The Portfolio Committee met on a virtual platform to receive presentations on the Limpopo Department of Human Settlements’ water and sanitation plan, the wastewater treatment plan, and the water boards’ capital expenditure and delivery plans.
Members were critical of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) for allowing the area of Sekhukhune to not have water for over a decade. They also asked if the campaign for the empowerment of women in the construction industry was just for the purpose of elections, which led to a spat between ANC and EFF Members. Questions were raised about what repercussions farmers who were blocking streams that fed into dams would face, and why so many dams had been allowed to be illegally constructed without receiving official approval. Lepelle Northern Water was criticised for neglecting this issue.
The Committee referred to the “War on Leaks” programme, and wanted to know why the majority of the learners who had been trained had not been absorbed by the Department. Why had the municipality paid the contractor the whole amount of more than R2.5 million for the poor quality of work on the transitional residential units (TRUs) at Talana Informal Settlement, which had been handed over with much fanfare to the municipality and the beneficiaries in July?
Because there were so many questions from many Committee Members, the Chairperson asked everyone to put their questions in writing for the Department to answer at a later point.
Most people in the meeting had connectivity issues at some point, as well as issues with microphones being on at inappropriate times, such as when someone else was speaking.
Mr Rodgers Makamu, Member of the Executive Committee (MEC): Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Limpopo, presented COGTA’s revised business plans. Cutting the budget by R257 million was not an easy process. The plans presented in this meeting had been looked over and COGTA had made sure that they would be able to spend the money. The time that was lost because of COVID-19, and its challenges during the lockdown stages from five to three, had significantly impacted human settlements. COGTA would be hands-on with the upcoming projects, making sure that they would be able to deliver.
Mr Mbelelo Tshangana, Director-General (DG), Department of Human Settlements (DHS), said that the Deputy Minister (DM), Ms Pam Tshwete, had visited some provinces in the previous financial year and said that the provinces were doing relatively well. The DHS was not very worried about Limpopo’s performance currently. It was the time of year where some difficult decisions had to be made about budgeting. Provinces’ budgets had to be monitored and calls made when it came to shifting budgets from poorly performing provinces to highly performing ones. There was currently no intention to shift Limpopo’s budget. COGTA believed that Limpopo would be in a better position to spend its budget and give COGTA the numbers it was looking for.
The Committee received three presentations.
The first was presented by Mr M Mathunyane, Deputy Director-General (DDG): Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (CoGHSTA), Limpopo.
The second was a briefing on the Department of Water and Sanitation’s (DWS’s) Limpopo District Development Model (DDM) implementation plan, which was presented by Ms Lucy Kobe, Provincial Head: DWS, Limpopo.
Referring to COVID-19 sustainability, she said the DWS aligned the sustainable supply with the tanks that the Department had already installed. It had done an assessment to do on the COVID-19 tanks in Limpopo which had been completed and submitted to the national Department. The scoping reports for Capricorn and Polokwane were under way. Sekhukhune, Vhembe and Mopani were still being consolidated.
The third presentation dealt with the water delivery plans and capital expenditure, which was presented by Mr Ahuiwi Netshidaulu, Acting Chief Executive of Lepelle Northern Water.
Mr Netshidaulu said that Lepelle Northern Water was committed to improving the conditions of everyone living in Limpopo by working as a collective with the municipality and the DWS to make sure water was supplied.
Ms S Mokgotho (EFF) referred to page 44 of the first presentation, where it stated that the Talana Informal Settlement was handed over to the municipality and the beneficiaries on July 31. Why had the municipality paid the contractor the whole amount of R2 557 640 for the poor quality of work on the transitional residential units (TRUs)? Had there been any consequences for the accounting officer who had signed the cheque that had paid the contractor for a project which had not met the required standards? Did the municipality monitor, control and evaluate the project while it was in progress? If yes, why did the municipality not detect the poor quality of work in good time? Why did the municipality not intervene in good time to stop the fruitless and wasteful expenditure incurred on the poor quality of TRUs? How were the recommended remedial measures by CoGHSTA going to be implemented? Were the beneficiaries, who were already occupying the TRUs, going to be moved out of these shelters when reconstruction took place? What was the time frame for the reconstruction?
She said slide 27 of the second presentation shows that the priority feasibility and implementation readiness studies for the Aganang Bulk Water Supply, the Matoks Regional Water Scheme and the Glen Alpine Regional Water Scheme were completed in the 2014/15 financial year, but the implementation readiness status of these projects was the 2021/22 financial year. What were the reasons for this? To what extent and how often did the Department with local municipalities audit the state of waste water treatment works and sanitation systems in terms of the current functionality of these systems? Did the DWS and the municipalities undertake repeated audits on these systems on a predetermined schedule while keeping compliance monitoring in place?
Ms M Mohlala (EFF) referred to slides eight and nine of the second presentation, which indicated the direct settlement backlog needs in respect of water and sanitation with regard to functionality, new infrastructure and resources. Could the DWS expand on what the map was describing in terms of the location of backlogs? Could it provide details of the proposed budget and time frames to address these backlogs?
The increase in the minerals and metals impacting on the quality of water in Limpopo because of increased mining and agricultural activities had resulted in a deterioration in some areas of South Africa’s water and waste water in terms of both quality and infrastructure. Although South Africa had useful tools, such as an electronic water quality management system, a river health program and Blue and Green Drop certification programmes, water quality issues in the country were increasing. When would the system be improved so that the status and performance of South Africa’s water and waste water, in terms of both quality and infrastructure, were more fully documented and real-time information and data were available for rapid responses to these challenges?
Had the DWS received an initial draft findings report from the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) on the alleged corruption at Lepelle Northern Water? The efficiency and effectiveness of bulk infrastructure water projects was the mainstay of economic development. What was the future of ensuring that the bulk infrastructure water projects were no longer compromised? Did the DWS have an effective reconciliation strategy in Limpopo to ensure water security in the province?
The community of Sekhukhune had been suffering for a decade due to the government’s failure to supply thousands of households with water as a basic right. The issue of sanitation would not be spoken about now, while the government was failing to merely provide water. Many areas did not have water. The third presentation had shown that there were schemes, but those schemes were not yielding results. People had not had water for 26 years. In most of Lepelle Northern Water’s projects, the start dates had been between 2015 and 2019. The issue of water in Sekhukhune was urgent. In the presentation, Lepelle Northern Water had said that COVID-19 did not impact Sekhukhune, but it had been affected. People did not know what to do because the government had been failing them for 26 years. They were buying water at R2 per 20 litres from the people who had their own money, who had drilled boreholes. It was a lie that COVID-19 had not impacted the area.
The Department official had used the term ‘functionality of the water system’ very loosely. ‘Functionality’ and ‘functioning of water systems’ should not be conflated. This reflected one of the weaknesses of Departmental planning, in that assessing the functionality of water systems provided a deeper understanding of how the linkages and cost analyses of each component of the entire water value chain related to one another for effectiveness and efficiency at all levels. How did the Department understand the functionality within the water discourse?
In 2016, under the initiative of the Women’s Build Campaign in the Letsema Project, a partnership between the DHS, South African women in the construction industry and sector stakeholders, 60 families from Ga-Hlako and Tauetsoala villages in the Mogalakwena Municipality had benefited. Was the initiative a once-off during Women’s Month for campaign purposes, or how could one increase the visibility and sustainability of increasing women in the construction industry? What was the percentage of DHS projects in Limpopo in the past three financial years dedicated to ensuring women in construction companies and women-owned construction companies benefited from the partnership of sustainable human settlement projects?
What had been the impact of COVID-19 on the housing backlog? Could the Department provide the Committee with a breakdown of the housing backlog by region and district plans?
Mr M Mashego (ANC) asked what the plan was to tilt the balance of the 81% provision of water to farmers, and only 8% of the water to residents. In the report, it said that only 4% of the people in Limpopo live in urban areas. The rest of the people lived in rural areas. By implication, that was where the majority of people had no water, and had not had water for 26 years. At some point, one premier had bought a water machine which did not work.
The pace was too slow. The situation was dire. The Department had not revealed any plans. It had quite a lot of projects. There were a recommended number of houses that needed to be built, but then there was the agreed figure, meaning the number had changed. It was understandable, because there were financial constraints and COVID-19 had happened, but where was the plan to tilt that balance? Although tanks had been provided to the people, the report said that there were 773 outstanding tanks that had not been delivered. What was the plan for delivering the tanks? Limpopo was the area with the most droughts.
There was a plan to build houses in Talana, but if one looked at the figures, 40 TRUs were built for R64 400 each. The plan was to build more houses with less money. Was there a way to integrate this pricing system? There was a lot of concern about the fact that R64 400 was paid for a single room. The national Department had refused the budget. The board was serving a waterless province, a rural province. There was bias from the Department in dealing with all rural areas in the country, including Limpopo. Payment was not going to be possible, because Limpopo had the most unemployed and poor people. The report did show progress, but it was too slow. The Department needed to up its game.
Mr L Basson (DA) commented that the Crocodile water transfer project had been taking a very long time. What was the status of the project? Was the Department going to do two pipes or one pipe? The the number of pipes had been an issue previously. Would the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA) deal with it and fund it? When would the project be completed? What was the schedule?
Mr M Tseki (ANC) said that some issues needed clarification. The women’s empowerment campaign was not for the purpose of an election -- it was an ANC programme and the ANC was the leading party in government. That accusation needed to be dismissed.
The other issue was the impact of COVID-19. The people in the meeting should have listened more carefully. The presentation had not stated that COVID-19 did not have an impact. It had said that the workforce was not affected by COVID-19, because if it had been affected, the distribution of water and the maintenance of sanitation would have been impeded. There did not need to be an argument about this.
Ms Mohlala called “out of order” in response to Mr Tseki’s remarks.
The Chairperson allowed this.
Ms Mohlala said that the community was entitled to its point of view.
Mr Tseki said that he had not mentioned Ms Mohlala individually.
Ms Mohala told Mr Tseki not to interject.
The Chairperson told Mr Tseki to keep quiet, as she had allowed Ms Mohlala to make an order. She told Mr Tseki to focus on the presentation.
Mr Tseki asked the Chairperson if he was out of order.
The Chairperson said he was.
Mr Tseki said that during the first presentation, he had been unable to read a slide in order to understand what the presenter was saying. He asked for clarification on what appeared to have been a reference to “white” black economic empowerment (BEE).
In slide 21 of the third presentation, it was stated that there was a surplus of R29 million. Because the budget was rearranged for the non-approval of the tariffs, Lepelle Northern Water had forfeited that money. Was the budget really intended for a surplus? Was there money intended for programmes and projects aimed at change and transformation?
Ms G Tseke (ANC) commented on Ms Kobe’s statement that there would be a transfer of water from Zimbabwe to augment the water needs for the Musina special economic zone (SEZ), and asked for more details. The initiative would provide jobs in Limpopo and eradicate poverty, unemployment and inequality around South Africa.
With regard to the Giyani water project, had there been any emergency initiatives to supply water to the 22 desperate villages around the Giyani area?
There were areas that were cross-bordering Limpopo, Gauteng and Mpumalanga -- for example, Siyabuswa and Kgaphamadi. Were the two departments taking their services there?
Regarding the “War on Leaks” programme, everyone was aware that learners were trained, but the majority of them were not absorbed by the Department, the municipalities or other entities. How many learners were trained, and how many of them were absorbed? How many of them were absorbed into any program, because these were young people who were unemployed and roaming the streets of the country?
The bulk supply infrastructure of the project around Nandoni had created a lot of tension among the various stakeholders. For example, the chiefs were unhappy with the government for passing through their villages. How was this being addressed?
The impact of the non-implementation of tariffs had had major implications on the work of water boards with regard to them implementing their projects. Would the DWS, in consultation with the National Treasury, provide assistance?
Ms N Sihlwayi (ANC) said a breakdown of the population of the Talana Hostel had been given, as it was also considered in the development,. How many women, children and disabled people were living there? Vulnerable people in South Africa always went to hostels. In the process of de-densification, the way in which these people were affected was not considered. Sometimes there were students who were unable to learn well in those particular hostels. There should be a process in the development to consider how to improve the living conditions.
What was the Department’s relationship with the traditional authorities? How did one de-densify in terms of using the land? Most rural areas that did not have resources were put on the periphery. Resources were stolen. It was important that in the planning of the land, people should be considered.
There was a dam that Limpopo shared with Zimbabwe. Sharing meant a lot. It meant contributing in order to benefit. There was a process of maintenance. How could one make sure the partnership with Zimbabwe was sustainable, and ensure that both Zimbabwe and Limpopo benefit?
There had been a request for a boundary expansion, which had been gazetted. The planning was under way. It had to be ensured that when such an amount of money was accepted, there were determining factors, such as the existence of a mandate, planning, human resources and capital. All of those factors needed to be there in the planning process, because it was going to be useless if one found out that there was no money for expansion. The issue that had been raised about the challenges of the cost recovery plan indicated that there were gaps in the budget of the system. The planning should be complete in order to achieve one’s goals.
Ms N Tafeni (EFF) referred to the key message on slide 15 of the first presentation, which dealt with the prioritising of water resources and development options, such as the Crocodile West River System, the Olifants River System and the Letaba Water River System. How would the Department source the funding? Would the time frames indicated be achieved?
Referring to slide 19 of the first presentation, where the DDM had been discussed, one plan was completed and approved. The management office was established and a resource plan for the district hubs was completed too. What was the cost of setting up this entire initiative? Was the money sourced from COGTA?
The Chairperson said that the DDG who was responsible for verification and validation had visited Limpopo, yet the situation still stood. What was the progress? This issue had been raised before. The Portfolio Committee should not have to visit the areas. The Department kept saying the same things in meetings.
The Chairperson said that the presenter from Lepelle Northern Water had explained that the level of water in the Ebenezer dam was at 12%, but there was a report that there were farmers or people who had blocked the stream that channels water into the dam. How was the situation going to improve? There had been illegal construction of dams in that area. What had been done to make sure that those who were blocking the stream were punished? How were the illegal constructions going to be demolished? What was the process, and how long was it going to take?
Regarding the Nsami pipeline, Mr Ramoba, a councillor in the area where the Nandoni dam was built, had raised a concern that the Department had diverged from its own commitment. A road had been demolished and the Department was meant to rebuild it, but it had not been done. A bridge had been promised, but there was no bridge yet. Mr Ramoba had said the Department claimed that it had purchased a 30ha piece of land, but he had not received a receipt. Who had the Department paid for the land? The 30ha piece of land was around the dam, and no one could get to the dam without having to pass through it. There were still people who had made claims and not received them. Were the claims being delayed because they were Africans?
Addressing the Deputy Minister, the Chairperson said that Members of the Committee felt that the Giyani Project was taking too long. The Nsami road was also meant to address the same problem as in Giyani. If the issues in Nandoni were not resolved, the people of Giyani would not have water for another decade. The Department must attend to these issues.
She said that if one looked at the figures that Statistics South Africa presented on the lack of water and sanitation in Limpopo, and the breakdown of the systems in Limpopo, the situation was bad. There were a lot of projects that had to be accounted for. Before the national Department went to intervene in Giyani, money had been given to the Mopani district to implement the project. The contractor who was appointed had stolen the money. The national Department had had to intervene because Mopani had squandered the money for a project to benefit the people of Giyani. Contractors had abandoned a lot of projects, and the projects had not been followed up on. That was why the status of water in Limpopo was what it was. How was the Department going to consolidate all these unfinished projects? For example, President Zuma had launched a water treatment plant in Giyani, but it was not working. There needed to be a plan of action so that the people of Giyani got water soon.
Checking with the Department of Human Settlements through the MEC and the DM had indicated that 3% of the urban settlements development grant (USDG) grants could be used for bulk infrastructure. In the Department’s proposal for the project, 4 000 sites were being prepared in Polokwane. This was good progress, which was appreciated. What was worrying, though, was that the supply of water was totally different. In terms of an integrated model, the people cold not be given sites when the sites did not have access to water. Why had the project started without making sure there was water first? The Committee did welcome the provision of the sites, because the people of Limpopo wanted to build houses for themselves.
Was it compulsory for all contractors to register with the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC)? When the Committee met with the NHBRC, they had spoken of other projects that were not registered with them. The Committee had given a directive that any contractors who wanted to do business with the government had to be registered with the NHBRC.
The Department had announced R3.3 billion for various projects in Thabazimbi, but these projects have not appeared anywhere in the second presentation. Where was the integrated planning and the budget plan, if the Committee could not see it in the budget? Government was supposed to include those projects in the plan.
Adding on to what Mr Mashego had said, the province had requested 835 water storage tanks, and 773 had been accounted for and installed. These had been meant for the COVID-19 emergency. What had happened? Why was it like this? It was disturbing.
Had the payment of suppliers at Lepelle Northern Water been corrected? There had to be a process where small businesses were not ruined when they tried to do business with government.
Deputy Minister Tshwete said that most of the questions were for the Director General and his team to answer, as they covered water issues.
She responded to Ms Mohlala’s question about women contractors, and said she had several meetings lined up for the week. She had met with South African Women in Construction (SAWIC) the previous day. Government had set aside 30% of funding for women and youth. The Department was working with SAWIC and women contractors. It was very serious about women, and there would be was another meeting the following day.
What she was guarding against was whether the 30% really did go to women and vulnerable people -- people who had been without contractors. There was patriarchy within the system. In the construction industry, men undermined women. The government would hold these departments accountable and make sure that the money went to women in each province. So far, Limpopo was the Department’s shining star in this area. Limpopo was leading the country, and every year Limpopo exceeded the 30% set aside.
She was putting systems in place to make sure that the provinces used the 30% for women. This was a program that went beyond elections. Whether one lost or won, people on the ground had to have work to do. She met women from SAWIC regularly. The Department was organising a women’s summit, which was going to speak to the issues of SAWIC.
She was worried about the funding going to women on the ground in the Western Cape. She was going to hear from them, as she was monitoring the provinces. The Department was hosting a national women’s construction unit to put more emphasis on the role of women in the industry.
She said the MEC would be better able to explain the issue of TRUs, not because she could not monitor it, but the Department had received the report, which was satisfactory for now. The Department was dealing with all the things that had taken place in order to avoid some kind of investigation. It was dealing with the people who were building TRUs that were unsuitable for human beings. There were laws to do with registering with the NHBRC. Not registering with the NHBRC was illegal, and those people would face the might of the law. There were laws that guided contractors – they could not just do what they liked. She would make sure that the Committee received feedback.
MEC Makamu said that it was not the municipality that had implemented the TRU project, nor was it the municipality that had paid the contractor. It was also not necessarily the municipality that had not provided oversight on the construction of the project. The project had been implemented by the Housing Development Agency (HDA), as appointed by CoGHSTA. After the launch, which had created a hullabaloo, the Minister had commissioned the NHBRC to conduct an investigation into the structural defects. The NHBRC’s report was out and indicated poor workmanship, and the HDA had informed CoGHSTA that it had already started to take action. Three officials in the provincial office in Limpopo had been suspended.
MEC Makamu said the Deputy Minister had spoken about women in construction. This was a programme that was being continued. Even during the lockdown, some of the contractors were said to be performing in terms of the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB), grading functions. One was not necessarily talking about the 30% set aside. Limpopo was doing very well. There were a lot of women contractors on site currently who had a better share of the budget of the province.
In response to Mr Mashego’s comments about the R64 441 per unit of the TRUs, one must compare this cost to the value of the project one wanted to construct. Even if there were no COVID-19 challenges, the Department had a plan to construct Community Residential Units (CRUs) in Talana, a highly congested area. About three years ago, three people had died because of the congestion and the burning of shacks. The province had already had a plan to construct CRUs in Talana, but the COVID-19 pandemic had caused the situation to become an emergency and the province had tried to intervene. The province was concluding the feasibility study for the construction of the CRUs. If the province was able to finish all the processes, the actual construction could begin at the start of the next financial year. The plan was to build CRUs with about 180 units each. He did not have the exact number of women or disabled people who would be living there, but the CRUs were designed to house families, unlike the hostels that used to be there before. Some CRUs had been completed.
The CRUs in Makhado were being dealt with currently. Hopefully, Talana would be next. CoGHSTA would continue to construct CRUs. The money used in Talana had amounted to about R2.57 million. The Makhado project was not comparable with what was happening there.
MEC Makamu said that the Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Mr David Mahlobo, was in attendance to deal with water issues. Where specific intervention was required, especially on the issue of the Nandoni pipeline to Giyani -- where intervention for political reasons was required, as indicated by Mr Ramoba -- CoGHSTA would always be available for support so that the project could go forward because if completed, the project would assist more because that dam was very low, and needed assistance from the Nandoni dam. CoGHSTA was engaging with and supporting the people whose land the pipeline would cut through.
(MEC Makamu had to deal with problems with his Internet connection).
DM Mahlobo said that officials would have to respond to some questions related to water issues. The Department was always on the ground with the community in that province. The report by Statistics South Africa was very important, because it indicated that Limpopo still had a lot of challenges when it came to water and sanitation. Those challenges were historical, but some good work had been done. Equally, there had been failures in the process.
The main question was, where would water for Limpopo come from? The usual source of water in Limpopo was surface water, that is, dam water. There were many dams in Limpopo. In the past, the government had made decisions about dams, such as in Gauteng, for example, which had been made for particular reasons at a particular time, where water was not meant for everybody, especially not for Black people. That province had groundwater potential, because groundwater was a source that had not been fully utilised. There were some rivers going through Limpopo that were shared with other countries. Some rivers were shared with both Zimbabwe and Botswana, because they were neighboring states. That was the only place that water could come from in that particular province.
What drove Limpopo’s economy? At one time, the majority of water was used only for agriculture. In many beautiful parts of Limpopo, there was a lot of production of agricultural products that were being shipped internationally. If Limpopo was going to be relying on agriculture, South Africans needed to be included, especially black South Africans and youth. There had been movement, but the movement had not been satisfactory. The Department should be in a position to give the Committee numbers.
Because of Limpopo’s mineral deposits, a considerable amount of water went to mining. This was the point that Ms Mohlala had raised. The De Hoop dam had been built to support the mining potential, and at the same time to support power generation. That was why mining and a lot of other industries were taking the bulk of the water. Limpopo was going to continue to do so, because if one looked at the SEZ, the one that had the potential of about R150 billion, it was based on the fact that the province was strong in terms of mineral deposits. Water challenges had the potential to stop that particular development.
Limpopo was also blessed to have beautiful forestation, and he agreed with the Chairperson that certain decisions should be implemented because the way the allocation looked right now was unsustainable in a province where the sources of water were not guaranteed. As he had mentioned to the Chairperson previously, he had visited the Ebenezer Dam, the Tzaneen Dam and even the Nandoni Dam and others, to check on the situation personally.
There had been concern as to whether the Department was in a position to meet all the area’s demands, especially domestic demands. Even the growth potential of Limpopo could be hampered. The Department had completed all the reconciliation studies. The water systems in Limpopo were clearly defined. The Crocodile River, the Groot Letaba River and the Olifants River were the main systems, so that socio-economic development issues had to happen. Those studies had been concluded. Limpopo would not have a problem with water until 2050. There were short-term plans from 2020 to 2030, from 2030 to 2040, and from 2040 to 2050. If these sets of actions, as seen on slides 14 and 15 of the second presentation, were carried out, the Department could guarantee the security of water supply not only for domestic use, but also for mining, agriculture and other sectors.
Where Ms Mohlala and others had been referring to in terms of planning for a 10-year, 20-year and 30-year horizon, the Department’s modellers and scientists had completed that work. There were projects that had been commissioned, so the Department had to be able to find money and move as a matter of urgency for the three water systems. The minimum amount required to build a water resource capability was about R28 billion. During the symposium on infrastructure, some of the projects around dealing with the issues of water security around the country had been gazetted, but it was very clear what needed to be done in Limpopo.
There were challenges, which was why the Department was looking at the possibilities for re-prioritisation within the budgets in order to undertake some major projects.
The Department was looking at the road situation. It was performing its role to make sure that all water services authorities played their part. It had to admit that it had been trying, but it had not been good enough.
There was one matter that would need to be discussed with Mr Makamu about what municipalities were not doing in terms of the law. In Limpopo, in the main, there were 10 water services authorities and 21 municipalities, and most of the time Limpopo had a combination where some districts were in the majority, in others the water services authorities were predominant, and in a few local bodies there were just the water services authorities, which also posed its own challenges that had to be addressed.
In 2001, the Department had gazetted regulations in terms of the Water Services Act. Those regulations clearly defined the role of the Department after local government was formalised in 2000, and after all the local government legislation was in place. One of the requirements of local government in terms of Regulation 10 was that it must have a water services audit report. That report would include issues of access -- how many people were accessing, what were the volumes, and issues of source quality, pollution and cost recovery. The last three issues had not been included in the annual reports recently, and the Department had not been fulfilling its own regulations. That had to be part of the annual report for all municipalities. Would an intervention be needed where those particular powers were taken away, in terms of Section 154 of the Constitution?
There was one area of oversight that the Department was thinking of strengthening, but looking at slide number 30 in the second presentation, there had been some assessment by the Department that it did all the time, and was called the “municipal assessment.” In terms of vulnerability assessments, almost all municipalities in Limpopo were vulnerable. The extent to which they were vulnerable was very serious. Only one municipality that was a water services authority was deemed as having a very low degree of vulnerability. Some were high, and some were extreme. The national Department needed to work with Limpopo so that the municipalities were able to discharge their responsibilities in terms of the law.
Mr Mahlobo said the Giyani project was an important matter. The water that came through Giyani came from the Nandoni dam. When the Department built the dam in the 1980s, it had moved communities and was going to compensate them. Some people had died before being compensated. Ultimately, those communities had reported the Department to the Public Protector. The Department never implemented all the recommendations. Just before the lockdown, he had gone to meet with the community leadership, the Premier and the MEC. The Department was trying to correct the mistake. There had been a discussion last week where the Department had decided that it would return to the area because it needed to sort out the beneficiaries and implement some of the report’s recommendations. Councillor Ramoba had been correct in being aggrieved -- the Department was supposed to compensate him. He said he now had the report and could assure the Committee that in the following two weeks, he would be engaging with the Premier, MEC Makamu and the mayor of the district. The Department was going, because if it did not attend to the issues of the communities whose livelihoods and servitudes were impacted by the Department, those matters would not be addressed.
Referring to the role of Mopani as a district, even in the first instance when the Department had intervened, Mr Mahlobo said he was hopeful that the law enforcement agencies would be able to trace the money that had been lost in the system. Those who were involved must be brought to book, including those at the treatment plant. He had gone there and could not believe that in less than seven years, after millions and millions of Rands had been commissioned, there was poor workmanship, the structural integrity was very bad and it was very unsafe to be in that particular structure, including the other associated work that needed to be done.
Deputy Minister Mahlobo apologised on the issue of interference and the illegal dams, saying that his team had been sleeping on the job. After meeting with the Chairperson in Polokwane, the DM’s team had gone there. It had to be confirmed that there were two issues involved in that system. There were a number of farmers who had existing lawful water user permits. These had been issued because of the 1955 Water Act. Farmers still held them because the Department had never moved in terms of validation and verification so that it could redo the licensing and reallocation. Some illegal dams had also been identified. Water was not coming to communities in that district. The team had made a promise that it was now taking legal action, and saying that those illegal dams had to be decommissioned. The Department would be in a position to ask for a timeline. He was sure that the Chairperson, as an activist, would like to be there when the dams were demolished.
Officials would respond to the matter of Lepelle Northern Water not being paid and other similar issues. The Department would ensure that the water board and others that served rural provinces with no guaranteed income would be paid, as it was the Department’s responsibility. Where there was wrongdoing, the Department would act.
The discussions about the SEZ in Musina were at a sensitive stage, but the source of water, as Ms Kobe had indicated, was in Zimbabwe. After discussions with Zimbabwe, the Department was coming to an agreement, because another country was involved. The Department would have to find a better mechanism, such as the one being used with Lesotho. He was keeping abreast of those discussions so that the Department did not delay the mining potential in Limpopo. It had the potential to unlock a new city in Musina, which would benefit Limpopo, and possibly Zimbabwe and Botswana as well. Once the validation and verification was concluded, new licenses could be created so that the skewed allocation of water would stop, and water and its economic benefits would be available to those who had not benefited before.
Ms Kobe said that the planning took place over a five-year cycle. The 2014/15 cycle was meant to end this financial year, but the end date had been moved to the end of the 2021/22 financial year due to a lack of funding, a lot of re-prioritisation in terms of the budget and budget cuts. There was a lot of pressure for planning across the country.
She said that the figures regarding the budget backlogs were available for the Committee. Because the brief had been to cover the 2020/21 financial year, she had alluded to the fact that Limpopo had been allocated R948 882 000 for the 11 projects.
Why had the installation of the remaining 62 tanks not been completed? When the Department of Education was about to reopen the schools, there had been pressure in Limpopo from the National Command Centre to loan it some tanks. These had been loaned from Polokwane and Capricorn. The tanks were back now. Lepelle Northern Water was the implementer, and was busy installing the remaining 62 tanks.
With regard to “white” BEE, in terms of how the Committee deals with licensing, this referred to white-dominated companies according to the levels of scoring their BEE status. It was a differentiation between white- and black-owned companies.
Regarding Zimbabwe and SEZ, the Department wanted Limpopo to function at high level. In the short-term, Limpopo would do groundwater development, which would yield about 25 million cumecs between 2020 and 2025. Medium- to long-term, it would yield 118 million cumecs by 2040.
With regard to the War on Leaks learners, they had not been absorbed by the municipality due to budget constraints. In terms of the plan to best utilise them, Limpopo was still relying on guidance from the national leadership.
With regard to verification and validation, as soon as the legal process was over, this would be able to be completed, but the Letaba catchment had been authorised. There was a pilot of the project for licensing for the province.
The DM had already indicated that an investigation was being carried out into the farmers who were blocking dams, He had also mentioned the issue of the demolition process, and the Committee had issued a directive to Limpopo. Twelve of the farmers had acknowledged that what they were doing was illegal.
It had been difficult to capture the payments to Lepelle Northern Water, but from the Departmental side, there were one or two service providers whose payments the Department had been unable to process, including Lepelle, between April and now. The challenges were more in terms of project management, because in terms of the Department’s standard operating procedure and the checklist needed in order to pay, Lepelle Northern Water was not compliant, as they had been invoicing for items that were not completed yet. There were also other issues involving invoices for maintenance or repairs, where the implementing agent’s (IA’s) project managers had the invoices, not the Department.
Ms Fundakubi Nthabiseng, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), DWS, brought up the issue of the War on Leaks, and what was being done about absorbing learners. The Department would attempt to absorb them. The Department was engaging with COGSTA as well as the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agency (MISA) to take them on through the District Delivery Model (DDM), and to facilitate the absorption of the qualified learners by municipalities.
She referred to the question about the Department receiving the draft report from the SIU. The team of investigators was still busy with the value for money assessment, and therefore the Department had not yet received the draft report.
Mr Mashego asked the Chairperson to be mindful of the time, as the meeting had gone over time by half an hour.
The Chairperson said the meeting had gone over time because there were lots of questions.
Mr Leonardo Manus, Chief Director: Infrastructure Operations & Maintenance, DWS, said the Department had identified the additional R46 million funding that was required for Nandoni. The Department had also cleared the packages for 61 additional job opportunities, in addition to the 72 that already existed in terms of the housing upgrades that were required there.
The Department was also making good progress in far as compensation was concerned, but there were some requirements in terms of rectifying some problems with regard to documentation to ensure what was actually identified during the verification processes, was what it was supposed to be. The leadership of the DM had been employed to assist the community members to address the identified shortcomings.
The issue of the additional 30ha of land was being investigated through the Department’s survey spatial, land and information management unit. It had emerged that it was not 30ha, but slightly less at 26ha that had to be procured. An application had already been submitted to the Valuer-General to appoint a valuer to determine the value of the property so that the matter could be addressed.
Regarding the issue of the Crocodile transfer, the Record of Implementation decision still stood as it was. The Department was still grappling with multiple appeals in terms of the environmental authorisation that had been submitted to the Department. The Department of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries were dealing with the appeals that had been submitted. Unfortunately, there had been a delay in the legal opinion that was to be obtained on this matter, but the Department’s counterparts in those departments had that promised the legal opinion would be available within the month of October.
A discussion with Eskom and the Department of Minerals and Energy was required because of the fact that they felt that there was diminishing support in terms of Phase 2. However, from the Department’s side, together with the National Treasury, it was felt that because of the important need for energy generation in that area of Limpopo, it was necessary to invest in an alternative source of water supply. This was because if the Department failed in Mokolo, there was the risk involving the energy capacity as far as the Medupi Power Station was concerned. Feedback would be given to the Committee.
A Departmental official, deputising for the Deputy Directo-General, referred to the validation and verification process. He said the first phase was validation and the second phase was verification. The first presentation had indicated that the first phase was finalised, but unfortunately there had been a problem between the Department and the consultant responsible for validation and verification in that area. It was currently being attended to. As soon as that was finalised, the Department would proceed to the final phase. Letters were being sent to the people who had been validated.
The Chairperson said that she was confused by the official’s comments.
The Chairperson checked if there was anyone left in the meeting who could answer more questions.
DM Mahlobo said that because there were many questions, they would have to be put in writing, especially the ones on validation and verification, and the one about the issue about the pipeline. The Department would then be able to give the Committee timelines.
The Department would have a discussion with the province about the issue of Sekhukhune, because there was currently a concern over reticulation that had not happened for some time. The dam was full. Some more details were needed to deal with the questions, but the Department did not intend to leave any questions unanswered. If there were any answers that were not clear, such those referring to validation and verifications, they would be responded to in writing.
Ms Mokgotho said that the DM had not said that her question was one of those that he would respond to. If possible, she wanted the question to be answered now. To what extent and how often did the Department undertake audits in the area on waste water treatment works and sanitation systems to assess the current functionality of these systems? Did the Department and the municipalities do repeat audits on the systems on a predetermined schedule while keeping monitoring in place?
The Chairperson said there was a question about why the R3.3 billion announced by Anglo American Platinum (AAP) was not part of the plan of the DHS. Could the Committee get a commitment that this question would receive an answer in writing?
Ms Mohlala said she wanted the answer to her questions on the functionality of the entire water value chain, and the one on the waste water treatment plan in writing.
The Chairperson said that the report on waste water plans had been submitted a long time ago, so the officials would be asked to get Ms Mohlala a copy.
Ms Mohlala asked if the answer to Ms Tafeni’s question could come in writing too.
DM Mahlobo said that maybe the Committee Members had missed what he had said, because he had spoken about municipal assessments. He had even referred to the water services regulation, which was actually Regulation 2001. It was very clear what the municipalities had to report as part of their annual reports. He had spoken at length about this.
He also responded on the functionality of municipalities’ waste water treatment works. That was why he had referred Members to slides 30 and 31. All the waste water treatment works were in the report. The answer to Ms Tafeni’s question was on slide 15, and referred to what was needed to ensure that the security of supply and assurance for the next 10, 20 and 30 years. It was clearly stated there. The Department had even indicated that the issues of the funding source were gazetted.
The President had held a symposium around infrastructure, because infrastructure was going to drive the economy. The President would speak more about this when he spoke on Thursday, 15 October. There was a publication about some of these major projects, including this project of Limpopo, so that Limpopo could have water for socio-economic benefits too.
The Chairperson said that there was a need for continuous oversight on the water service authority, because the people of Limpopo could no longer wait. There also needed to be an action plan to deal with the backlog and an action plan regarding the rectification programme in all the projects that had been discussed. The formal report about oversight was still needed.
Ms Sihlwayi said she had raised the issue of Limpopo sharing a dam with Zimbabwe. It was important, because Limpopo wanted to know the relative value to Zimbabwe and Limpopo. This was because it was being shared with a neighbouring country.
The Chairperson said that that issue had been responded to, but perhaps not in the way Ms Sihlwayi wanted it to be.
DM Mahlabo responded to Ms Sihlwayi that there were challenges that he could not refer to in this meeting. He had heard the question in two elements. He would not speak about the other element, but there were actually issues of checks and balances. What would happen would be governed by the treaties. Remember the treaty that South Africa signed with all the neighboring countries? There was a certain protocol at the level of the Head of State. This question would be logged. Remember the Lesotho project? That was the model that the Department would try to follow. It was also the same thing that the Department was doing with Namibia and Botswana. He guaranteed that it would be a win-win situation.
The meeting was adjourned.
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