International Millennium Development Goals, NEPAD and Forestry Partnership: Department briefing

Water and Sanitation

11 October 2006
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

11 October 2006

Ms C September (ANC)

Documents handed out:
The Millennium Development Goals and the Water Sector in South Africa
Water-related Millennium Development Goals: South African Perspectives and Achievements
Presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Forestry Partnership

The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry briefed the Committee on how South Africa’s progress as far as the Millennium Development Goals compared to that of the rest of Africa. It also detailed the challenges facing South Africa and other African countries. It was feared that without extensive support most African countries would not meet their targets. South Africa’s water supply was on track, and South Africa had succeeded in halving its water supply backlog and aimed to eradicate it by 2008. Between 2004 and 2006 access to sanitation had improved by 40% but there was still a 31% backlog to contend with. Disciplined management would be needed to improve this and meet targets. Key challenges hampering South Africa’s progress included insufficient funding, implementation capacity as well as implementation process challenges.
 As far as forestry was concerned South Africa had a number of international, African and South Africa partnerships in place. The Committee was particularly concerned about the role the Department could play in terms of ensuring that the whole of Africa met its targets, and how it could press for social consciousness ideals in the provision of water, and argued for an international parliamentary forum where related matters could be discussed. The Committee wanted to be kept abreast of any international agreements so that members could scrutinise whether they were indeed beneficial to all South Africans. Other questions related to how the shortage of building materials would affect development goals, the role of the Department in the Integrated Development Plan process, intervention where municipalities lacked capacity and practical suggestions for implementation of its ideas. The level of support of provincial government was examined. Cooperation agreements with China and Lesotho were raised. The contribution of the private sector and disparity in the wages of forestry workers were discussed. It was noted that local issues would be discussed during the presentation of the Department’s Annual Report in the following week.

Department of Water Affairs and Forestry briefing
Mr Jabu Sindane, Director General of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF), led the delegation which included and. He reminded members that one Africa’s millennium goals was that poverty should be halved by 2015. The goals included various deadlines related to access to sanitation and water. South Africa however had set its own deadlines that needed to be met much earlier. The presentation would, in addition to showing how Africa had fared so far, also indicate the progress made by South Africa.

Mr Sindane added that South Africa was not as dependant on donor communities as some other African countries were and as a result could speak with much more authority on a number of issues. While European countries saw South Africa as a dependable partner some African countries were of the opinion that South Africa could speak “much more forcefully”. Some might feel that the position South Africa was championing would not necessarily benefit them too. He explained that South Africa must beware of upsetting donor communities on whom other African countries were more dependant.

Mr Reginald Tekateka, Specialist Advisor International Relations, DWAF briefed the Committee on international aspects related to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that related to the water sector. He detailed South Africa’s and the rest of Africa’s progress in terms of meeting the goals that related to water and sanitation. While South Africa had succeeded in making much progress the presentation stated that most African countries would not achieve their targets without massive assistance. Some of the challenges hampering the reaching of targets included lack of infrastructure and institutional and governance arrangements at national and interstate level. Mr Tekateka also highlighted the various forums, partnerships and other initiatives that were aimed at realising the MDGs.

Mr Fred van Zyl, Director Water Services Macro Planning and Information Systems, DWAF, highlighted South Africa’s achievements in meeting its individual targets for water and sanitation. In 2005 South Africa had succeeded in halving its water supply backlog and aimed to eradicate it by 2008. Between 2004 and 2006 access to sanitation had improved by 40% but there was still a 31% backlog to contend with. Key challenges hampering South Africa’s progress included insufficient funding, implementation capacity as well as implementation process challenges.

Mr Winston Smit, Acting Chief Director: Forestry, DWAF, briefly highlighted South Africa’s international, African and South African forestry partnerships. These included participation in the International Union of Forest Research Organisations, the African Forestry and Wildlife Commission and the Agricultural Research Council.

Ms D Van der Walt (DA) feared that with the 2010 Soccer World Cup looming South Africa would experience a shortage of building materials. Concerns had already been raised around the availability of cement. She wondered whether there was any way for DWAF to accumulate stock, as lack of building materials would affect meeting MDG targets.

Mr Sindane said that South Africa was already importing cement but could not predict whether the imports would be enough. He suspected that cement would become more expensive.

Ms Van der Walt, raising concerns around the effect of urbanisation, wondered what role the DWAF could play in local governments’ Integrated Development Plan (IDP) processes. Understandably people moved to areas that offered better employment opportunities. She wondered what then became of the really poor people who were left behind in the impoverished rural areas, fearing that they would not receive services.

Mr Sindane said that one could not stop the movement of people. DWAF insisted that every IDP had to contain a chapter on water service development plans. Policy stated that everyone had the right to at least 6 Kl of water. He agreed that service delivery to areas affected by the large-scale movement of people was a much debated topic. The social cluster had reached the consensus that these areas should at the very least be provided with basic services.

The Chairperson said that earlier in 2006 Parliament had hosted a workshop for women from Africa and one of the themes related to water issues. It was highlighted that the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) programme around the provision of water was driven in the main toward a private sector approach relying heavily on funding. One of the resolutions taken at the meeting said that South Africa needed to ensure that a social rather than a financial consciousness in terms of the provision of water should run through the NEPAD programme. A financially driven programme would not have the desired impact. She requested the DWAF to shed some light on how South Africa could advocate for such a social consciousness within NEPAD without appearing to be too forceful.

Mr Sindane said that this was one of the areas where South Africa’s relationship with other countries was rather difficult. Other countries doubted whether South Africa could achieve and sustain the 6Kl provision, believing that people would simply have to continue fetching their own water.  He explained that the 6Kl policy mitigated against the principle of cost recovery. DWAF should still ensure that those who could pay did pay. In developing countries service delivery was often hampered by the lack of infrastructure that in turn resulted from lack of funds. Water was attractive to the private sector because there would always be a demand for it. Countries had to balance the provision of infrastructure with ensuring access. If this was not done infrastructure would be jeopardised because there would be no way of maintaining it.

The Chairperson felt that the matter needed to be discussed further. She said that it was important to remember that the issues related to the entire African continent. If this was not done South Africa would have a problem. She added that South Africa did not have all the water resources and many were situated in neighbouring countries. South Africa was obligated to assist those countries in understanding that the private sector was not the only solution. She believed it was important, by way of the structures where the Ministers sat, such as the African Ministerial Council on Water (AMCOW), to consider how to address the disjuncture in problem solving. She said that the Committee was pleased that South Africa was making some strides but was concerned that while South Africa was moving into a particular direction the rest of the continent might not be able to meet their MDGs. She recalled that members of different African parliaments, in an attempt to keep each other informed, used to have discussions around the SADC protocol and suggested that perhaps the DWAF needed to explore what similar measures could be taken to address issues related to how the whole continent could meet its goals.

She added that during June, at an event organised by the Inter- Parliamentary Union (IPU), members of parliament met in Cameroon to discuss matters around water and sanitation. Perhaps the DWAF should explore how they could interact with such initiatives. She said that South Africa would fail miserably if it did not come up with a creative solution and reiterated that South Africa could not be the only country to achieve its goals while the rest of Africa failed to do so, and that South Africa must persist in bringing all countries up to the same level.

Mr Tekateka indicated that to his knowledge the idea of an international forum (perhaps under the auspices of AMCOW) had never yet been discussed. There was however nothing that indicated that such an initiative would be impossible. Part of his presentation spoke to the importance of ensuring that the developed word kept to their commitments. It had been found that as European Union (EU) politicians changed so did the focus on different projects; for instance if those who had initiated the European Water Initiative left office the zeal for this project might also fade. There had been a ministerial forum allowing for political dialogue but he saw no reason why there could not be a similar forum at parliamentary level.

Mr J Arendse (ANC) realised that local governments, in terms of the recent hand over of assets, were constitutionally obliged to provide water and sanitation. Many municipalities however did not have the capacity to implement the programmes that would ensure that the MDGs would be met. He wondered whether there was anything in the DWAF’s legal mandate that allowed them to intervene where municipalities lacked capacity (financial or otherwise). He sought the DWAF’s view on enlisting the cooperation of other institutions such as water boards that also reported to the Department and were better capacitated than municipalities.

Mr Sindane admitted that the relationship between water boards and municipalities was not always favourable. Water boards were actively involved in testing drinking water quality. About 74 municipalities were identified as not having any engineers or technicians. The DWAF then asked water boards to also monitor the quality of drinking water (also beyond the reservoir stage) in the areas they supplied with water. He conceded that the utilization of water boards could be improved but urged members to bear in mind that there was a great deal of tension between water boards and municipalities. Section 78 of the Municipal Systems Act required municipalities to separate authority and service provision, so that municipalities would remain the authority but would not necessarily provide the services. This had generated tensions that had not been anticipated. DWAF tried to foster good working relationships so as to best utilize the expertise available.

He confirmed that DWAF had the legal mandate to intervene where necessary, but DWAF felt that Section 16 of Division of Revenue Act (DORA) was limiting its ability to intervene. At a recent meeting National Treasury had however confirmed that DWAF had all the necessary powers to intervene and that there was no need to amend the legislation or the Constitution. DWAF’s intervention was aimed at assisting municipalities so that they could deliver services. One of the matters the Minister would soon be raising with the Department related to how local governments’ roles could be extended beyond simply supplying water and sanitation. It was necessary to investigate how one could ensure that municipalities participated and made use of the facilities they had in their areas of jurisdiction. Dams could, for instance, be used in local economic development activities related to sport and tourism.

DWAF tried to ensure that when the transfer of the necessary skills accompanied asset transfer. Local government sometimes had their own ideas. In one area for instance DWAF had meant to transfer 700 people, but the Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG) had only accepted 200. He said that the debates around this issue would be held at the Public Service Bargaining Chamber.

Mr P Ditshetelo (UCDP) asked what sort of proposals Mr Van Zyl had in mind for addressing the key challenges around water and sanitation that he had indicated would hamper the achievement of the MDGs.

Mr I Mogase (ANC) said that the Department’s presentation had been impressive but wondered what practical suggestions it could make as far as ensuring implementation at local level.

Mr Sindane informed members that the DWAF and the DPLG had embarked on some joint interventions. DWAF, with the assistance of the South African Institute of Civil Engineers, assisted local governments in their efforts to effectively make use of their MIGs. There was also a joint project with the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA). DWAF had also deployed 21 engineers to various municipalities who needed assistance.

He said that there were different ways of ensuring that the MDGs were met but warned that these might require trade offs being made between some principles of the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (ASGISA), which was predominantly aimed at poverty eradication and job creation, and the meeting of the MDGs. He cautiously ventured that one might consider inviting large companies that had the capacity to “come and wipe out the backlog”. This would be done at the expense of the ASGISA goals. South African capacity would be used to maintain facilities. He said that if South Africa really was a global player it could tell the world that it needed assistance in addressing the backlog and he had no doubt that several international, probably Chinese, companies would be ready and prepared to do so. This was, however, not necessarily the course of action that was ideal. He emphasised that South Africa could meet the targets but that it was a matter of what it was wiling to do in order to met them. He had raised the matter with the Deputy President who had argued against the route he had just described.

Mr Ditshetelo asked Mr Sindane to give an indication of the level of support DWAF received from provincial structures in terms of meeting the MDGs. He was particularly interested in the support provided by the North West Province’s departments of education and health.

Mr Sindane said that DWAF and the North West Department of Education had an agreement addressing issues related to heath and hygiene. In other provinces such as Limpopo the DWAF had experienced that such agreements often led to other areas of cooperation. The agreement with the North West had for example resulted in the Department of Education realising that they needed another forum that would address issues around infrastructure. Where DWAF had been able to link up them, provincial structures had been extremely helpful. The Premiers’ offices and the DPLG normally linked DWAF with provincial departments and their relationship was usually effective. The Provincial Water Summit and the ideas that emanated from it illustrated the effectiveness of their relationship. It had been agreed that provincial deputy director generals would liaise with their national counterparts in the departments of Health and Education so as to ensure that agreements were adhered to, that everyone worked towards the same goals and alerted each other when targets were not met. He added that two weeks earlier Mpumalanga province had celebrated the eradication of the bucket system in all formal areas and had made it clear that there was a firm intention to do away with all the buckets in the informal areas too.

Mr Mogase requested the DWAF to comment on the abundance of “fly by night” companies involved in the sanitation industry.

The Chairperson reminded members that there would be other opportunities to discuss matters related specifically to the local situation. The Committee could further interrogate some of the issues during the discussions around DWAF’s Annual Report, which were scheduled to take place the following week. She requested members to limit themselves to questions relating to South Africa’s international obligations and whether it was making an impact as far as the MDGs were concerned.

The Chairperson requested DWAF in future to clarify what the MDGs were, rather than referring to them numerically. It would also be helpful if DWAF could indicate whether it had made any international agreements and when these agreements would come before Parliament. She had heard that an agreement on forestry had been signed between South Africa and China yet the Committee knew nothing of such an agreement. She pointed out that clothing and textile had been adversely affected by similar agreements and wondered whether forestry would be similarly affected.

Mr Smit said that the Chinese agreement had been in the making for a long time. The Chinese wanted to develop a plantation resource for their own consumption and the agreement entailed aspects of technical cooperation as well as information sharing. South African companies were already entering China owing to the massive expansion of the forestry resource. Sustainable forest management was very important and South Africa could learn much about the monitoring and protection of its own resource. Cooperation in the international arena was also a very important factor to bear in mind. The views of China and South Africa on international affairs were similar and Chinese assistance would benefit South Africa at forums such as the United Nations Forum on Forestry (UNFF). He could not recall whether there was any mention of trade in the agreement. The agreement was basically aimed at assisting South Africa and protecting and maximising the utilisation of its very small resource.

The Chairperson requested that the agreement be brought to the Committee so that it could understand the impact it would have and could determine whether South Africa would benefit or whether it was exporting its already meagre resource.

Mr G Mosala (ANC) requested more information on the agreement between South Africa and Lesotho regarding cross border fires. He wondered which parts of South Africa were most affected.

Mr Smit said that South Africa was currently in discussions with neighbouring countries to see what their capacity was and how far legislation was aligned. All of this was aimed at preventing cross border fires and the associated loss of life, infrastructure and assets. At this stage there was no final agreement. The National Veld and Forest Fire Act (1998) allowed South Africa to prepare fire breaks across borders. He added that fires did not always originate in neighbouring countries; a number of them also originated in South Africa. Fires affecting the border with Lesotho occurred mostly in the Eastern Cape and the Free State, while the ones affecting the border with Mozambique ran into the Kruger National Park.

A member requested Mr Smit to provide the Committee with greater detail on forestry related partnerships. It was a pity that this Committee had not had the opportunity to go abroad to gain more knowledge and expertise. He doubted whether targets would be met and said that the Committee would monitor the DWAF’s progress.

Mr Smit agreed that the presentation he had prepared was fairly brief and would forward the requested additional information to the Committee.

Mr K Moonsamy (ANC) recalled that in 1971 the United Nations (UN) adopted the New Economic World Order. The adoption of that very imaginative programme to overcome all the problems related to education, water and poverty failed because multi nationals and their governments who were plundering the developing world did not support it. Developing countries would have to raise strong questions around the transformation of society. He said that despite the strides that had been made there was still much more that needed to be achieved and some would even say that the challenges far outweighed the achievements. It was necessary to interrogate the contribution made by the private sector, which was concerned with profit only and invested outside of South Africa instead within it. South Africa should find a way of making them invest locally. He was curious how DWAF would go about mobilising additional funding. The private sector could play an important role as far as securing funds were concerned. He was appalled that chief executive officers of large companies received large salaries each year but could not find a way of giving workers even the slightest increase.

Mr Smit agreed that in forestry related industries inadequately meagre increases were given to workers while management earned significant salaries. The contracting environment was currently being discussed to address such disparities. Companies had to make social investments and engage in skills development programmes and more emphasis on these would have to be built into sector charters to ensure proper benefits to those that needed them. DWAF was busy formulating the Forestry Charter but he was uncertain as to whether these aspects were fully addressed within it.

The Chairperson requested that in a future presentation DWAF should, if this formed part of its portfolio, brief members on issues around the basins and whether South Africa was meeting its peace obligations within those areas. She added that the structure of DWAF reports should give greater clarity on its activities and the benefits to be experienced by South Africans and the international community arising from international programmes.

Mr Tekateka replied that DWAF would be happy to report to the Committee on the basins. He assured the Committee that DWAF was fully of its responsibility. Significant progress had been made by South Africans in bringing ministers together and in the initial draft of the water protocol itself. DWAF was fully aware of the fact that it had a legacy to uphold in trying to ensure that these initiatives worked and was seen as living by the spirit of the legal instruments that bound it to its neighbours.

The Chairperson requested that DWAF comment upon the unconfirmed reports that South Africa planned to get vast amounts of water from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). South Africa was being accused of bypassing all other countries. If this was the case this would doubtless give rise to instability. She pointed out that South Africa played a huge role in the DRC as far as water and electricity was concerned and said that members would appreciate more information.

Mr Tekateka assured members that as far as he was aware South Africa had no intention of getting water from the DRC. The Southern African Power Pool, in one of its projects, had applied to get hydropower for Angola, Botswana and Namibia from the DRC. South Africa was involved as the major partner in the Southern African Power Pool but was also looking at securing a strategic reserve for possible use at a much later stage. Currently there was no need for South Africa to get power from the DRC, which would in any event be much dissipated by the time it had reached South Africa. He recalled that and MEC of Limpopo province had at some point spoken of getting water from the Zambezi but this statement had not come from DWAF.

The meeting was adjourned.



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