Sanitation Challenges: briefing by Water Affairs & Forestry and SALGA

Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


03 August 2004

Rev. P Moatshe (ANC)[North West]

Document handed out:
Department of Water Affairs and Forestry presentation
SALGA Presentation

Relevant Document
Department's Strategic Framework for Water Services: Water is Life, Sanitation is Dignity

Department delegation: Mr H Muller, Manager: Water Services Programme; Mr G Tsibani, Deputy Director: National Sanitation Programme and Mrs A Manus, Deputy Director: Policy and Strategy
SALGA delegation: Councillor Khaliphi, Chair: SALGA Water Working Group; Mr K Mullagie, Director: Parliamentary Affairs, Ms L Mudunungu, Sanitation Specialist: Municipal Services and Mr Dave Ramsey

The Department briefed the committee on their recommendations to deal with the sanitation backlog and the challenges the sanitation programme faced. Their team informed the Committee of their strategic framework for clean water provision. SALGA briefed the Committee on how their members intended to improve the delivery of water and sanitation.

The discussion of the presentation briefings raised the issues of:
- water-borne sanitation versus bucket sanitation
- the inaccessibility of free basic services
- water provisions for squatters on privately-owned land
- South Africa's water reserves
- sanitation in schools, especially rural schools

the Chair emphasised on the importance of the presentations noting that it would assist members when they go on their oversights visits in the provinces. He thereafter called on the department and SALGA to make their presentations.

Department of Water Affairs and Forestry presentation
Mr H Muller (Manager: Water Services Programme) appealed to members to bear with them as the entire department's delegation would take part in making the presentation. He went through part of the presentation and then called on Mr G Tsibani (Deputy Director: National Sanitation Programme) to present on sanitation backlog, sanitation challenges and the department's recommendations. Ms A Manus (Deputy Director: Policy and Strategy) then presented on the strategic framework for water services, regulation and planning (see presentation).

South African Local Government Association (SALGA) presentation
Mr K Mullagie (Director: Parliamentary Affairs) noted that SALGA's presentation dealt with the efforts that were being implemented in ensuring that water and sanitation delivery was improved, especially on entering the second decade of our freedom and democracy (see presentation).

Mr M Mzizi (IFP)[Gauteng] was of the view that people have not been clearly taught on how the process of Free Basic Services (FBSs) worked in practice and thus called on the local authorities to look at this matter.

Mr Muller acknowledged that indeed there seemed to be an unfriendly billing system when it came to FBWs, but assured the Committee that the City Water Forum, consisting of all major big cities, had been established to address this problem and thus ensure that the billing system was more user-friendly. In terms of this process, people would be made aware of the charging system and how it worked in practice.

Mr Mzizi (IFP) asked the department to clarify how the process of cut system and bulk supply worked in relation to a township and a suburb.

Mr Muller said that what the department does is provide the municipalities with guidelines about FBWs. The discretion on how to apply those guidelines lay squarely with the municipalities.

Councillor Khaliphi (Chair: SALGA Water Working Group) noted that as part of their plan to improve the billing system, they would develop their system in such a manner that every person would be able to see in his/her account the six litres which formed part of the FBWs.

The Chair asked whether this did not amount to the shifting of responsibilities from the department to the municipalities.

Mr Muller responded that this did not amount to shifting of responsibilities since the Constitution was very clear that the function of water services lay with local government. What the department could do was to provide policies and regulation and thereafter monitor and support the municipalities in the process.

Mr Mzizi (IFP) could not help but wonder how an area located in proximity to a big metro city failed to access FBSs while another located far away from a big metro city was able to access these FBSs.

Mr Tsibani noted that the government focus was on a basic level of services and not on higher level of services. They intended to have the bucket sanitation system eradicated by 2006 and have water-borne sanitation in full swing. But for this process to be effected there are some issues that needed first to be addressed. These issues were the financial viability of the municipalities and the cost of the operation taking into account the level of income of each household.

Councillor Khaliphi was of the opinion that cost operations should not be criteria in providing municipalities with clean sanitation. He said that it was difficult for them as councillors to explain to the communities why a particular area affords to receive water-borne sanitation while another, in the same district, was not able to afford such. Therefore local government, as it was their local councillors who feel the pressure on the ground, had been engaging the department on this issue, requiring that proper service be provided to all municipalities so as to create a better life for all.

Mr Muller acknowledged the concerns raised by the Councillor and assured the Committee that the Ministry was presently confronting this issue. The department welcomed the suggestion made by SALGA with regard to density and spatial area of the municipality being used as indicators instead of the urban/rural divide.

Mr N Mack (ANC)[Western Cape] said that it was very important that municipalities be informed whether the change of the system from the urban/rural divide to a density and spatial one would better their position, especially those in the rural areas.

The Chair asked the department to clarify how it aimed at reconciling the contradiction of meeting its time frame for bucket system eradication by March 2006, and the scarcity of resources to meet this target.

In his response Mr Tsibani said that it was not always easy for a departmental official to respond to certain questions, especially where it involved a political aspect. Nevertheless their contention was that every municipality should be provided with clean sanitation and noted that the whole funding process lay with the MIG, the Minister would deal with the matter at that level.

Mr Mzizi acknowledged that SALGA was there to assist the Councillors but he asked them to explain the kind of assistance they gave to these Councillors. Do they sit in chambers with the Councillors and listen to the problems of their municipalities or do they also embark on their own oversight functions to verify what the Councillors have said?

In his response to the question Councillor Khaliphi said that it was important for the members to understand how SALGA operates as while all municipal members are SALGA members, they serve on a part-time basis as they also have their individual municipalities to service. However they did engage in municipal visits from time to time especially with the assistance of their provincial representatives who thereafter report their findings to the national office. Therefore SALGA's assistance was not simply to sit and listen to the Councillors.

Mr F Adams (NNP)[Western Cape] noted that there have been many reports in the media regarding people being killed while trying to access sanitation and water from privately owned lands. Were there any discussions between the municipalities and land owners aimed at solving this problem surrounding sanitation and water inaccessibility?

Mr D Ramsey (SALGA) responded that there were a number of private land settlements that they have reached via private land owners and 95 per cent of these settlements were presently serviced with emergency services. He commended the Mayor of Cape Town, Ms N Mfeketho, on her initiative in ensuring the success of these private land settlements in Cape Town and noted that strategies have also been developed to deal with the matter countrywide.

Mr Tsibani responded that it was the belief of the department that all citizens, irrespective of whether they live in farm dwellings of privately owned lands, have the right to access all government services. Therefore with that in mind, the department, in collaboration with SALGA and the Department of Land Affairs, had developed a pilot project aiming at dealing with this. Furthermore the department hoped to release a guideline report on farm dwellers on the 10 August for discussion.

Mr Adams (NNP) noted the huge sanitation backlog that the country faced and asked whether this backlog would have been cleared by 2010.

Mr Tsibani noted that even though the department was no longer responsible for funding sanitation delivery, which was now dealt with through the MIG, it was optimistic that should the necessary budget be allocated then the backlog could be cleared and the target met.

Mr Adams (NNP) noted that the SALGA presentation stated that it expected to have the data gathering completed by the end of August 2004. He asked whether this was feasible.

Mr Mullagie replied that the process of gathering municipal data in order to assess their ability to deliver in terms of the President's State of the Nation speech was already underway and what remained was for SALGA to issue a report on this.

Mr Mack (ANC) noted that there was a long-standing problem facing Prince Albert Municipality and asked what kind of assistance was given by SALGA to an individual municipality faced with problems.

Mr Mullagie noting that this question was aimed at a problem experienced by a specific municipality. He asked that the Committee afford them an opportunity to look at the matter and thereafter give a written response on the matter.

Mr Mack (ANC) said that most of the areas in Karoo have been declared nodal points due to various reasons, amongst them being their inaccessibility to water. He asked if there was any strategic priority given to these areas when it came to delivery of water service and sanitation.

Mr Muller acknowledged the in access to water problems faced by the municipalities in the Karoo region, including Prince Albert. This served to show that there was an integral link between the issue of water services and water resources and thus one cannot be addressed in exclusivity. Thus the department, in collaboration with the Department of Provincial and Local Government which is much involved in nodal points, has developed special funds, namely the Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) and Special Municipal Infrastructure Fund, as the means to address this.

Mr J Tau (ANC)[Northern Cape] asked how much water the country has presently, including those in the reserves and whether there was any water in private hands.

Mr Muller answered that none of the water was in private reserves and thus water as the public resource was in the hands of the government. Anyone who wants to extract water from the river had to apply to the department for a permit or licence to do so. However the department and the municipalities do from time to time appoint providers, of which some are private providers, to purify and supply water to municipalities.

Mr Tau (ANC) applauded the department on its strategic framework for water services, however he sought clarity on the statement in the presentation that the "poor are neglected and usually the last to benefit". He said that this statement seems to contradict the whole object behind the FBSs.

Mr Muller while acknowledging the fact that the FBSs were meant to benefit the poor, said that their observation was that these services are in most cases not accessible to this group. Hence they contend that the poor are either neglected or usually the last to benefit from the FBSs. The department feels that if a policy does not achieve what it was meant to achieve then it should be revisited and redirected so as to attain its goals.

Mr Tau (ANC) noted that whenever institutional reforms take place, the workers and the poor are the most negatively affected by the transformation process. He asked what is being done to ensure that no stakeholder would be negatively affected by the transformation of the water boards.

Mr Muller replied that presently two processes in relation to institutional reforms are taking place within the department: the institutional reforms of water boards and municipal providers and the transformation process. Therefore Mr Tau's concerns related to the second process, which deals with the transformation process of the water boards institutions. The department and the Ministry is quite aware of these concerns. However since this is an ongoing process the members should wait until the process unfolds and thereafter raised their concerns with Manager of Institutional Oversight, Mr Silas Mbetse.

Mr A Watson (DA)[Mpumalanga] asked what the department - in conjunction with the Department of Education - does to address the problem of sanitation in schools, especially those in rural areas.

Mr Tsibani replied that the department acknowledged the effect of the lack of sanitation at schools and hence a number of meetings have been arranged between the two departments on a ministerial level to tackle the matter. The department has developed a number of standards which would act as indictors in order to assist and empower the Department of Education in measuring its requirements and whether it is able to meet its targets. However as schools fall under the competence of the provincial government, the department aims at drawing a memorandum of understanding between all three spheres of government.

The Chair agreed with the concerns raised by Mr Watson asked if there are any priorities in addressing the problem of school sanitation since it is not feasible for pupils to learn in an environment where there are no toilets.

Councillor Khaliphi noted that there had been a number of meetings between SALGA and the Department of Education on this matter. They even proposed that SALGA was very willing to assist and where necessary they are even prepared to sit on the Education Council as advisors.

Mr Watson noted that it was very important that the communication line between all the three spheres of government be widened and thus members of these organs meet on an ongoing basis.

The Chair asked whether the department has the data on all its incomplete projects and those which it intend to embark on and if so could they make such available to the Committee.

Mr Muller responded that they did have the data on all their projects and would make such available to the Committee.

The Chair thanked these two institutions for their presentations and noted that they were clear and straight to the point.

The meeting was adjourned.


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