town (CoCT) had initially refused the tanks, but the Western Cape and Mayor were now on board and had agreed to assist the DWS. Representatives from the CoCT were also now attending the daily meetings with Rand Water.

COVID-19 budget and expenditure

The initial budget of the DWS was R306 million, which was targeted from the Regional Bulk Infrastructure Grant (RBIG). The DWS intended to scale up and allocate an additional R831 million, which would bolster the sustainability of their efforts. The Department would need to review their budget, because the circumstances had completely changed since the initial budgets were announced by the Minister of Finance. A Cabinet meeting had been held the previous day, and the Department was awaiting guidance on how to review the budget, which would become a submission to Parliament. The Department had made financial allocations, including the installation of tanks, the hiring of water tankers, sanitisers, hand soaps, and personal protective equipment (PPE). The total committed purchase orders in the 2019/2020 COVID-19 budget allocation at that time was R306 534 000 for all nine provinces. He stressed that every sanitiser would be compliant with the WHO’s regulation of 60% alcohol percentage and above. There was also a management fee charged by Rand Water for the management of the COVID-19 operations.

Because of the budget reallocations, some projects in certain areas would be affected, but the impact would be minimal. Provinces with larger allocations would be the most impacted. Gauteng, for example, which had an allocation of R1 301 million for the RBIG programme, now had a revised allocation of R1 021 million, because of the R280 million made available for the COVID-19 interventions. Other major provinces impacted were Limpopo and the Free State. 

Mr Tshangana said the Department had stressed transparency during the process of budget allocations, and had therefore provided breakdowns per province of the RBIG budget amendments, which were available to Members to peruse further. Going forward, sustainability would be the emphasis of all projects to ensure that when COVID-19 ended, the DWS would not return to the ‘old way of doing things.’ A particular project that the DWS had intended to continue after COVID-19 was the ‘Typical Rudimentary Water Supply Scheme’, which was a design for effective infrastructure for water distribution in communities.

Health and hygiene approach

The DWS would be distributing packages to communal areas, such as community halls and taxi ranks, and not delivering to homes/door-to-door. These packages would include water buckets, hand sanitisers, gloves, facemasks, bleach, disinfectant and bars of soap. This applied especially to vulnerable communities and individuals, ultimately with the intention of raising awareness of good basic hygiene practices. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) was acknowledged for donating tanks, along with other multinational corporations. The DWS had so far distributed 53 945 sanitisers (500ml), 17 691 bars of soap, 159 protective suits and 500 masks across all nine provinces, and to the DWS national office. Another company had pledged to donate tanks, PPE and masks. Every donor and donation would need to be registered on the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) portal.

Way forward

Going forward, the water supply would need to be monitored for the quality of the water. It would need to be ensured that all tanks were transferred as assets to the responsible water services authorities’ asset registers. Other priorities included jointly developing a sustainable operations strategy for each system. For example, more solutions needed to be explored for ground-water exploration and water main connections, along with the DHS, SALGA and CoGTA. Ablution facilities needed to be provided, especially in densely populated in informal settlements. The DWS had also made post-COVID-19 recommendations, which included reviewing standards for basic water supplies, and adopting interim rudimentary standards and improving co-ordination and functionality of command structures across the three spheres of government in the areas of monitoring, reporting and targeted implementation.

DHS’s response to COVID-19

Mr Neville Chainee, Deputy Director General: Strategic and Planning, DHS, said measures had been proposed through the Informal Settlements Upgrading Programme (ISUP) to immediately minimise the rate of COVID-19 infections and spread at community level through improved living conditions, and to enable households to observe physical and/or social distancing and self-isolation public health requirements. It was stressed that the ISUP was not a COVID-19 plan, but was an expediting of an existing plan for the benefit of protecting individuals from COVID-19.To clarify information about the Informal Settlements Upgrading Plan (ISUP), he elaborated on various components of this project, such as de-densification and re-blocking.

Improving household access to water and sanitation was one of many measures taken across departments after the announcement of the state of disaster by the President. In conjunction with the DWS, there had been co-ordination with DHS. Overcrowded areas, including informal settlements, inner cities and hostels, had been identified in particular. The DHS had requested that municipalities provide household hygiene items, especially to the vulnerable groups. An analysis of density and vulnerability showed that a total of 29 settlements would be identified countrywide for intervention.

Informal settlement upgrading plans

The upgrading of the Dunoon informal settlement in the Western Cape had been a plan in the pipeline since 2015. In 2018, the Housing Development Agency (HDA) had been provided with funding for alternative land purchases in the Dunoon area. Such a plan, for example, was not a ‘kneejerk reaction’ to the COVID-19 pandemic, but an expediting of existing plans. Similar processes were involved in other informal settlements in various provinces, where upgrading plans were simply brought forward in the face of COVID-19. Overall, a total of 17 land parcels had been identified, measuring over 3 100 hectares, in order to improve the living conditions in these settlements as part of the upgrading plans. Maps would also be shared at the meeting, and he requested that this be treated with the necessary confidentiality. A request had been made that relevant and required measures were taken in each of the component sectors – the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB), the Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA), the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) and the Community Schemes Ombud Service (CSOS). A Human Settlements Command Centre had also been set up and was chaired by Mr Chainee and the CEO of Rand Water, with participation by all provinces and municipalities.

Nationwide hotspots and vulnerabilities

The sharing of data between municipalities had revealed nationwide hotspots. A panel of service providers had been appointed for the delivery of Transitional Residential Units (TRUs), as well as for the delivery of shipping containers and mobile homes. Work was also being done with the participation of military veterans and a consortium of patriotic black built environment professionals. Certain municipalities had, or were in the process of concluding, protocols with the HAD, such as Buffalo City, the City of Johannesburg, the City of Tshwane and the City of Cape Town. A proposal had been made for the Stjwetla informal settlement (Gauteng), where a proposed resettlement site had been identified.

Additional provincial and municipal measures were also in progress. This included the provision of personal and household hygiene support, such as sanitisers, information on the making of masks, and the provision of soap. Processes in provinces, where subsidised houses were in progress of being constructed, for example, had also been expedited to allow for the relocation of households out of informal settlements. Furthermore, suitable vacant buildings had been identified in metropolitan municipalities to accommodate people living on the streets. Additionally, areas of high vulnerability had been identified by the DHS, the HDA and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to ensure these areas were targeted for screening and testing. A moratorium had also been placed on all evictions of households that had been, or could be, carried out, as supplemented by Ministerial directive regulations. A civil society organisation partnership agreement was also in progress.

Discussion

Ms Powell said that in terms of sections four and five of the government notice 464 issued by the ministry on 16 April, direction had been given by the Minister’s office to give the Command Centre control to perform tasks, as well as any other person authorised by the Minister to effect the directives. In the spirit of transparency and accountability, she asked that the Committee be provided with a list of names, roles and qualifications of those officials currently comprising the Command Centre to ensure that suitably qualified individuals were currently in control of South Africa’s water resources.

The same notice, section five, stated that a national procurement officer must be appointed to preside over all emergency procurement, and details of these transactions needed to be made public immediately after the lockdown ended. Could the Committee be furnished immediately (on that day) with the name of the appointed procurement officer, and could there also be an undertaking from the DG that the Committee would be furnished with a list of all recorded procurement transactions provided for in section 5B of the notice on 1 May.

She also requested clarification of the specific role of the national rapid response task team in relation to the roles assigned to the Command Centre to centralise the co-ordination of DWS. 

Regarding the DHS, many of the de-densification programmes were already projects on the agenda of local businesses and municipalities. As such, could the Committee be provided with a list of the amounts provided by the National Treasury or DHS to the respective local government administrations to implement the expedited de-densification programme? From discussions between colleagues, she was aware that no additional funding had been given to other spheres of government to implement de-densification. If funding was being provided, the Committee should be given the specific amounts allocated per city, and whether this would take the form of an additional Human Settlements Development Grant (HSDG), or a new grant.

Mr A Gxoyiya (ANC, Northern Cape) pointed out that there were alternative building materials which enabled the erection of structures more quickly, citing the example of China building hospitals in eight days. Had the DHS explored the possibility of relocating individuals into permanent structures using these alternative materials? He asserted that some sanitisers did not have South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) stamps, and the departments needed to quality approve these. There may be individuals who may use the opportunity under the lockdown to loot state resources, so checks and balances were critical to ensure allocated money was spent correctly at the tail end of these projects.

Mr L Basson (DA) asked whether the DHS expected to use more than R306 million of RBIG funding to finance the COVID-19 efforts. Would any other funding be made available to assist in curbing COVID-19? He commended the DHS and DWS for their efforts in the huge operation. 

Mr Motsamai asked whether anything would be done about forced removals and the lack of water in certain communities.

Mr M Mabika (DA) referred to the delivery of 4 000 tanks and 1 289 tankers, re-posing an earlier question about 4X4 delivery vehicles. If this number did not include 4X4 vehicles, this meant that deep rural areas have not been catered for in the water delivery process. Furthermore, what was the turnaround time between delivered tankers and tanks? He doubted the sufficiency of these efforts. He had not seen any water tankers or tanks. How would Members monitor access to sanitisers by individuals in deep rural areas, as they were almost untraceable?

Mr G Michalakis (DA, Free State) posed a question about the water tanks supplied. In light of the social distancing protocol, how would this be managed when communities collected water? He requested information regarding whether the DHS had made any state land available for de-densification, and the particulars of this initiative. Would there be a third adjustment budget period made available in terms of Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) for cities and towns to reprioritise their expenditure in line with the revised targets? Incapable municipalities were a challenge to water provision in the Free State, for example, so could the DWS give an indication of how existing aid provided had been affected by the crisis and what co-operation had taken place between CoGTA and municipalities unable to provide water because of poor infrastructure and service delivery?

Mr I Sileku (DA, Western Cape) asked what measures had been put in place by the DWS to ensure that tanks were installed as soon as they arrived, and what was being done to ensure the tanks were full. In section 6.2 of the provided regulations, what measurements were being taken to ensure that they were achieved? Could the DWS and DHS furnish the Committee with the names of the public facilities and transport points where the water tanks had been installed?

Ms R Mohlala (EFF) asked how the Department would deal with payables and accruables during the era of COVID-19. It had been made known that by not dealing with these issues, further expenses may be incurred. Where could one access regulations aligned to the Disaster Management Act (2002) in relation to the water and sanitation provision undertaken by the DWS? Were directives and notices issued to water service authorities and water boards available on the Departmental website? Since Rand Water was the chair of the Command Centre, notices and directives had been issued, but which institution would take care of the quality of the water tanks?

She provided input about the realities of those in deep rural areas. Examples of Mpumalanga and Limpopo were given, requesting that urgent attention be given to those who had no water at all, such as the people of Sekukhune who had not had water since December 2019. The Department was commended for their work, but she implored it implored to work harder, since the provision of water had occurred only 26 years after democracy. With regard to RBIG funds, could disaster management funds not be used to address issues to circumvent the possible issue of depleted budgets after the COVID-19 era?

Ms Mokgotho asked about the people dwelling in informal settlements in Pretoria, including those staying on plot R101 in Soshanguve, who were drinking dirty water extracted from a hole, using their own buckets. When would these people receive water tanks with clean water? How would the DWS deal with the ward councillor staying in Moses Kotane (Ward 30), who was seen abusing the resources of the Department and pressuring the foreign nationals to purchase the sanitisers. He said her name was Ms Monnakgotla.

She asked for a timeframe for the identification of land for the DHS de-densification processes, including the expected end date. When would unused water tankers be utilised, and why was this happening? The private service provider identified in Tweelaagte had been problematic, as it had been late in its delivery, which had resulted in a lack of water for the clinic.

Ms Z Ncita (ANC, Eastern Cape) asked about the status of processes of land parcels and the re-allocations in Duncan Village. Delays to the re-filling of water tankers with water was creating frustrations among communities – when would this be addressed? What was the difference in cost between temporary informal settlements, rather than providing permanent structures?

Ms M Mmola (ANC, Mpumalanga) requested further clarity on the purpose and function of the additional R831 million requested by the DWS. An account was also requested for the lack of protective suits and masks delivered to Mpumalanga. Who would be responsible for the security of water tanks installed in municipalities?

Mr R Mashego (ANC) referred to the delays in the delivery and instalment of water tanks, requesting a forecast of demand and supply, which should also stipulate the projected dates of delivery. He raised concern about the transfer of tanks and delays which may lead to fruitless expenditure. What was being done to circumvent the possibility that the success of erecting TRUs would become challenged, should it result in the growth of informal settlements and lead to further evictions post-COVID-19? The DWS and DHS was commended for their work, and she requested that they continue their communication on progress.

Ms G Tseke (ANC) congratulated the DWS for their swift action, and stressed the importance of co-operation between municipalities and wards. She said that local businesses should be supported, and urged the use of local services in providing water and erecting structures. She referred to the cases of theft, vandalism and private selling of water, and asked whether this had occurred and was known to the Command Centre. Had any communities protested regarding the provision of water to their communities? She wanted an account of why the report reflected ‘0’ for the installation of tanks in Mpumalanga.

Ms C Seoposengwe (ANC) congratulated the DHS and DWS for their efforts during a disaster of unprecedented magnitude. Regarding the Western Cape’s 2020/2021 funding, she appreciated that funds had been reallocated to the Northern Cape. How were communities with bucket toilet systems being assisted? She drew attention was to the serious hail storm that had occurred in the Northern Cape, and asked how affected municipalities would be assisted. What would be done to support leaks and sewer spillages, often because of copper cable theft? She suggested a vigorous public education programme, as vandalism could not be afforded at this time. How would schools be assisted with water and sanitation at this time, especially as learners would return to school after the lockdown period? 

Mr Du Toit stressed that water resources were of utmost importance and needed to be protected. Were there any plans to build any water reticulation plants, or to maintain the existing ones? Was there any communication with other departments with regard to water pipelines that would be laid, to move away from water tankers and tanks, as well as the supply of electricity meters to assist with costs in future?

Mr S Mfayela (IFP, KZN) appreciated the efforts by the Department, but asked the DWS to do more because communities were struggling. There were instances of tankers without water, and individuals crowding around tankers to get water, which violated efforts to ensure social distancing.

Mr E Mthethwa (ANC, KZN) appreciated the efforts of the tankers, but asked about the intentions of the DWS because so many of them were sitting without water. He asked whether donations offered by corporate entities would potentially reduce the pressure on the DWS budget. With regard to drilling boreholes for water, he commented that the old infrastructure was problematic, as it diverted water to the main cities instead of to the rural communities.

Ms N Tafeni (EFF) focused attention on the droughts in the Eastern Cape, which had received little support over the years from the DWS. Were there permanent solutions by the DWS for water provision after the COVID-19 era? Water tanks often remained empty, or there was limited supply of water to refill tanks, which was of critical concern in the midst of rising cases of COVID-19 in the Eastern Cape.

Ms N Mvana (ANC) requested information on how sanitisers were distributed by the DWS. She congratulated the DHS and DWS on their efforts.

Responses

Mr David Mahlobo, Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, began by acknowledging the congratulatory remarks by various Members, and thanked the staff of the Department for their efforts.

In response to the Members’ questions, he referred to institutional co-ordination. He said that drought had been declared a disaster in some provinces before the outbreak of COVID-19 -- the Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Free State and Limpopo -- which had warranted the joint efforts of governance at local and municipal levels. As a result, much work had been done with delivery mechanisms towards temporary relief, as well as by the national Command Council. At this time, there were various role players that the Department was supporting, such as the Command Council, local and regional disaster management centres, and Netjoints. It was admitted, therefore, that issues of governance co-ordination were of extreme importance. One of the major decisions made by the DWS was that water must be made available to all of the people, all the time. A number of water boards were thus implicated, as they had been requested to ease restrictions to ensure the security of water supply. The DWS would have to deal with the financial implications of this afterwards.

Continuing on water availability, he said a number of municipalities had made available water that was of bad quality, or was not running at all. Such system and infrastructure failures were being attended to, such as the example of Rustenburg, which had been provided with water after issues related to infrastructure had been resolved. QwaQwa was another example of dysfunctional infrastructure. The DWS had been addressing the situation in communities where there was no infrastructure, but water was available. Unfortunately, there was a greater challenge with deep rural areas.

He acknowledged that there were issues with procurement, and provided justification for the selection of Rand Water as a partner for the Command Centre. Firstly, Rand Water was very sensitive to localisation issues – the use of local suppliers -- which had been taken into account. Unfortunately, there were certain suppliers who were deliberately attempting to stall the delivery of tanks. In other instances, some officials in government were working with certain contractors to disrupt infrastructure in order to create business. The hotline was used to combat such instances, and had been flooded with calls and tip-offs since it was up and running. 

The Deputy Minister asked to be excused, after which the Chairperson requested the presenting team to continue.

Mr Sipho Mosai, CEO: Rand Water, and Command Centre Co-ordinator, said the deployment of tanks and tankers was a bottom-up and top-down approach. Community needs were collated and consolidated through provincial heads to the Command Council. Unfortunately, the need was greater than the demand, and as more funds became available, they would be utilised. Issues of ownership of the tanks post-COVID-19 would be the responsibility of municipalities. These responsibilities included the security of the tanks and water quality. Distribution at the local and municipal level had to be performed by the local municipalities with advice from the provincial level. The Command Centre thus did not deploy directly to communities, but left this with councillors who were better informed about the needs of their communities. This was why collaboration was so important. Ultimately, deficiencies with water in communities were often due to local governance challenges.

Regarding water quality, the disinfection of tanks was being ensured, as this was the responsibility of the Command Centre. An amount of 1 milligram of chlorine per litre was allocated to ensure water quality. Furthermore, post-COVID-19, water test kits would be distributed to municipalities to test their own water for residual chlorine etc.

Some of the numbers in the report presented were about two to three days old, and because numbers of installations and deliveries were increasing by the hour, this could mean that numbers reflected were not always accurate. Some tanks that were delivered but not installed were still managed to be in use. The Command Centre had also issued assignment agreements with sister water boards, requiring these boards to assist municipalities with the installation of water tanks. In certain municipalities this was necessary. For example, in the Western Cape, the City was installing tanks with the Overberg water board under the guidance of the municipality. A different system was used in KwaZulu-Natal, where all installation was done by CoGTA.

All tankers by and large were 4X4s, and therefore capable of accessing the terrain of the deep rural areas, but this would be confirmed.

Sanitisers and protective clothing could be provided to assist officials and workers, but because of the budget limitations it had been impossible to provide them to every individual in each community. The Command Centre was developing a protocol with a verification team that would ensure social distancing by community members when accessing the water tankers. It would be ideal if most water tankers and tanks could be sourced locally.

Mr Tshangana said the DWS would make available a list of names, roles and qualifications of those officials currently comprising the Command Centre, as requested by Ms Powell. The information on procurement and service providers would also be provided, with a portfolio of evidence. A WhatsApp group had been established between all ward councillors and administrators where possible, to ensure co-ordination of effort. The names of areas where additional tanks had been installed was a work in progress, and would be provided. The majority of the tanks and tankers were quality assured.

Members were urged to feel free to submit to Mr Tshangana and Mr Chainee specific challenges they were aware of. A cellphone number and an e-mail address were provided for the Members to use. A follow-up would be made on the specific areas queried, and these issues would be discussed with the CEO of Rand Water. Damage from the hail storm in the Northern Cape should be followed up on, and the DG requested information on which areas specifically in the Northern Cape had been affected, so that support could be sought from disaster management. 

The DWS expressed their willingness to present a report on accruals and payables at a follow-up meeting.

The majority of bucket toilet systems were in the Free State, followed by the Northern Cape, where construction was being done. A separate report on bucket systems could be given at a subsequent meeting, but overall the DG felt optimistic that all buckets would be eradicated by the end of the financial year.

The Implementing Agent for Informal Settlements in the DHS confirmed that at the time of the meeting, 17 land parcels had been identified for re-distribution under de-densification efforts. At present there was very little to no publicly-owned land near informal settlements, so privately owned land would either need to be purchased or expropriated. The de-densification and upgrading process had just started in Duncan Village, and a contractor had been appointed to construct approximately 1 174 temporary residential units.  Just over 2 300 additional TRUs would be delivered.

Mr Chainee continued that there was no additional money for de-densification projects, and said that these funds came from the existing annual budgets. He confirmed that the cost/benefit anaylsis included the manner in which informal settlements were upgraded. It was only in settlements where upgrades could not take place in situ, that relocations would take place. Part of the HSDG plan included details on all settlements identified for upgrading.

The DHS team then said that they had been disconnected after Ms Powell spoke, and had been reconnected only when Mr Mthethwa was speaking, so there may be missed questions that they would follow-up on.

Co-Chairperson Semenya thanked the DG and the team. Members were reminded that they were permitted to move around their provinces as frontline workers, and were thus allowed to use their transport to visit their areas to see water tanks and tankers. Petrol could be claimed thereafter.  This was a moment where everyone could be on the ground and working together to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic.

The meeting was adjourned.

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