DWS & WRC 2022/23 Annual Performance Plans; with the Minister and Deputy Minister

Water and Sanitation

03 May 2022
Chairperson: Mr R Mashega (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Water and Sanitation                                      
Water Research Commission

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) and the Water Research Commission (WRC) presented their 2022/23 annual performance plans and budgets in a virtual meeting.

The Department said it planned to implement a range of major projects to augment the national bulk water resource infrastructure and had plans to guide and lead the development of other water resources, including groundwater and desalination. It would strengthen its role in supporting and intervening in municipalities where municipal water and sanitation services were failing. The regulatory interventions would address issues of pollution of the environment and communities experiencing problems with wastewater.

Members raised concerns about the ability of municipalities to set realistic rates for water usage and insisted that the eradication of pit toilets in formal housing schemes must be completed by the end of this year. The Department was also questioned about how it planned to help create jobs in the country now that it had received its budget.

The Water Research Commission said climate studies predicted that the eastern part of South Africa would receive more rainfall. Droughts and other more frequent and prolonged extreme events were to be expected. The focus should be more on how to cushion/buffer settlement areas, and how to redesign flood attenuation infrastructure. This included reviewing the spatial planning of developments near wetlands and flood plains, and rural settlement areas. There must be more enhancements around drainage/stormwater planning with correct budgets, to cater for floods. There had to be a plan for the movement and accommodation of people in distress. The early warning systems must have an integrated government approach.

Members pointed out that 40% to 45% of water was lost through leaks, and asked what role the WRC could play in tackling this. The Commission described a device it had developed which could shut off the water supply when a leak occurred, but a major challenge was municipalities' reluctance to adopt modern technology. The Committee requested the DWS and WRC to collaborate and produce an analysis of the current problems the country was facing, and to come up with solutions that could be implemented.

Meeting report


The Chairperson began the meeting by acknowledging the progress that had been made in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) in dealing with the flood damage. However, another disaster had taken place in Ekurhuleni, where approximately 1 000 shacks had burned down and consequently taking four lives. He also referred briefly to the incident that took place during the Worker’s Day celebration, where the President’s speech had been abruptly disturbed by angry workers.

He asked Ms R Mohlala (EFF) about the inception of the EFF workers' union.

Ms Mohlala said that the inception would happen soon, and emphasised that the union would be for workers.

Minister's opening remarks

Mr Senzo Mchunu, Minister of Water and Sanitation (DWS), mentioned that he was not alone – his team from the DWS was also present -- so he was not going to be more detailed, as a presentation was going to be given by them on the annual performance plan (APP).

There was progress in KZN and the Eastern Cape because of the war room that had been established, in conjunction with various municipalities. There had also been a recovery of the water systems. The DWS was not attempting to take over the duties of municipalities, but there had been a unanimous agreement for the DSW to intervene.

He made an example of the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality, which had been severely affected and was struggling to meet the water demands. This was not the only municipality -- there were others – but there was a balance in terms of how the cooperation of various stakeholders involved would assist these municipalities. The intervention was to ensure that the needs of the people were not affected by the overwhelmed municipalities. The interventions took place with the utmost sensitivity.

Department of Water and Sanitation Annual Performance Plan 2022/23

Dr Sean Phillips, Director-General, DWS, said the presentation consisted of two parts. The first part was about the details of how the Department planned to implement a range of major projects to augment the national bulk water resource infrastructure, and its plans to guide and lead the development of other water resources, including groundwater and desalination. It covered how the DSW would strengthen its role in supporting and intervening in municipalities where municipal water and sanitation services were failing. The regulatory interventions would address the issues of pollution of the environment and communities from wastewater. The DSW planned to reduce irregular, unauthorised and wasteful expenditure and ensure consequence management for financial misconduct. It would improve revenue collection across the water value chain and guide and lead an increase in water-use efficiency and demand, and conservation management. It would continue to improve water-use licence turnaround times and promote transformation in water use.

(See attached document for further details).

Dr Phillips commented that the implementation of the above strategic plans could not be achieved without the appointment of key positions. The posts of Director-General (DG) and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) had been filled with effect from January, while the positions of Deputy Director-General: Water Services and Deputy Director-General: Regulation Compliance and Enforcement, were awaiting confirmation by Cabinet. All the regional heads positions had been filled, and interviews had taken place for the post of Chief Director: Internal Audit and candidates were undergoing assessment.

Mr Frans Moatshe, CFO, delivered the second part of the presentation. The Department had been allocated an amount of R59.6 billion over the medium term expenditure framework (MTEF) period -- R18.5 billion in 2022/23, R20.1 billion in 2023/24, and R20.9 billion in 2024/25. Of this, compensation of employees (COE) amounted to R5.4billion over the MTEF period -- R1.836 billion in 2022/23, R1.741 billion in 2023/24, and R1.819 billion in 2024/25. Other allocations were:

  • Goods and services: R5.5 billion over the MTEF -- R1.770 billion, R1.819 billion and R1.908 billion in 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25 respectively.
  • Transfers and subsidies: R34.9 billion -- R10.528 billion, R12.002 billion and R12.393 billion respectively.
  • Payments for capital assets: R13.788 billion  -- R4.404 billion, R4.593 billion and R4.792 billion respectively.

Net changes to the voted baseline amounts were a R1.1 billion increase in 2022/23, a R2.1 billion increase in 2023/24, and a R2.1 billion increase in 2024/25. This was mainly because of additional allocations through the budget facility for infrastructure.


Minister Mchunu said that the summary that was given by the CEO could be used to measure the Department’s performance. If plans could be achieved through these budget allocations and with outside help from other organisations, the landscape of the country would be changed in terms of the delivery of water.

The Chairperson said that the APP was a commitment to what the Department planned to do. There would be oversight of those commitments. He had had an interview with eNCA, where he had been asked questions based on reports in the Daily Maverick. He felt that such reports were not an accurate reflection of what the Committee did and that it was important for the Committee to engage with the public.

Mr L Basson (DA) said there was a problem when it came to water tariff increases. The Department could not continue playing the role of referee and player. There must be a clear indication of how these calculations were done. He felt that at least 70% of the municipalities were not aware of how the services of delivering water were costed. Therefore, the municipalities should not decide without proper procedures as to what the tariffs should cost.

Ms Mohlala asked what mechanisms were in place to mitigate the impact of trade debtors and non-payment moving forward.

Ms G Tseke (ANC) appreciated the progress being made in deploying the relevant candidates who were going to assist with the stabilisation of the Department. She emphasised the point of job creation. The rate of unemployment in the country was too high – the Department needed to intervene to bring it down. It also needed to fast track the finalisation of the Water Services Act amendment. It needed to request intervention from the private sector to bridge the infrastructure funding gap.

She also asked about the eradication of the bucket system. This had been a concern since 2019.

Ms C Seoposengwe (ANC) asked if there were alternative solutions to eradicate the bucket system. There had to be an integration of departments to solve this problem, including the involvement of the Department of Basic Education (DBE). Climate change meant more caution must be paid to the management of the water system. Southern African regions were going to be hit hard by climate change. It was important to be informed about its impact on the various provinces.

Ms N Sihlwayi (ANC) said it was important to give credit where it was due. The Minister had done a lot. His visibility alone in the affected communities had made a significant impact. The Department had presented overly complex ideas on how to eradicate the bucket system, but the APP did not seem to touch on that. Nelson Mandela Bay had a technical disaster of its own. What was the plan to assist that municipality?

The country had many rural areas, so there had to be a plan to implement groundwater and desalination projects.

The Chairperson urged that progress must be made with the eradication of the bucket system. There had been talks about seeking assistance from an independent regulator. He felt that it was important for the Department to finalise the eradication of the bucket system by end of this year. The debriefings by the Committee must be noted by the Department.

Minister's response

Minister Mchunu expressed concern at the statement made by Mr Basson about the Department acting as both referee and player. He said the DWS was not the only Department that provided services and determined the charges for services rendered, so one should not conclude summarily that it was an unfair practice.

He said there was an interim dispensation that would develop a model for tariffs. A council that would constitute this would consist of members that were knowledgeable about water and sanitation. The issue of tariffs was open to public scrutiny. At the moment, they were situation in an emergency as far as finances were concerned, to ensure that water was available to everybody.

He commented that independent regulators would come at a charge. In addition, the independent unit had worked before when he oversaw the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA). It had been headed by someone competent.

The Minister said that the municipalities did not have the right systems at the moment to determine how the citizens were charged. Some were overbilled, some were under-billed, while others were not billed at all. There was a platform to engage municipalities on how to solve most issues.

There was a whole topic on how the DWS sustained the sector, looking at the levels of debt that it had at the moment, where boards owed the Department, and boards, in turn, were owed by municipalities, and where municipalities were owed by the public. There was a greater challenge posed by unpaid debtors when it came to sustaining the sector. Currently, Sedibeng was owed R4 billion. There was continuous engagement with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) to resolve this problem.

The DWS's plan for job creation was envisaged through the inception of capital projects where people would be hired during the construction phase and beyond. The current dams projects provide such an opportunity for job creation.

While the Chairperson had insisted that the Department must finalise getting rid of the bucket system by the end of this year, Minister Mchunu said that the Department had marked March 2023 as the deadline for completion. It did not wish to extend this to any other time unless some issues arose while trying to complete the process.

He said there was a project that would get water into Mangaung. It was at the halfway stage in terms of completion. This project would ease the challenges of service delivery, even in rural areas.

The Department's infrastructure budget was not enough, and it was relying on partnerships to assist. It had had a meeting with the Department of Arts and Culture to work together with the DWS. Partnerships were inevitable, both internally and externally with the private sector. The relationship with the mining sector was very much on course, and plans would be implemented soon.

The Department was planning to visit Nandoni Dam regarding reticulation, as there had been an outcry for some time now. There would be a revival of projects at various dams. The Mthatha Dam would be augmented by the end of May 2022 via a temporary pipeline. Umkhanyakude would receive a visit regarding the intervention and upcoming projects. There had been dysfunctionality in some municipalities in terms of construction, but this would be rectified this year.

There were plans to get water into Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, although the municipality was also using private partnerships to assist with the issue. Groundwater was going to be implemented, taking into consideration that there were drier areas in the country. It meant that the Department needed to be concerned about that.

DWS's response

Dr Phillips referred to partnerships with the private sector and said an office was being established by the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and the Development Bank. It would be staffed by people with expertise in partnerships with the private sector. It was already starting to develop programmes with pragmatic approaches.

Mr Moatshe responded to the problem about non-payments and said it was being looked at on a comprehensive scale. There were incentive schemes to encourage customers to settle their rates and the implementation of credit-control measures. The recovery rate still needed to be improved, however.

Regarding bucket eradication in the Northern Cape and Free State, out of 12 221 houses, only 1 409 had received toilets in the last fiscal year. This meant that 10 798 houses in the formal areas were still on the bucket system, mainly in the Free State. The Water Research Commission was working with the Department to eradicate the bucket system. Innovation and technology were key, and the Commission was assisting with that.

The labour unrest had required the DWS to do remedial work, which had come at an expense.

Mr Leonardo Manus, Acting Deputy Director-General (DDG): Regulation, Compliance and Enforcement, said the Department was at work to remove the backlog. There might be some challenges when it came to processing water use licences, but he assured the Committee that there was a system in place to ensure that in future there was a smooth way to process them.

Ms Lindiwe Lusenga, DDG: International Water Cooperation, added that there was a plan to mitigate the challenges of climate change. There were regional mechanisms in place to assist with making sure that there was water sufficiency in the southern region. The mechanisms were monitored on a yearly basis. Water had been identified as a catalyst for industrialisation, therefore the climate change strategy was paramount.

The Chairperson made a comment to the Department’s responses. He said the Department must report the achievements and the challenges. This would help the public to understand the work that was being done by the Committee. He understood that there were timeframes, but it was important to continue with the commitments that had been made.

Water Research Commission Annual Performance Plan 2022/23

Dr Nozi Mjoli, Chairperson, Water Research Commission (WRC) said the COVID-19 pandemic had posed a significant challenge to the science, technology and innovation sector. However, it had also invigorated institutions to quickly embrace the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), artificial intelligence (AI) and other appropriate innovations for businesses to remain going concerns. The WRC had explored new ways of conducting its research, development and innovation (RDI) roadmap business. It had identified the opportunities and threats which affected the RDI programmes. It would be conducting early warning systems during 2022/23.

Climate studies predict the eastern part of South Africa would receive more rainfall. Droughts and other more frequent and prolonged extreme events were to be expected. The focus should be more on how to cushion/buffer settlement areas, and how to redesign flood attenuation infrastructure. This included reviewing the spatial planning of developments near wetlands and flood plains, and rural settlement areas. There must be more enhancements around drainage/stormwater planning with correct budgets, to cater for floods. There had to be a plan for the movement and accommodation of people in distress. The early warning systems must have an integrated government approach.

(See attached document for details).

The Commission had developed technological devices that sought to assist the Department of Water and Sanitation. Some were already ready for uptake, while others were at the demonstration stage. The status of these initiatives was:

  • Sand Water Extraction (SWE) -- This device helped with finding alternative water sources: extraction of water retained in sand/beds of surface water.
  • LookSeeDo tool (Digital tool & training) -- Remote technician and virtual training tool for municipal staff at Johannesburg Water & Mbombela.
  • Watersecurity -- These were water reserve tanks, which were available in cases of a shortage or stoppage of municipal-supplied water.

(See attachments for an extensive list of technological devices)


The Chairperson said the presentation clearly showed what the WRC was committed to doing. There must be a timeframe on when to see these ideas come to fruition.

Mr Tseki asked when the water warning systems would start, as this would help to save water. Would this be at bulk water systems? How could they assist those who were performing religious ceremonies using water? There had been talks of producing water chemicals in South Africa. The problem was going to be the cost. Could that be included in the APP?

Ms Seoposengwe asked if the technological devices were locally produced. Was the WRC's project with sponsorship from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation fully funded? Would there be government interventions? There were young people who had received training to help with water leak detection -- how were they going to be absorbed by the municipalities? How would that align with the Presidential job creation stimulus?

Ms Sihlwayi said the presentation was both exciting and worrying. What was worrying was the lack of content about removing challenges in the communities. There were a lot of skills development opportunities that could be taken advantage of, based on the presentation. The people in South Africa were unemployed and under-skilled -- were there groups of communities that were working with government to develop skills? The initiative of the President to provide R350 grants had done its bit to assist with the problems caused by unemployment. The WRC had the capacity to drill boreholes in different communities, and the boreholes had been noted as one of the means to assist with overcoming water scarcity. How far was the Department in making that happen?

WRC's responses

Dr Mjoli responded to the question about the drilling of boreholes. She said the role of WRC was to develop new knowledge and pilot projects. The onus was on the government to implement that knowledge. The research had been done to show where the boreholes could be drilled. The challenge had been about getting the relevant parties to continue with the projects. The WRC had a limited budget that it used specifically for research and piloting projects and could resolve most of the problems.

She mentioned that the Commission had conducted a study 20 years ago that predicted the floods which had caused havoc in KZN and the Eastern Cape. It had also shown the droughts in the Western Cape. The study had shown that floods were imminent as a result of climate change. She emphasised that the WRC provided the knowledge, while the onus for implementation was on different parties.

The Chairperson felt that WRC should have been more persistent to reduce the impact of the KZN floods. He felt that the study could have helped the country. The “I told you so” approach was dangerous.

Dr Mzoli clarified her statement and said she was not trying to use the “I told you so” approach. She had only mentioned some of the most important studies that had been conducted by the WRC.

Dr Mandla Msibi, Group Executive: Innovation and Impact, said the project sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was fully funded. However, the funding was not enough, as it stopped with the demonstrations in schools and communities. The rollout would not be mandated for the WRC to carry on the projects.

How could technology be used to assist the communities? The WRC worked with partners who would embrace the technology that it had developed, and there had to be further engagement after the technology had been produced. The adoption of technological devices was happening in some the cases. There was a good working relationship with the DWS and cooperation with other partnerships as well.

Dr Jennifer Molwantwa, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), WRC, said it was important to deliver a return on the investments that had been made. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) and partnerships must be signed with the Department of Science and Innovation. These MOUs and partnerships would assist. The technology devices produced in South Africa should not be exported, only to be resold back to South Africa at higher costs. She spoke about how groundwater areas must be located so that they could be used as storage to assist when there was high evaporation, which was imminent because of climate change.

Mr Msibi provided feedback on the question about water loss control (water leaks detection). A device could be fitted in a pipe that supplied water, which monitored the flow of the water. If there was a constant flow, it would sense that and switch off the water coming to the entity/house/building. A message would then be sent to the owner. It could be applied in different scenarios. The WRC needed to work hard on creating interest in embracing the uses of technology in the municipalities and by the homeowners. The existence of technology had been advertised to various communities, advising them on where these technologies could be found

Ms Seoposengwe had said more than 40% of water was lost due to leakages. How could technology mitigate that? When there was a broken pipe, and the device was fitted in that pipe, the technology would detect that as a leak. It would then switch off the supply to prevent water loss.

Dr Molwantwa added that the challenge was that municipalities were not adopting the advanced technology or making use of the technological devices.

Ms Sihlwayi added that there was a need for the WRC and DWS to sit down and produce a clear analysis of the problems that the DWS -- and the country as a whole-- were facing, and find solutions to them. The knowledge that was provided by WRC had been paid for. She pleaded for the DWS to meet up with the WRC and produce solutions making use of the knowledge from the WRC.

Mr Tseki said that with 40% to 45% of water loss being due to leakages if the WRC had the knowledge and technological devices to prevent this, solutions must be implemented.

Dr Phillips said that there had been an engagement between the DWS and WRC. The DWS had presented the challenges to the WRC and asked for them to do research on different problems. It was difficult to make the municipalities adopt the modern technology, however. He appreciated how responsive the WRC had been to the Department's requests.

Mr Tseki said if a municipality did not see the need to adopt the technology provided by the WRC, it was up to the DWS to find out why. There was also a research team in Parliament that could also assist with that. There were a number of challenges, some of which had resulted in state capture.

Mr Thomani Manungufula, Committee Researcher, added that the WRC provided regular updates in the form of research advisory policy. He advised Members to monitor those updates.

Ms Seoposongwe suggested members should visit the WRC and see the technology that was being produced there.

Dr Molwanta said the WRC had a summit on an annual basis which showed the research done, and the technology that had been produced was displayed. However, a Committee visit would be welcomed.

Dr Mzoli thanked the Committee for the inputs and comments which would improve the WRC's performance. She said that the Water Research Act was still under review, and was something that had been going on for an exceptionally long time. She made a plea to the DG to assist in fast-tracking the review process, as a lot had changed since 1971. It was a suitable time to review the Water Research Act to broaden the scope of what the WRC does.

Ms Dikeledi Magdazi, Deputy Minister of Water and Sanitation, thanked the WRC and said that those that were in government were not always keen on using the technology that was available. If the budget of the WRC could be slightly improved, there was a lot that it could do. There must be more incentives for those who were doing research. There must also be recruitment of those who were interested in doing research. Having more research candidates would improve South African innovations. The knowledge and technology from the WRC needed to be distributed to the communities so that it did not become just a government thing. As a country which was having water shortages, the knowledge from WRC should be absorbed to prevent further water losses. The WRC must be assisted when it comes to popularising its research and technology. She was enormously proud of the WRC for being known worldwide.

Mr Tseki thanked all the attendees on behalf of Chairperson Mashego, who had to leave the meeting due to his ill health.    

The meeting was adjourned.


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