In a virtual meeting, the Portfolio Committee received a briefing from the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) on the associated Rooiwal challenges and its current interventions at Rand Water to deal with concerns involving the Vaal River system.
The Committee asked about the situation in Sedibeng and how the Department intended to resolve the problems of funding in this district municipality. It suggested criminality was involved in the Rooiwal and Vaal River cases, as there had been a violation of the constitutional rights of the people who did not have access to good drinking water, and referred to the report received from the South African Human Rights Commission on the sewage and water pollution in the city of Tshwane’s rivers and the Rooiwal Dam.
The Committee asked if reports had been received on the Vaal River situation from the previous implementing agent, which had been the South African National Defence Force, whose efforts on remedying the situation had not produced positive results. It emphasised the need to review the previous reports before embarking on any new remedial project. The effects of unemployment, poverty and hunger were given as reasons for the vandalisation that had plagued the Vaal River project.
The Committee commended the Department's efforts at the job creation within the area, and hoped that the learners who were trained by the government and the DWS would be employed, because there had been concerns over the years about the huge amount of money spent on training learners who were not absorbed, and the incapacity of the municipalities to absorb these learners. It called on the Department to identify the industries and companies that continue to pollute the rivers and dumps, and to implement decisive punitive action against them.
The Department explained that in the case of Tshwane and the people of Hammanskraal, it was not the whole of Hammanskraal that was affected. It was only the Temba area, which was supplied by the Apies river system up to the water treatment plant. Other parts of Hammanskraal supplied by Rand Water and the Magalies Water Board were not affected.
After the Chairperson welcomed Members to the meeting, Mr David Mahlobo, Deputy Minister of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) said there was an apology from the Minister and Deputy Minister, Ms Dikeledi Magadzi.
The Chairperson explained that the Minister was not a member of the Portfolio Committee, and attended Committee meetings only at the invitation of the Chairperson or the Committee. When the Minister's presence was required, adequate notice of meeting should be issued to him.
At this point, Minister Senzo Mchunu indicated his presence in the meeting.
Mr L Basson (DA) asked the Minister and the Department to bring a report to the Portfolio Committee on Sedibeng water. Residents in the Sedibeng area were struggling without water because of the financial situation of Sedibeng, as municipalities were not paying. It was also evident that Sedibeng would not be able to pay salaries again on 20 November, and there would be another strike. The Department and the Minster must inform the Committee about the situation in Sedibeng and how it intends to resolve Sedibeng's funding problems.
The Chairperson advised the Minister that the Committee expected that the DWS's report would include Sedibeng.
Progress on associated Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment Works challenges
The Minister said that there had been a long history of interactions between the DWS and the city of Tshwane on matters of water supply to the residents. This included the supply of clean drinkable water to the people of Hammanskraal, which was the responsibility of the city of Tshwane because of their status as the water authority in that jurisdiction. Following consultations into the history of the interaction, it had been concluded that the interactions had not yielded any progress or any result in relation to the supply of drinkable water to the people of Hammanskraal in particular.
The Minister added that since his appointment, four formal meetings had been scheduled which involved the Premier of Gauteng, the mayor of Tshwane, the Member of the Mayoral Committee (MMC) and other relevant people. The Ministry was also represented, and the office in Gauteng, Rand Water and Magalies Water at some points. The last meeting held was in Midrand during a three-day working session in Gauteng with water authorities represented by metros in Gauteng, while the city of Tshwane was represented by the mayor.
A long report was presented by the Departments’ office in Gauteng and by the Mayor. There were two rounds of interventions -- an intervention by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), which raised concerns, conducted investigations and interacted with the people, and gave their reports to the Department. During the meeting, issues were also raised about the city of Tshwane’s failure to complete a pipe project for the supply of water, which had commenced a long time ago.
The DWS needed to concede that it was in default of its constitutional obligation to provide clean drinkable water. The Minister added that this could have been caused by unsurmountable circumstances, such as human resource or budget constraints. In the case of Tshwane and the people of Hammanskraal, it was not the whole of Hammanskraal that was affected, but the Themba area that was supplied by the Apies river system. The other part of Hammanskraal which was supplied by Rand Water had no problems. It could then be concluded that there was a need for an intervention, because not only was the Department in contravention of the Constitution, but it was also in contravention of its mantra which says water was life and sanitation was dignity.
The Department was certainly in default in respect of water, and this was to the disappointment of the people of Hammanskraal. Also, the report of the SAHRC clearly indicated this default, and the DWS had agreed to intervene and until the end of the month, special advisers would be registering the reactions from the Department and interactions, which would be presented by the end of the month in a meeting with the DWS. The intention was not to challenge the recommendations of the SAHRC, but to adopt a clear position on the way forward, and this would constitute the Department's report to the Committee.
Status of Temba drinking water and Rooiwaal Waste Water Treatment Works
The DWS reported on the Temba water treatment works and the Temba water treatment plant. It also presented the Portfolio Committee’s directive, the subsequent engagements with East Rand Water (ERWAT) Care Company and Magalies Water, and a report on the Rooiwaal WWTW which was not operating optimally. Reports were presented on the directive of the Portfolio Committee and on subsequent engagements.
Rooiwal WWTW reported on its construction activities and the percentage of completion, including some site photographs. Reports on financial matters were also presented, particularly with respect to the various service providers, their appointment value, and the percentage of expenditure to date.
The implementation of a City of Tshwane (CoT) action plan was also presented, indicating the impact on category 1, 2 and 3 projects. The Department presented a summary of capital budget requirements for prioritised critical wastewater treatment works and the operational budget requirements.
Recommendations from the SAHRC were presented, and the Department's response to these recommendations.
Section 63 Vaal River intervention at Emfuleni Local Municipality
Minister Mchunu said that on the Vaal River, a well-informed intervention must be made by the Department. The DWS had reviewed everything that had been done on the Vaal, including all the records and reports to ascertain where progress had been recorded or not recorded after interventions, the set of activities that were engaged in, and the amount of money spent, and an evaluation of the effectiveness of the proposed intervention in view of all the work that been done in the past. The Department had decided to appoint a tested and trusted implementing agent.
The Minister said that prior to his appointment, the former Minister of Water and Sanitation had already approached Rand Water. The Department had simply followed up on the appointment, based on its assessment of Rand Water, its proximity and its capacity. Rand Water had been appointed as the implementing agent on the Vaal project.
Secondly, the Department visited the Vaal via a cruise with knowledgeable people, and everything was assessed and finalised with respect to ascertaining the extent of the problem. Pollution was also identified on the floor of the river, and it was clear that the river was heavily contaminated, and that the animals and environment as a whole were heavily affected. The plants were also not functional at all. The pumps, including critical ones to keep the system working, had grounded to a halt. Thirdly, the sewage pipes were seriously blocked, to the extent where even if the water and water treatment plants were overhauled, if pipes remained blocked it would not produce the necessary outcome. Attending to unblocking without dealing with the pumps would not provide progress.
The tour was conducted with Rand Water, its chief executive and a few other people. Meetings had been held with the board and the Department had made known its position to see the matter to an amicable resolution. Though there had been various attempts and interventions in the past on the matter, the implementing agents would facilitate the Departments’ intervention to ensure that the work was done as efficiently and as quickly as possible. All administrative processes were concluded to a large extent, and someone had been appointed to monitor the progress of the project on behalf of the Department. A physical meeting was also scheduled, with all role players -- Rand Water, the DWS, the local municipalities and districts, and various organisations with an interest in the Vaal in that particular area. During the meeting, input was provided by everyone, and it was unanimously agreed that a decisive intervention, led by the DWS, was required. The main role of the intervention was to ensure that the environment under which the implementing agent would work was free from any undue interference by anyone, together within the local municipalities. After the assessment, Rand Water would be able to provide the timeframe in which the system would be fixed. The timeframe, however, excluded cleaning the river, and only focused on ensuring that there was no further pollution.
The final phase of the project would be to assess the river itself and clean it, while having a very strong monitoring mechanism not only in the Vaal project, but throughout the system. During the scheduled meeting of all stakeholders at the end of the month, all the pollution spots of the river system would be identified, from the source right down to the Vaal, which includes the Northern Cape and the Free State, where some of the pollution points were identified. The whole river system would be presented to the meeting so that all pollution spots could be identified and a simultaneous project to clean up the system could be embarked on.
Rand Water was presently at work, and they had begun to make a difference. It had presented an impressive initial briefing, where they showed the Department the extent of work to be done based on their assessment, and the validity and impact of their approach towards cleaning up the river. The ongoing work includes unblocking of the pumps, a complete overhaul, and an extensive replacement on some parts of the waste water pumps. There was a committee there, led by Deputy Minister Mahlobo, through which the Department interacts with all role players, and where there is any threat to the work environment, the Committee takes steps to resolve it. A recent example was when people blocked one of the pumps and demanded jobs, but the matter had now been resolved. Work was ongoing, but the speed of the ongoing work needed monitoring, and an agreement had to be reached with Rand Water on the time frame and total amount involved.
The Department assured the Portfolio Committee that it was serious about the project. It was monitoring it, and received weekly updates. It was in talks with Rand Water, and had granted it access to the Minister when required. On the other hand, Rand Water could also have direct talks with the Department, the Deputy Minister, the implementing agent, the Gauteng government and local municipalities. The Department was certain that it enjoyed the support and confidence of all the stakeholders involved, and decisive progress would be made on the matter.
Mr Sipho Mosa, Chief Executive, Rand Water, presented on the current status of its intervention at Emfuleni local municipality, as per the Section 63 directive. The report presented the main problem with the Vaal system and the SAHRC recommendations. A report was also given on the resources required immediately, and the progress on advocacy and water conservation and water demand management. The Department also gave report on the Sebokeng local labour opportunities, the Leeuwkuil local labour opportunities, the socio-economic development objectives, and the Vaal River Rehabilitation recommendations and challenges.
Ms R Mohlala (EFF), said that the Rooiwal case and the Vaal river case, constituted criminality against the people of South Africa by the Department. Those involved in the country's water infrastructure had created a struggle for communities which could not access clean water. A class action by the affected citizens against the Department for the violation of their constitutional rights was the only way the aggrieved citizens could receive social justice.
A huge amount of money was spent on the Blue and Green Drop reports undertaken by the Department. The Minister, when briefing the Committee on Tshwane, had said advisers would respond to the findings of the SAHRC. Had it appointed advisers or consultants to undertake this function, and could the Minister provide more details in this regard?
Which Department was monitoring the Urban Settlement Development Grant (USDG) being spent on Hammanskraal and the city of Tshwane?
Lastly, on the directives instituted against the city of Tshwane for sewage spillages and damage, what regulatory and compliance mechanism was used to effect a punitive exchange? How was the DWS strengthening its regulatory unit, as it had over the years been one of the weakest in terms of budget and legislative reforms?
A court order was awarded to the Save The Vaal organisation to add national and provincial players, including the Department of Finance and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA). Was Save The Vaal acting on the court’s action, and what had been the response of the DWS?
Ms Mohlala asked if the Department had received the reports from the findings of the previous implementing agent -- the South African National Defence Force -- on remedying the Vaal situation. A new reform could not be successfully achieved without revisiting previous results.
Had the Department issued any directive to the Emfuleni municipality, and had it instituted a court action against Emfuleni as it did with the city of Tshwane. Why was the Department silent on Emfuleni?
On page 8 and 9, Rand Water talked of short, medium and long-term interventions, but there were no tangible time frames given. The Portfolio Committee would need these timeframes to enable it to carry out its oversight responsibilities.
High rates of unemployment, poverty, hunger, and the failure of the governing and ruling party was the root cause of the people blocking the project at the Vaal River. How had the Minister responded to this situation, and what had been done to rescue the situation and ensure that the cries of the people were being addressed?
The Departments’ report said leaks were being fixed while the water infrastructure was failing. It would be most appropriate to fix the institutions that were obligated by law to effectively and systematically ensure continued maintenance of these infrastructures.
Ms G Tseke (ANC), said that as rightly mentioned by Ms Mohlala, there had been no progress report received on the work undertaken by the South African National Defence Force. Secondly, when the Department visited the waste water treatment plant, the ERWAT Care Company was on site, but no progress report was received on the work done before the appointment of Rand Water. Was the contract with ERWAT terminated, because they were specialists in waste water treatment plant work? Also, Rand Water seemed to be starting work from scratch without taking into account the work that was done by the previous entity.
There was a rollover of R500m for the project which was confirmed by the Minister of Finance in the medium term budget policy statement (MTBPS). Had this money already been committed for this project, or would there be a new budget that would address the challenges in the Vaal?
Ms Tseke commended the report on the job opportunities and the number of people that had been employed in the area. The unemployment rate was high in the country, and the DWS also had a responsibility to address this problem.
On the issue of labour, it was hoped that the learners who were trained by the government and the DWS would be employed, because there had been concerns over the years about the huge amount of money spent on training learners who were not absorbed, and the incapacity of the municipalities to absorb these learners.
It was general knowledge that the biggest cause of pollution were the communities. While the Portfolio Committee appreciated the advocacy campaigns which engaged the communities in the cleaning and stoppage of throwing waste into the rivers and dumps, the list of industries or companies that were continually polluting the rivers and dumps should also be compiled and a report presented on how the Department was dealing with them. Those polluting the rivers must be made to pay.
It was evident there was no progress report on the river, despite severally visits by the Portfolio Committee and the recommendations given to the city of Tshwane and the Department. The government was failing these communities by giving them water that was not of good quality, even though the city of Tshwane received grants for this purpose.
On the issue of safety and security, there were concerns about the safety of the people and the vandalism of the water infrastructure. A report should be given by the Department on whether water infrastructure was a national key point so that money was not wasted in addressing all the challenges of crime in the water sector.
The constitution was very clear that everyone had the right to access sufficient food and water in the country, and Parliament had enacted the Water Services Act of 108 of 1997. Section 63 clearly states that where a water service authority was failing to discharge its responsibility, the national department must kick in and take full responsibility and control over the water infrastructure. Why had the Department not activated this section, because the problem in the Vaal had been ongoing long before the year 2019? Why had the national Department not taken over so that the people of the country could see that these challenges were being addressed and have confidence in the system, be it as the ANC government or any other government.
Ms C Seoposengwe (ANC) suggested that the city of Tshwane should be invited to respond to some of the issues raised. It was an embarrassment to the country that the Human Rights Commission had to intervene, and its intervention meant that the rights of citizens had been contravened. Issues of compliance, monitoring and regular evaluation of projects must also be considered. There were also no reports that the recommendations of the Portfolio Committee had been implemented.
She also expressed concern about the trained students, and said that the resources used to train them would go to waste if they were not utilised.
Mr A Tseki (ANC) suggested that at the next meeting, existing problems should be identified first, particularly with regard to spillage and the state of the drinking water in Hammanskraal and Temba, and focus should be on addressing the identified problem areas. The Department could opt out of a project if it did not have enough money. A project could not run indefinitely -- it must have a start and an end date.
The Chairperson disagreed with Mr Tseki, explaining that once a matter had been declared constitutional, it had to be executed. Failure to execute the project would mean deprivation of the constitutional rights of the people who should benefit from it. The Minister could not unilaterally refuse to execute a project due to a low budget. However, it was important that questions were asked about the status of a problem before undertaking to execute it, and there should be a regular review of progress. The Chairperson expressed his delight on the inspection in loco that had been conducted, and enquired if reports had been collected, and if the execution plans had been informed by the result of the visit.
He asked for a status report on Emfuleni municipality and its indebtedness to loan and banking systems.
The Chairperson said he was aware from his previous visits to Tshwane that there was no water there. Upon his visit to Rooiwal, he had been informed by the DA that one of the reasons for the absence of purified water in Tshwane was because the contract which was awarded by the city had been cancelled immediately when political control had changed hands from the ANC to the DA, and no new appointment had been made for two consecutive years.
However, the authority responsible for the supply of water was the municipality. Where there was a failure to act, the Department could step in, but the Department must communicate its actions to the voters and the Committee. It was a fact that the people blocking the pipes were the business people who run the water tanks, and there was no report from the Department on how it would deal with this issue that constituted a political offence. On all the big river systems, the people with these tankers were always trying to sabotage the delivery of water.
Minister Mchunu agreed that the issue of Tshwane had persisted for a long time and been in existence before his appointment. On the progress of work by the Department, he had appointed two advisers who would advise on the processes to follow in taking over of the water situation in Tshwane. The DWS was also reviewing the reports of the SAHRC, the Portfolio Committee, and the interactions between the Department and the city of Tshwane. All matters reviewed would be tabled on 26 November and a final decision would be reached on the interventions in Hammanskraal. When a decision was reached, the financial obligations, legality and other aspects would also be considered, further to which an announcement could be made.
The issue of assessing drinking water in Hammanskraal should, however, not be exaggerated. The community that depended on, or supplied, Temba was the one on point here. Rand Water supplied water to Hammanskraal, and there was no problem with that water. Magalies Water also provided water to a part of Hammanskraal, and there was no problem. The only part of Hammanskraal with problem was the area supplied by Tshwane. Information was being collected, and the legal and financial implications were under examination. The Department had recorded progress in its interaction with Rand Water on Hammanskraal as a whole, and would be considering the recommendation from Rand water on Tshwane on 26 November. The Department was at an advanced stage where it could make an informed decision on Tshwane as a whole. Section 63 should be applied with section 139, and the Department would also be requiring the assistance of the province.
The Department had received reports on the Vaal River, but no report had been received on how the finances were used, which should have been received in the form of a close out report during the time of the intervention by the South African National Defence Force. However, the Department was fully aware of the outcomes and non-outcomes.
The acting head of Gauteng would be requested to send the directives that were previously sent to Emfuleni to the secretary of the Portfolio Committee, and it would be circulated to Members. Though there had been interventions by the Department with regard to Emfuleni, the interventions were not successful. There had been incapacity beyond any doubt with regard to the Emfuleni municipality.
On the question as to how the Department had responded, Ms Mohlala had said that the reason why the pipes were blocked was because of the economic situation in the country and failure on the part of the government to provide work. The report presented by the chief executive of Rand Water had clearly identified areas that could enable meaningful interaction between the Department, via Rand Water in particular, and interested parties acting on behalf of the people of the Vaal. The report had also mentioned the people that might have job opportunities and the categories that could produce jobs, what those jobs would be and how many jobs would be created.
On the assertion that government had failed, Minister Mchunu said that it was not the sole responsibility of the governing party to resolve economic problems in the country. South Africa had three arms of government -- the executive, Parliament and the judiciary. When there was an issue involving unemployment and the economic situation in the country, Parliament could not be excluded. The Minister said he had expected that Ms Mohlala would suggest alternative and additional ways in which the Department could respond, and not overlook the presentation by stating that the government was a failure. Suggestions were welcomed on how jobs could be created in the Vaal area. When the meeting was held with all the role players, the Premier of Gauteng had outlined in details their plans to turn the Vaal around in terms of its potential and how this potential could be turned into reality. That was part of government at the provincial level. No Member of Parliament should exclude itself from the effort of ensuring the resolution of the current challenges to the economy of the country. Criticisms were welcome as part of politicking in the country, but suggestions should also be given after criticisms were made, and if the suggestions were rejected, then more criticisms could be made.
It was estimated that between 40 and 50% of water lost in the country both nationally and municipality was due to leaks, and it was a challenge to municipalities and the government at large to lose such volumes of water in a water scarce country. Plans were under way to take stock of money sent to municipalities and metros in the last five years, and then specific reports could be provided on each municipality with respect to their conduct and behaviour with the infrastructure grants. The Department would also start ring-fencing all grants sent to municipalities, increase monitoring and maybe withhold some grants from the end of the financial year, while at the same time reorganising along the lines of section 63 and 39.
That was the Department's intervention plan, and support was required from the Portfolio Committee. It have started section 63 and would act accordingly and make two submissions before end of December along those lines -- one on a municipality in KZN and another on Tshwane, possibly along those lines.
On the defence force involvement, there was no comprehensive report covering finances. The report received did not include financials. The report of ERWAT for their 12-month contract had not resulted in any positive outcome despite being paid for it, and there were still concerns about this.
Money had been committed to the Vaal project, and details of the time frame and the depth of work to be completed would be provided by the implementing agent in a few weeks.
The "War on Leaks" programme was being closed, and the Department was awaiting the proclamation of the President following the investigations of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU). From the Departments’ internal report, it was a project that went wrong at implementation, and consequently a large amount was spent with little outcome. The municipalities would be directed to deal with the war on leaks, and the emphasis would be determining the causes of the leaks, which were pointing to old infrastructure.
There had not been much progress on Rooiwal, hence the intervention which would be decided on at the end of the month. The main focus of the intervention was to remove and replace old infrastructure, and also to add more infrastructure in some places, as the vast majority of South Africans depended on piped water, which calls for heavy infrastructure across the country. Work had started on the budget and it would hopefully influence expenditures.
An inspection had been conducted in loco, and the progress of work was satisfactory, and proper monitoring would continue. One of the deputy ministers would also be appointed to interact with the Portfolio Committee on the Department's programmes, and would be a lead person in these interactions.
Mr Mbulelo Tshangana, Acting Director-General, DWS, said the urban settlements development grant (USDG) was a human settlements grant. Grants were monitored to ensure that they were not used for salaries. Some mistakes had been registered in the past, but the Department now checked capacity and there were conditions that must be complied with before grants were collected. This was the reason why there were delays in transfers in the budget, because certain conditions had not been met. While withholding grants could cause harm to the intending beneficiaries, the DWS could not be reckless by giving money without checking capacity, and making sure that the money would be used for water infrastructure and nothing else.
To strengthen the regulatory functions, restructuring was recently finalised with the former Minister, and Minister Mchunu would look into the structure and advise on whether it would reviewed or not. However, the restructuring had been achieved at the regional and provincial levels, and there were directors responsible for regulation who would be capacitated. Some graduate trainees from the learning academy had put into the regulation area where they had acquired experience, and had been absorbed.
The function on the Blue Drop and Green Drop had also been outsourced. The Green Drop was an assessment and did not necessarily result in an improvement in the infrastructure of the waste water system plant, while the Blue Drop involved the drinking water system. The report gives an assessment of the conditions, and if nothing was done about those reports, they would not be of any benefit to the country, except if action was taken on them.
From the regulatory point of view, action had been taken against the water services authorities, but it was a lengthy process that was negatively impacting on the resources of the Department. It was usually preferable to first engage the water services authorities and exhaust all inter-governmental relations before proceeding to court. The learning academy continued to have intakes, and next year some of the graduate trainees would be placed in the regulatory branch so that they could assist. Some contractors were recently recruited on regulation matters, but it was not for pollution but for water use authorisation involving licensing. Efforts were ongoing to absorb some of them while working with human resources to increase available posts and absorb even more at the provincial level.
Mr Sipho Mosai, Chief Executive, CE Rand Water, added that for the long term, the Department was conducting an assessment on budget availability, and crafting a detailed plan.
The leaks could not be addressed without dealing with upgrades. The budget was spread across all the interventions. The interventions were not once-off or for one area, but were intended to cover the whole scope of work. However, budget was a challenge.
Deputy Minister Mahlobo said that going forward, the Department would be requiring the help of the Committee beyond its oversight duties. The issue of interventions, and also the funding of interventions, was an area where the Department required its support. Water was becoming a source of power generation in the country, and a lot of interventions and resource mobilisation was required. More resources were also required to fund investment in infrastructure and match up to the growth in population and the gross domestic product (GDP). The SAHRC and other organisations would always be taken seriously by the Ministry and the Department because of the intensive work they did. There was an insistence by the Ministry to respect the asset management philosophy -- they must know where the assets were, as a number of these institutions did not know the state they were in The Ministry was also insisting on security plans and was working with the communities on this.
Ms Mohlala asked the Chairperson to advise the Minister against comments that looked like political grandstanding against criticisms. Members of Parliament from other political organisations were contributing in Parliament and in the Portfolio Committee, and making recommendations, but it was up to the executive to implement the recommendations. It was wrong for the Minister to say that Members of Parliament were not contributing. Members of the EFF were on the ground and were the ones doing the monitoring on behalf of the Ministry and reporting back to the Committee. The ANC government had failed in over 27 years, and that was why support for the ANC in the majority of provinces was below 50% -- even in KwaZulu-Natal, where the Minister came from.
The Chairperson asked the Minister not to respond, as it was wrong to assert that during elections only the EFF had gone to the communities. All parties had interacted with the people in the communities. The Chairperson requested that the meeting focus on the work that was being done. Contrary to Ms Mohlala’s comments, the Chairperson clarified that the Minister had said he would have expected Ms Mohlala to provide any alternative imput that could improve the situation so that the Ministry could consider and respond to that.
The Minister said the Department was experiencing challenges with regard to Citibank and water boards on a number of fronts. Interactions were ongoing with the board on the challenges between the board and their employees around salaries. The root cause of the problem remained that municipalities were not fulfilling their obligations in terms of paying the board, and the municipalities were currently in huge arrears to the board. Also, the communities in these municipalities were not making their payments for water adequately to enable the municipalities pay the board. There was also the problem of electricity, which was needed to pump water and operate water plants. There was need for short term interventions to keep the board afloat by persuading municipalities to pay when possible. Meetings had been scheduled with worker representatives to deal with issues of salaries as soon as possible, further to which interactions would be scheduled with the board to see where to adjust. However, Citibank would have to pay the workers, and the Department was taking steps to deal with the Citibank delays. The Department was also engaging Treasury to make an intervention, because Citibank was proposing to be bailed out. Another area of intervention was with respect of the review of the future of the board and its reconfiguration.
The Chairperson thanked the Ministry for participating in the meeting the whole day. Members who were not satisfied could forward follow-up questions in writing to the Ministry.
Mr Basson said that he did not think it was wise to put Sedibeng under the administration of the Department -- to take over the working of Sedibeng in the short term -- just to stabilise the issues in the area.
The Chairperson responded said that the Minister had reported that they were engaging Sedibeng and the Treasury on a possible bail out. Sedibeng was failing on the grounds of asking for an exemption on salary structures as agreed in the bargaining council, and therefore the intervention of the Ministry was necessary to access Treasury. In the meantime, a short-term intervention could not be activated with section 154 or 139.
The meeting was adjourned.
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