Department Budget: hearings

Water and Sanitation

06 April 2005
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


7 April 2005

Ms C September (ANC)

Documents handed out:
South African Water Caucus submission

The Committee heard presentations from the National Movement of Rural Women (NMRW), Mvula Trust and the South African Water Caucus on the 2005/2006 Water Affairs and Forestry budget. The NMRW asked the Department to take the needs of rural women into consideration in the budget, because of the lack of proper access to water and sanitation in rural areas. Mvula Trust focused on household water use, which was most often defined as potable water. Mvula Trust suggested that this definition should be changed to take into account the importance of lesser quality water for productive use, and highlighted the importance of rainwater harvesting, as included in the Department’s new policy for resource poor farmers. The presentation from the South African Water Caucus raised various issues relating to water service provision in both the budget and the strategic plan. Members asked for written submissions in order to be able to consider these recommendations fully, and asked for further information on the interaction between NMRW and the municipalities, and various issues surrounding water catchment areas.

The Deputy Director General of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) then responded to the presentations from both days of hearings, touching on issues of municipal service provision, catchment areas, agricultural water needs and forestry.

The Chairperson said that the Alfred Nzo District Municipality was unable to attend the meeting but would be welcome to give a written submission. After the presentations, the Department would give a response to the presentations from both days of hearings, and would send in a written submission to be incorporated into the final stage of the Committee’s budget report.

National Movement of Rural Women submission
Ms Princess Sithole represented the NMRW. She said that in rural areas, many women did not have access to water, which contributed to the prevalence of various diseases. Women were part of the voting process, but their views were not taken seriously and they were not able to access the services they were entitled to. In many areas there was no infrastructure or proper sanitation, there was no water in schools and the water that people could access was not clean. The women asked that the government reinstate Arbour Day in order to plant new trees, as there was great demand for green trees for various uses. They also required space for grazing their animals. The government should budget for water conservation education and should look into the way that people were selling water and wood in many areas. There was an urgent need for water and sanitation and the government should speak out about the issue of water privatisation. The needs of rural women were very different from those of urban women, and the NMRW asked that the budget attend to the needs of people in rural areas.

Mvula Trust submission
Mr Philip Davids represented Mvula Trust and focused his submission on water for domestic and productive use and the budget section relating to financial assistance for small-scale farmers. Rural households made use of multiple sources of water for various purposes, including domestic use, food production, food security, livestock and income generation. The present policy of water services authorities tended to adopt a narrow interpretation to household water supply that focused on the provision of potable water. In consultations with municipalities, it was clear that there was a need for an integrated approach to household water provision that included water for productive use as well as potable water. The design of water sources did not always accommodate food security and production, and supplying potable water was very expensive, creating the need for a new definition for sustainable water supply.

A joint policy document being developed with the Department of Agriculture was the National Guideline for Integrated Management of Agricultural Water Use, which was beginning to look at household water supply for productive purposes and had a two-fold objective. The objectives were to improve food security and to mainstream historically disadvantaged farmers in the economy. The new DWAF policy for financial assistance for resource poor farmers looked at water supply for productive purposes, and emphasised developmental mechanisms, community participation, stakeholder involvement, developing viable and practical management schemes and making support services available. This was a move in the right direction and Mvula Trust commended the Department on it. This policy had six objectives, and Mr Davids focused on one of them, the grant for rainwater harvesting tanks. This grant was for R5000 per household to be used for a tank and pump and would be given to 1000 households initially. This assistance policy originally had a total budget of R27 million, which had been increased to R31 million, but was still not enough to address the needs of resource poor farmers. It was not clear how this programme would be rolled-out or how families would be supported in order to access water for productive uses.

In light of this, Mr Davids made recommendations for the facilitation of this policy. The Chief Directorates of Water Services and Water Resource Management needed to communicate and co-ordinate efforts. There was also a need for dialogue between the DWAF and the Department of Agriculture to develop rollout strategies for rainwater harvesting that complemented each other. There was also a need for the municipal infrastructure grant funding to be extended to look into water provision, requiring co-ordination between all bodies involved to provide sustainable water sources for vulnerable households. Linkages needed to be created with water services development planning, Integrated Development Plan (IDP) processes and local initiatives. Local water services authorities had little knowledge of initiatives to provide multiple sources of water for communities, but expressed interest in assisting with their development.

The Chairperson said that they would continue with the discussion on the presentations from NMRW and Mvula Trust, and would receive the presentation from the South African Water Caucus following that.

Ms T Lishivha (ANC) asked what relationship there was between the NMRW and the local municipality, how the NMRW worked with the government in terms of health and hygiene and what excluded women from decision-making.

Ms Sithole said that there was a research relationship between NMRW and the municipality.

The Chairperson asked whether the organisation had been able to structure a relationship with the local government.

Ms Sithole said that there was no specific structured relationship.

Ms M Ngwenya (ANC) said that in every municipality, there was interaction between the government and NMRW where there was a need for the involvement of women. Some women from NMRW were councillors or mayors for the municipalities, so the organisation was very integrated in government processes.

Mr I Mogase (ANC) asked if there was any training being done to deal with unemployment. In many cases, unemployment was caused by lack of training, so training might help to deal with some of the issues being raised.

Ms Sithole said that NMRW was involved in training, but did not keep records. Women mostly received on-the-job training on issues that affected rural women.

Ms Ngwenya said that to train women they had engaged some organisations involved in empowering women, such as the Women’s Development Forum and the Department of Labour. The women came up with projects of their own choice that they would then be trained to carry out. The NMRW did not have the funds to pay consultants to conduct training, but were able to make use of resources from various government departments. The NMRW also engaged local hospitals to train women so that they could then go and train others about various aspects of hygiene. Lack of resources, however, made it hard for women to practice what they had learned.

The Chairperson asked Mvula Trust what they would suggest as a broader definition for sustainable water supply. She asked for clarification on the problems of basic IDP service provision and whether this was a nation-wide problem or if it was limited to certain areas.

Mr Davids said that the current definition clearly referred to potable water sources and provided quality requirements for a potable water supply, but many household water needs did not require high quality potable water. There was a need to look into alternative sources for lesser quality water, such as rainwater harvesting. In some municipalities, basic IDP standards were not being supplied. In northern KZN, the free basic water policy provided for 6 kiloliters per household per month, but it was difficult to achieve this level of provision. It would be better to provide some water for everyone than commit to this high level for only a few. Those who lived at a great distance from the water point were not able to gain access to their full quota.

Mr Sibuyana said that in the past, Mvula Trust had not followed up on projects they were involved in to see that the work was completed and that the money was well spent and asked if this would change. In the case of rainwater harvesting, he asked if they informed the communities they served about its unreliability and whether they looked into other measures for collecting water, such as developing catchment areas in rivers and streams. Farmers must wait to see the profit of their work and they may not be able to sustain themselves during some parts of the year, so Mr Sibuyana asked if Mvula Trust encouraged those who applied for funding to include a stipend for workers during that time.

Ms M Manana (ANC) asked for clarification on the budget for the financial assistance policy for resource poor farmers. She also asked if Mvula Trust had communicated to the Department the need for a budget for implementation, advocacy and training.

Mr Davids said that it was true that not all the projects Mvula Trust had implemented had been fully successful. They had started out as a funding organisation, but were not any longer, because the responsibility for water service provision and infrastructure development now fell to local government. They functioned like any other consultant for the municipalities, and it was the municipality that would hold them responsible for the contracts they entered into. The submission being made was purely dealing with the policy that had been approved by the Department and was not a suggestion that rainwater harvesting should be the only source of water supply. It should be complementary to a long-term sustainable plan. The role of Mvula Trust was purely to encourage communities to participate in catchment management and water user organisations, but the Trust itself did not have the legal standing to participate in those projects. The budget of R27 million was taken from the Department’s policy document and, out of that, the R5 million set aside for rainwater harvesting had not yet been spent at the end of February. Mr Davids did not think that the revised budget of R31 million was a top-up of the R27 million.

South African Water Caucus submission
Ms Hameda Deedat presented the submission of the South African Water Caucus. Ms Deedat spoke on issues that were a concern for civil society and dealt with both the strategic plan and the budget. She raised specific issues for clarification relating to water service provision.

The Chairperson said that the public hearings were not on the strategic plan, but the budget vote, and that the budget had been available since February. It would be useful for the South African Water Caucus to give the Committee a written submission in order to enable them to engage with the issues. The Department was welcome to respond to the issues raised because many of them required clarification, but many of them fell under the domain of the Department of Provincial and Local Government, especially those relating to services. She said that the Members were welcome to comment or ask questions if they wished.

Ms S Maine (ANC) said that Ms Deedat had looked at the strategic plan and budget vote and picked out mistakes, and she would have liked to see some recommendations.

Mr Sibuyana said that Ms Deedat had mentioned catchment areas and had said that not much water was being accumulated in them. He suggested that catchment areas be constructed on rivers and streams that were prone to flooding.

Mr Mogase asked whether the caucus was a national a group of organisations.

Ms Deedat said that she had never responded to a budget vote before, and she was not looking for fault, but as a civil society representative, she had to engage with water services to ensure that water remained a public good. She would take some time to develop recommendations around the points she had raised. The comment on catchment was not to do with streams and rivers but was to do with the fact that there was massive rainfall at times but no collection infrastructure to guard against periods of water shortage. The Water Caucus was a national network bringing together various community based organisations that dealt with water. They had a relationship with the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry and other organisations and met them regularly to deal with a broad range of topics.

Response by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry
The DWAF was represented by Mr Jabu Sindane, Deputy Director General. He said that one of the questions left hanging from the previous day involved sector restructuring and the question of whether DWAF was considering forming an entity that could operate beyond South African borders. The Section 78 process from the Municipal Systems Act helped municipalities look at their own capacity to determine to what extent they could provide the service themselves. If they could not, they would look for someone else to provide the service. DWAF was also looking at institutional reform of the various entities that were currently supplying water to see if they were appropriate or if they should be reformed. There was a provision in the Water Services Act allowing water services authorities to come together to form a water service provision entity. Four water service providers in KZN had done that already, and with a change in the legislation, there was a potential for these institutions to provide services beyond their borders. Anxiety had been expressed that the funding of Masimbanbane had decreased, but as donor funding decreased, government funding would increase. As DWAF was moving towards having municipalities provide water services, the funding that came from government would go to municipalities instead of to DWAF. DWAF would continue to receive funds for the purposes of transferring the funding to municipalities and for monitoring. In terms of free basic sanitation, the current definition may need change, but not necessarily in the sense that Mvula Trust suggested. In the strategic framework for water services, there were definitions for water supply and sanitation services that outlined requirements for basic sanitation facilities and services, and these definitions may be too wide.

Mr Sindane continued that four catchment management areas would be established in this financial year, which was budgeted a total of R12 million. A question had been raised about supporting a local water summit in Overberg and there was a suggestion that that initiative be linked to the provincial summit that would take place. If Overberg felt that they needed this local initiative, the DWAF would like to be part of that by linking it up with the wider Water Summit initiative. It was true that not everyone had access to clean water and sanitation, and those most affected were women in rural areas, and this was something that had to be corrected. The DWAF was working closely with the Department of Education to provide water in schools. They were also working with the Department of Education through the projects of the Independent Electoral Commission, which provided the opportunity to address water problems in schools. They were trying hard to reinforce the participation of women in decision-making, and there were specific initiatives directed towards women. One of the roles of the DWAF was to work with water services authorities at the time of planning, so they were working in this capacity in areas without infrastructure. The DWAF was worried about illegal connections and illegal water use. At the local level, government was challenged by resistance at doing away with illegal connections, but was working to address it. Every year, the Department held Arbour Week, and there were regional offices everywhere, but it may not be visible in all areas.

Privatisation of water should be openly discussed, and DWAF was engaging with anti-privatisation groups and local municipalities to address the issue. The question of looking at water supply solely as potable water was a difficult one. DWAF had to look at water resources of all kinds and develop a way to manage them, which required laws and regulations. They looked at the totality of the system, and there was an integrated approach to water supply being developed with the provincial Growth and Development Strategy to reflect on the water resources that were available in an area. DWAF worked a great deal with the Department of Agriculture and needed to talk with related departments so that there was no contradiction in the policies that each of them promoted. When they had looked at the Northern Cape Provincial Growth and Development Strategy, there was much discussion of farmers and farm needs but not about water. The Department of Water Affairs would have to emphasise the needs of farmers and make water available for them. The Municipal Infrastructure Grant had to do with water and sanitation, and there were clearly defined roles for all of the departments and bodies involved with that grant. In an address to a joint sitting of the Public Accounts Committee, the DG had talked about the need to ‘name and shame’ municipalities that were under-spending. The DWAF could approach the Treasury about municipalities that were under-spending so that the Treasury could suspend the next payment in order to compel them to spend the full allocation. National Treasury had to come up with a new approach for doing this, but Mr Sindane felt that it would be successful.

On the issues raised by Ms Deedat, it was clear that the DWAF was not communicating clearly about the different roles of various structures of government. There was not a clear understanding of how the DWAF would work with municipalities. The point Ms Deedat raised about using consultants was valid. It was one issue to source in consulting to help fill a gap, but it was another to rely on consultants at the expense of capacity building. Another issue raised was about the Wash Campaign and service provision. The provision of water was the responsibility of the municipality, but the DWAF assisted with the Wash Campaign. In terms of gender, DWAF was making an effort to see that gender concerns permeated the whole programme of the Department. Civil society was concerned about how to access money made available to them to do their work, which meant that regional offices had not communicated effectively on how to do that or on what funds were available. DWAF understood catchment areas as those developed around a natural source, and there would be about 19 viable catchment areas established in total. DWAF would look into the other issues raised by Ms Deedat once they had received them in written form. In the past, households did have rainwater harvesting drums and gutters, but these had disappeared.

The Chairperson said that the forestry submissions had not been dealt with sufficiently.

Mr Sindane said that there were two aspects to forestry that the Minister was looking into for black economic empowerment in KZN and the Eastern Cape. She was having forestry Imbizos for those involved in forestry to get feedback from stakeholders on how to ensure that previously disadvantaged communities could benefit from forestry. This would lead to the Forestry Indaba on 18 April to establish what the broad-based BEE charter should look like. It was recognized that forests were used for different purposes, including indigenous medicine and commercial interests, and DWAF wanted to ensure that disadvantaged groups were able to benefit from them economically.

Mr Mazola said that Mvula Trust had mentioned the need for dialogue amongst all parties involved in water, and he was happy to hear that DWAF was doing this.

The Chairperson said that she was concerned that they leave no questions around privatisation of water unanswered. Water provision was governed by the Constitution, and any change towards privatisation would require a change in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which would not happen. Privatisation was not an issue on the table.

The meeting was adjourned.


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