Establishment of Limpopo Watercourse Commission International Agreement: briefing; Committee Annual Report 2006

Water and Sanitation

14 November 2006
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Meeting report

WATER AFFAIRS AND FORESTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
15 November 2006
ESTABLISHMENT OF LIMPOPO WATERCOURSE COMMISSION INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENT: BRIEFING; COMMITTEE ANNUAL REPORT 2006

Acting Chairperson: Ms C September (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Letter from Director General on the Limpopo Watercourse agreement
International agreement on the Limpopo Watercourse Commission presentation
Memorandum on Objects for Establishment of Limpopo Watercourse Commission: Part1 & Part2
Committee Annual Report 2006 [available at Tabled Committee Reports once tabled]

SUMMARY

The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry presented the international agreement for the Limpopo Watercourse Commission. The Committee discussed the financial and other implications of the agreement and agreed that it be ratified by the National Assembly either the following day in the National Assembly or if that was not possible, early in 2007.

The Committee discussed and accepted its Annual Report for 2006.

MINUTES

International agreement on Limpopo Watercourse Commission: briefing by Department
Dr Fawcett Ngoatje (Chief Director: Strategic Coordination, DWAF) briefed the Committee on the objectives and anticipated benefits of the Limpopo Watercourse Commission Agreement. He showed the region that the agreement covers. The Limpopo Commission would comprise three members from each of South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Botswana, who would represent their country’s government. Water could be used to make high value crops and it would help to leverage funds for the region. Community stakeholders must be a part of decisions in the region. The Commission is not yet in existence, currently it was only Committee status. When the Committee becomes a Commission, they will be a legal personality and will be able to acquire funding. Mozambique and Botswana have ratified the agreement already. There is currently explorative projects on the go. He asked the Committee to ratify the agreement.

The Chairperson thanked him and said that all international work must support a parliamentary dimension to it. This is often forgotten. How do they create a parliamentary dimension for international cooperation. The Department will experience challenges if they do not.

Ms Semple asked if there were any financial costs for any of the countries involved.

Mr J Arendse said that the Chairperson had covered some of his points. There were financial costs which would be covered in the Department’s budget. Where was Parliament in this? How do they get in the loop?

Mr Moonsamy said that the Commission should be supported. The agreement is clear on how it will function. It is in keeping with South African policy. In Letter from the President in the ANC Newsletter, he had called for Southern Africa to unite. The agreement would go a long way in doing this and in sharing water.

Mr I D Mogase (ANC) asked how often the three commissioners would meet and what would they discuss.

Mr M Masala said he supported the agreement. What are the constraints of not yet being a Commission? Who are the stakeholders? How do they ensure equitable sharing of benefits? He wanted to believe it is an honest partnership but there is water theft. How do they measure the amount of water for each country? All countries contribute equally financially, is there a guarantee of equal returns?

Mr Sibuyana said that he always refers to catchments, and not a lack of water, that makes us water poor. The spill over from the Limpopo River can be used for poverty alleviation. He supported the agreement.

In response to the various comments, Dr Ngoatje said that the Chair is right. The Department must work closely with the Committee, and not only come when they need support. They had met with the delegation from Vietnam. The IBSA (India and Brazil) countries are a priority. They have undertaken to have a closer relationship. The initial cost of the agreement is R1.6 million which will be shared equally between the countries. Mozambique had generously offered to host the secretariat as South Africa hosts the secretariat for the Orange River. Funds will be budgeted for from DWAF. Funders will top this up but they have undertaken to be self sufficient. The President is right; economic integration is very important for the region. South Africa may have a competitive advantage in some ways and it is then better to overproduce and supply to other countries which have an advantage with another crop, like Zimbabwe and tobacco.

He continued that the Commission would meet twice a year but urgent meetings could be called on a needs basis. The major limitation being a committee and not a commission is that they cannot make any important decisions to gain funding as all funding has to go through the Department. They can enter into these decisions once they are a Commission. The major stakeholders are people residing in the basin, especially farmers and miners. On the Shashi River Dam, they have to look at how much to store so that there will be enough water to cross the border. There is a gauging station at each border to make sure that the agreed amount is crossing. Donors will upgrade these systems, but the instruments are in place. They have been criticised for water theft. They are doing their best to verify and validate who is using how much water. The protocol makes provision for member states. For example they asked the neighbouring countries about building the De Hoop Dam. The Commission will guide good relations for equitable sharing.

The Chairperson asked for the last round of questions.

Ms Lishivha asked what role the council has in the Commission.

Mr Moonsamy asked if there is currently water in the Shashi River as it is usually dry.

The Chairperson said that in their oversight in Limpopo, they had discussions about the name of the De Hoop Dam and Mr Moonsamy had a suggestion which she has forgotten. It is good to hear that the other countries are happy about the dam. They have heard much unhappiness about it in Kruger and the Department must keep an eye on this.

Mr Moonsamy clarified that he had commented on the naming of the Shashi Dam, not the De Hoop Dam. He was pleased and proud that it was named after a great man.

Mr Sibuyana said that the names should be given according to the local community as there may be a local hero. It should be negotiated with the people. He had heard people complain that structures were named after unknown people in the region.

The Chairperson said that she would pass the comment on to the correct Portfolio Committee.

Ms S Sigcau said that there were 14 countries in the SADC region. What about the other 10 countries not included in this agreement?

Dr Ngoatje replied that South Africa shared four rivers with neighbours and that this river was only part of the relationship with the SADC countries. He asked if Ms Lishivha was asking about the municipal council. He has been informed that there is water in the Shashi river which is extremely unusual as it is a semi desert. It is the first time some people in Botswana have seen this. Through the Commissioners, they have received written support for the De Hoop Dam from the affected countries.

Ms M Setwaba (Director: Legal Services, DWAF) said that the Government is represented in the Commission, not the Department. The Council is a technical advisor to the Government but can take decisions. The three members can appoint ad hoc committees of scientists and so forth to get information to make the decisions.

Mr Sibuyana asked if this ratification follows as part of the Cahora-Bassa project.

Mr Masala asked, if the agreement is between governments and the Department pays, is that the case and how does it work?

The Chairperson said she would explain it to him.

Dr Ngoatje said that the Cahora-Bassa project is a separate agreement.

The Chairperson asked if the Committee formally support ratification of the agreement as a Committee and undertake to recommend it to the country.

All moved to accept the agreement.

The Chairperson asked if there was any dissent. She read the legal and formal request for ratification. All agreed. The Chairperson said that it must be processed immediately as the House must adopt it the following day and it must then go to the National Council of Provinces.

Committee Annual Report for 2006
The Chairperson asked if any members had comments about the Annual Report.

Mr M Sibuyana (IFP) said that he did not have much to say, the issues had been dealt with and only a revisit was left. He was concerned that Bushbuckridge has been left out in visits to Limpopo and to Mpumalanga. There was an ongoing political issue there as an independent candidate had won one ward and service delivery is not happening.

The Chairperson suggested that Members voice what issues they would like dealt with in the first session of the following year.

Mr K Moonsamy (ANC) said that he had made his comments on the previous day and did not want to repeat them. They should concentrate on the weaknesses of the Department, especially with regards to finances. The report highlights this.

Ms E Lishivaha (ANC) said that she is satisfied with the report and money had been well spent.

Ms S Maine (ANC) accepted the report and Ms J Semple (DA) seconded it.

Mr M Masala asked whether the current meeting would be added to the list in the Annual Report.

The Chairperson responded that it was included. A large amount of the budget was unexpended and she wondered whether they would be able to spend it.  They would not spend it recklessly but use suggestions made during the previous day’s meeting. There was the possibility of international visits. The budget had only started after Parliament resumed in March after the local government elections which was different to other years. There has been an invitation from Vietnam and they should write to them to get more information about the nature of the invitation. The Vietnamese delegation had been surprised at what South Africa does. They must explore possible reasons to go. An ambassadorial letter must be sent. It did not mean that a visit will or would not happen.

Mr Sibuyana said that he had been talking about this for the past two years. They must measure their performance against other countries such as Israel as they were a desert but did not complain of water shortages because of their technological interventions. There should be a give and take of information between countries. He was happy to hear the Committee talk about it.

She thanked the members for the year and hopes for continued recommendations during the next year.

Ms Semple thanked the Chairperson for her work throughout the year on behalf of the Committee.

Meeting adjourned.

 

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