Botshelo Water & Mhlathuze Water Annual Reports 2006/7; Water quality & contamination, free basic water, water issues: Submissions by Jubilee SA, Federation for Sustainable Environment, Centre for Applied Legal Studies, Mvula Trust

Water and Sanitation

12 August 2008
Chairperson: Ms C September (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Botshelo Water briefed the Committee on its Annual Report for 2006/2007, covering areas of operation, governance structures, water quality, infrastructure, corporate services and financial position. Botshelo Water had operated without a Board for six months in 2007, and currently did not have an audit or risk management committee. The audit had revealed weaknesses in the payment process. The water quality status was outlined and the treatment plants were mentioned. The infrastructure roll out plan was mentioned. The audit report for this period was unqualified but there was significant outstanding debt. Members took this point up firmly, stating that they doubted the veracity of the unqualified report in the light of other issues, queried the weakness in payment, called for a breakdown of staff competencies and clarification on how the debts were incurred, the plans for fraud prevention and the time frames for transfer of assets. 

Mhlathuze Water presented its Annual Report for 2006/2007, describing the background, the audit report, finances, water quality, load shedding, risk management and infrastructure. New auditors had been appointed. Members enquired what the water boards were doing to implement payment by municipalities, stressed that effective plans of action were needed, and asked the reasons for appointment of new auditors. They commented that there should be more details on how shortage of skills was affecting the quality of water and service delivery and on load shedding.

Jubilee South Africa briefed the Committee on water quality and water contamination in the municipalities of Waterburg, Mogalalwena and Limpopo. This contamination was largely due to Anglo Platinum’s mining in Limpopo. Four recommendations were made to the Committee: that communities should be able to cease drinking contaminated water, that Anglo Platinum must take responsibility for clean-up, that community members must be given access to medical check ups and that local authorities should be more involved, and that Anglo Platinum’s clean water provision be extended to all areas where there was contamination. The Committee was urged to visit the communities and a request was made for stricter monitoring of mining.

The Federation for a Sustainable Environment gave a detailed presentation on the current status of the Upper and Lower Wondersfonteinspruit Catchment area and the Tweelopiespruit Catchment area. This presentation noted the sources of pollution, the types and effects of that pollution, the future of the area, and the resolutions that had been taken. However, it noted that not everything was being implemented as it should be. The Federation appealed for an approach whereby local communities would have greater involvement and said that the mines would be approached to contribute financially towards the remedial work needing to be done.

The Centre for Applied Legal Studies briefed the Committee on the background to Free Basic Water, the problems experienced while implementing Free Basic Water policy, the problems encountered when targeting Free Basic Water, as well as the conditions attached to accessing this service. Many of the problems were directly related to implementation by the municipalities, who did not appear to be certain what they should be doing, or who were not implementing programmes properly.

Mvula Trust made a submission on the revisions to the Water Services Act, focusing on the area of regulation, noting that municipalities were struggling with the separation between their roles as Water Service Authorities and Water Service Providers, the sourcing of skills and filling of vacancies. There was weak public accountability, and Mvula made suggestions for how the situation could be improved, particularly through greater focus on the role that civil society organisations could offer.

The S A National Civil Organisation also stressed the
need to recognise the contribution of civil society organisations. Consideration must be given to the quality of water, and to whether sufficient was being provided for other purposes like sanitation. Every household needed access to sufficient water, and it was noted that such water should be accessible within a radius of 200 metres. However, in rural areas this was not the case. It recommended that the Minister should address illegal connections to main supply systems, analyse how far Free Basic Water was being complied with, and the extent to which the 200 metre radius rule was being applied.

The Environmental Monitoring Group addressed the likely impacts of climate change on water policies. Water demand management was currently being abused,
with some municipalities relying too much on providing water that was paid for, against Free Basic Water. There was a need to reduce overall water use, but other methods than pricing strategies must be found. Ecological reserves should be fixed at a minimum, and should be re-assessed constantly to deal with the effects of climate. The review of the legislation should encompass strategies to deal with the water crisis, including participatory  decision-making, tariffs, better planning for disaster management, and support for a strong civil society. Any new infrastructure should also bear in mind the need to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

The South African Water Caucus and Eco Care Trust made an oral presentation calling for more support for the Department  in making regulations, and asking for a way in which civil societies could engage further with the Department of Provincial and Local Government.

Members did not ask formal questions but raised various topics for discussion. These included a suggestion that the Committee hold a strategic session to look at the progress being made by the Department of Water Affairs, including civil organisations. The Committee was urged to visit mines that were responsible for pollution and should take up the matter also with the Department of Minerals and Energy. They suggested that townships and urban areas must be integrated, that there was a need to consider rural areas, the need to educate people around water recycling, and the use of Village Water Committees. The Department should assist in assessing what happened to funds allocated to Municipalities for water.

Meeting report


Botshelo Water (BW) Annual Report 2006/7 Briefing
The representative from Botshelo Water briefed the Committee on its Annual Report for 2006/2007 The briefing covered the area of operation, governance structures, water quality, infrastructure, corporate services and financial position. Botshelo Water (BW) operated in the North West Province and maintained schemes in rural, peri-urban and urban areas of Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality and Dr Ruth Segomotosi District Municipality. It operated Waste Water Treatment Works to a minimal.

BW’s governance structures were discussed. The current board had been appointed on 1 July 2007, with the previous board in appointment for 18 months, with the directives to implement forensic investigations recommendations. The previous Board had concluded in 2006, and BW had been operating for six months in 2007 without a Board. It was confirmed that in the current financial year the BW did not have an Audit and Risk Management Committee. An audit was conducted and reported on certain payment processes weaknesses.

BW then discussed its Water Quality Status. It confirmed that the North West Province had primarily relied on underground water and that BW had extracted water from the Setumo and Molatedi dams. It was stated that the BW’s 500 boreholes were tested as per SANS 241 guidelines. In the presentation, BW discussed the Mmabatho, Mafikeng, Motswedi, Kopfontein, Itsoseng, and Dinokana Water Treatment Plants. The Itsoseng and Dinokana Water Treatment Plants also served as Pump Stations.

BW’s infrastructure roll out plan was presented to the Committee. It was stated that BW operated and maintained assets on behalf of the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF). DWAF was in the final stages with regard to the transfer of assets agreement.

BW’s Corporate Services comprised Human Resources (HR), Marketing, Operations and Finance segments with a total staff of 296 persons. Of particular note was the resolution of labour relations queries and skills development of staff. .
BW then moved on to discuss the financial statements, noting that the audit report for this period was unqualified. BW had outstanding debt of R34.6 million, and was in engagement with the DWAF regarding the debt. It was stated that the engagement with the DWAF was centred on questions of incorrect billing.

Mhlathuze Water (MW): Annual Report 2006/7
Mr Khandani Msibi, Chief Executive, Mhlathuze Water, presented the Annual Report for 2006/2007. The report described the background of MW, the Audit Report, Finances, Water Quality, Load Shedding Risk management as well as Infrastructure. The MW structured constituency was highlighted with reference to the Board and Executive constituency. It was stated that new auditors had been appointed and that the new audit had been prepared in terms of the Public Management Finance Act (PMFA) as well as the Water Services Act (WSA).

Ikangala Water Board
The Ikangala Water Board did not present their Annual Report for 2006/2007 to the Committee. Its members were not present at the meeting.

Mr K Moonsamy (ANC) asked BW what were the actual weaknesses pertaining to payments, as stated in their Annual Report. He added that the corruption pertaining to public services statistics in the country was high, with 5 000 cases currently being investigated. With regard to the staff complement of 296, he wanted a breakdown on the achievements and skills development. He asked BW and MW for clarification on debt and how the debt had been incurred.

Ms D van der Walt (DA) said that reports where it was stated that the finances were in good order could not be accurate if it was clear that the Board was not able to collect its debts. She displayed concern with regard to debt collection.

Ms van der Walt wanted to know about the skills shortages. She acknowledged that infrastructure was not up to scratch and that there were still major backlogs. She further enquired what exactly the water boards were doing to implement the payment of water bills by municipalities. She said that an effective plan of action needed to be put into place. She added that skills, finance and infrastructure were of permanent concern.

Mr M Swathe (DA) noted that criminal charges had been laid against certain board members. He asked what further steps had been taken and how far the cases had progressed.

Mr Swathe asked MW for further elaboration on their newly elected auditors and asked what the new auditors were doing in comparison to the auditors that they had been using for the past 20 years.

Mr Swathe was similarly concerned about the payments by municipalities due to the water board, and similarly wished to query the unqualified audit reports of MW in the light of these outstanding matters.

Mr J Arendse (ANC) posed questions to both water boards. He wanted to know why the boards had not sent through the reports to the Committee on time, so that the Committee could have had enough time to review the reports thoroughly.

Mr Arendse was also concerned about the fact that the municipalities were not paying their water bills to both boards. He said that there needed to be clear guidelines as to what must be done. In the event that assistance had been sought, he asked where the resources were derived from.

Ms M Manana (ANC) asked BW what were the time frames pertaining to the transferring of the assets. She was concerned about the areas that needed attention, and mentioned the implementation of a fraud protection policy.

Mr S Simmons (NA) said that the reports were very sparse when it came to specifying certain aspects. He said that the reports needed to give conclusive reports on misconduct statistics. He added that the reports were also not informative enough in regard to the transfer of assets and that they needed to stipulate the type of assets being referred to. He also said that the reports should have been more specific as to how the skills gap affected the water board’s quality of water and service delivery. He added that more information regarding load shedding also needed to be detailed in MW’s report.

The Chairperson quoted Section 65 of the PFMA and reminded both Boards of their responsibility towards the Committee under this Act.

The Chairperson pointed out that BW needed to give an update on its fraud protection development plan, inclusive of both asset and liability management.

BW responded to the comments in general. The representatives stated that BW had adopted a risk policy in July 2008. Reference was made to page 18 of the Annual Report, which gave the details on skills development.

BW had, irrespective of the fact that the executive board was only newly appointed, completed its quarterly report within the required time frame. BW had gone into a management crisis and a forensic investigation had lead to the depletion of most of its managers. The estate of the former Chief Executive amounted to R13 million, and there was public money involved. Most underlying issues were being dealt with and would be reflected in its 2007/2008 Annual Report.

The BW Board had implemented an extensive outreach program with regards to the issue of payments. BW said that it did not have a problem with water service authorities. The 2007/2008 would reflect the improvement. It noted that the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) was charging BW on the basis of water use licenses.

The representative from BW then explained that its infrastructure plan which was divided into two parts; one was concerned with the renewal of its existing infrastructure, and was on schedule and BW was also in the process of commissioning one of its projects.

Mr Msibi from MW likewise gave a general response to the questions. He confirmed that MW had a strong staff contingency in the accounting field, which had included some accounting students. It was also busy with the process of employing more accounting staff.

MW was also in the process of Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) accreditation, in terms of which MW could become a service provider. The MW was not affected by the lack of skills in the country as it was utilising skills from the public sector.

With regard to the DWAF projects, he noted that resources were derived both internally and externally, with two sources of funding, one of them being from DWAF.

In regard to the auditors, Mr Msibi noted that for the sake of good governance, the auditors should be changed every three to five years, so that there was optimal effectiveness. He said that the new auditors had created new areas in identification and addressing of gaps that had existed in the past. However, the appointment of the new auditors had delayed the Trust issues, and it was hoped that by October 2008, the Trust would be rounded up.

Mr Msibi noted that the fraud prevention plan had been drawn and was passed by the Board within the last six months.

Jubilee South Africa Briefing on water quality and contamination
Mr Phillipos Dolo, organizer from Limpopo, representing Jubilee South Africa,  briefed the Committee on water quality as well as water contamination. He made reference to Section 27 of the Constitution of South Africa. He noted that in June 2008, he had made a presentation to the Committee on the contamination of water in the municipalities of Waterburg, Mogalalwena and Limpopo. He said the contamination was largely due to Anglo Platinum’s mining in Limpopo.

He tabled four recommendations to the Committee. The first was that the communities should cease drinking contaminated water. Secondly, Anglo Platinum should stop trying to shift responsibility to the local authorities and should supply the communities whose water had been contaminated with clean water. Thirdly, community members should be given access to medical check ups, and in this regard local authorities should be working closely with affected communities. Fourthly, he noted that Anglo Platinum was already providing clean water to two schools that had been affected,  and that they should extend this to all communities that had been affected.

Mr Dolo urged the Committee to visit those communities that had been so adversely affected, called upon them to assist with the provision of clean water and concluded that mining needed to be strictly monitored to ensure that it was not polluting the country.

Federation for a Sustainable Environment (FSE): Contamination at Wondersfonteinspruit and Tweelopiespruit Catchments
Ms Mariette Liefferink, CEO, Federation for a Sustainable Environment, briefed the Committee on the current status of the Upper and Lower Wondersfonteinspruit Catchment area and the Tweelopiespruit Catchment area. She made reference to the laws in relation to the two catchments areas, with specific reference to the provisions of the Constitution and the National Water and National Environmental Management Acts around pollution.
She said that the sources of pollution at the Wondersfonteinspruit Catchment (WC) were due to direct discharge and run-off from contaminated sites and groundwater recharge. She said that some of the hazardous sites existed at non mine property and that presently heavy metals such as copper, zinc, cadmium, arsenic and cobalt had been absorbed into the sediment.  She added and demonstrated, via graphic presentation, acid mine drainage and said that it could also lead to manifestations of uranium in the WC. Ms Liefferink then highlighted what the effects of closure of the mine could be, in terms of input from sewage treatment works, noting that the portions of the river not fed by dolomitic springs may return to their pre-mining state over time. However, there were likely to be low-flowing conditions, followed by a rebound phase in which water levels would rise in the underground workings. She illustrated that the current situation was not sustainable in the long term. She made graphic references to Robinson Lake. She gave the Committee a hydro geological assessment of acid mine draining impacts in the West Rand Basin in Gauteng.

Ms Liefferink continued to brief the Committee on the toxicity of the Tweelopiespruit Catchment (TC) and made reference to the DWAF directive on the Catchment, which was fully set out in the document (see presentation for full details).  She appealed for an approach whereby local communities would have greater involvement and said that the mines would be approached to contribute financially towards the remedial work needing to be done. 

Free Basic Water problems: Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) briefing
Ms Kate Tissington, Researcher, Centre for Applied Legal Studies, briefed the Committee on the background to Free Basic Water, the problems experienced while implementing Free Basic Water policy, the problems encountered when targeting Free Basic Water, as well as the conditions attached to accessing this service.

Ms Tissington said that South Africa had one of the most progressive water rights-related legislative and policy frameworks in the world. Water, in essence, was a basic human right. However, the Free Basic Water implementation had become a problem. Ms Tissington said that the Free Basic Water (FBW) policy was not directly legislated, but that policy outlining the provision of FBW was based on certain sections of the Water Services Act 108 of 1997. She said that in DWAF’s 2002 Free Basic Water Implementation Strategy, FBW was intended for poor households, so that they could gain access to basic water. However, according to CALS’s recent research, there had been fault lines pertaining to the implementation of FBW policy at local government level. It was stated that some municipalities were still not providing FBW, and, if they had a policy in place, they had no means of implementing it. There was some uncertainty on how much FBW was to be given, as the recommendation had been made some time ago to raise the provision of 25 litres per person per day to 50 litres per person per day. Residents in a backyard dwelling may often not be able to access even this amount.  Ms Tissington then highlighted the problems that had arisen pertaining to the targeting of FBW to households through registers, and on the current conditions attached to accessing free basic water, the tariff structures as well as the allocation of FBW through Third- Party intermediaries.

Water Services Act, 1998 (WSA): Mvula Trust submission
Ms Laila Smith, Director: Policy and Advocacy, Mvula Trust, briefed the Committee on revisions to the Water Services Act, 1998, focusing on the area of regulation. She said that the majority of municipalities in South Africa were both Water Service Authorities (WSAs) and Water Service Providers (WSPs) and that there was no separation of powers. Ms Smith said that most municipalities had a combined technical services department running all services and that they were struggling to find necessary skills. She said that there were significant vacancies in the water departments of most municipalities. She added that effective water services regulation required expertise across a range of extensive fields to justify the legislative mandate.

This situation had led to weak public accountability. She said that policy and legislation had focused on accountability requirements between the three spheres of government and service providers but that the accountability mechanisms between citizens and service providers had often been overlooked. Municipalities were often neglecting the importance of impact and the way in which their services were being delivered. The current approach was not in line with the people-centred way in which it should be run.

She highlighted some of Mvula Trust’s suggested alternative strategies. Firstly, Mvula suggested the strengthening of the capacity for local levels of oversight and monitoring through Civil Society Organizations (CSO) and the citizens. She added that Public Education was a crucial point of departure. She made reference to the “Raising Citizens Voice” initiative which focused mainly on public water and sanitation services education, and which had resulted in positive outcomes. Ms Smith made three recommendations for the strengthening of public accountability. She suggested that a partnership had to be formed with the Committee and the Civil Society Organization (CSO) Regulation Reference Group, that all Water Boards have a mandatory position on their board of directors for a civil society representative who came via the National Water Advisory Council (NWAC) and that Village Water Committees needed to be restored for oversight and effective service delivery.

Water issues: South African National Civic Organization (SANCO) presentation
Mr Jerome Mhlongo, representative for Kwazulu Natal Masibamabane Civil Society Support Programme, (and member of SANCO) read out a document presented to the Committee. That document highlighted
the provisions of the Constitution, the Municipal Structures Act, the Municipal Systems Act and the need to recognise the contribution of civil society organisations. Water was a catalyst to a healthy living environment, and that meant not only the quality of drinking water, but sufficient water for other purposes such as sanitation. Every household needed access to sufficient water, and it was noted that such water should be accessible within a radius of 200 metres. However, in rural areas this was not the case, as standpipes were often far away from homes, and the quality of the water was questionable. Some water was still being drawn from boreholes that had been contaminated due to mining in the area. In other areas rivers were contaminated due to poor water use by those upstream, or blocked by commercial farmers using the water for irrigation.

It was recommended that the Minister must address, as a matter of urgency, the level of illegal connections to the main supply systems, to analyse how far the provision of Free Basic Water was being complied with, and to analyse the extent to which the 200 metre radius rule was being properly applied. Civil Society Organisations should be given due credibility so that they could continue to play their vital role in society.

Environmental Monitoring Group (EMG) Presentation
Ms Jessica Wilson, Programme Manager, EMG, stated that when looking at legislative review, it was necessary not only to look at the lessons of the past, but also at likely future developments that would need to be addressed. Of particular importance at the moment was the likely impact of global warming. The response to climate change would include an examination of what was and was not working in the implementation of water policies.  She noted that priority categories identified during the last State of the Nation Address, which included infrastructure strengthening and community infrastructure programmes. Access to water must not only be achieved, but also maintained. 

Ms Wilson addressed Water Demand Management. Her organisation supported this proposal as a means of limiting water consumption, but noted an abuse of process. The minimum level of water allowed to be supplied to poor households as Free Basic Water had in effect been interpreted as the maximum that should be supplied. When local municipalities argued that water needed to be conserved, they only meant conserving water that was not income-generating so the goals of water demand management and cost recovery become contradictory.

Secondly she stated that there was a need to reduce overall water use to deal with demand management in the longer term. The market mechanism of pricing should not be the only one utilised; instead support must be provided for community-initiated projects like the Water Leaks Project in the Western Cape.

Thirdly she maintained that climate changes highlight the importance of maintaining ecological reserves and the reserves should be a minimum and not a maximum for healthy rivers and ecosystems. There was a need to constantly re-assess the reserve, which would be impacted upon by climate change.

On a final note, she mentioned the review of the National Water Legislation, which she believed should address strategies to meet water crisis. People needed to be equipped to become more resilient to the changes of climate, and she suggested that this should encompass improving participatory decisions making, including on the issue of tariffs, better planning for disaster management, such as how to address floods or droughts, and recognizing the importance of how things were done as well as what was done. Government should be able to support a strong civil society.

Finally, it must be borne in mind that when investing in new infrastructure, this must be considered in conjunction with the need to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

South Africa Water Caucus and Eco Care Trust (SAWC) submission
A representative of SAWC informed the Committee that although she did not have a written submission she would like to make an oral presentation, to which the Committee agreed. She noted that the most critical issue to be addressed was regulatory implications. She stated that civil societies found it helpful that there had been ongoing engagement with the Department of Water Affairs. She stated that the right to water also carried with it certain responsibilities, and there should be support for the Department of Water in making regulations.

She appealed to the Committee to help find a way for civil societies to engage with the Department of Provincial and Local Government. She further extended an invitation to the Portfolio Committee to attend a civil society meeting on compliance and enforcement on water resources.

The Chairperson stated that she was convinced that the Committee should engage on more of a conversation basis than a formal question and answer session. She thanked the civil societies for the manner in which they had approached the issues raised. She indicated that she did not have any objection to talking to the Chairperson of the Committee on Provincial and Local Government about engaging with civil societies.

She asked the Committee to discuss the mining issues that had been raised in earlier presentations, but stated that there could be no engagement on the Phiri case in which there was an appeal pending before the court. She further asked members to discuss the issue of legislation reviews and climate change although the climate change issues had been previously addressed in a different framework.

Mr Arendse raised two points. The first was a suggestion that the Committee should have a strategic session to look at the progress being made by the Department of Water Affairs and he suggested that such format would encourage a better interaction with the Department. He stated that the Constitution supports consultation but that, more often than not, the consultations between parliament and the public were not satisfactory, and he suggested that civil organisations should be attending parliamentary workshops.

The second point he made dealt with government policy on the proposed water increase from 6 kilolitres to 12 kilolitres per household. He wanted to know whether, if this proposal was presented, the public would believe that it would be sustainable to the end.

Mr Swathe stated that even the current six kilolitre rule was currently not being provided.

Mr Swathe commented, on the issue of water pollution by the mines, that the Portfolio Committee should visit areas identified to see how mines were contaminating the areas, as this oversight would help in determining how the polluters should be penalised.

Ms M Maine (ANC) said the beauty of democracy was that the civil societies were able to bring the attention of parliament to the issues that concerned them. She spoke about the SANCO presentation and stated that it would not be helpful from a democratic point of view if townships were not integrated with urban areas. In respect of water recycling, she noted that she was bothered by the fact that water was being wasted, and agreed that there should be a proposal for a water re-use study, as suggested earlier in a presentation by one of the civil societies. She commented that some of the issues raised were not being presented for the first time and wondered if these proposals were being implemented.

Ms T Lishivha (ANC) stated that the Village Water Committees should be used to educate people in the villages about water conservation.

The Chairperson stated that the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) should assist parliament in making changes to the Water Services Act where necessary. She spoke about the Mashibanbani Funding, noting that when money was raised and given to the municipality, there was only “the hope” that it would be used properly. She commented that DWAF should assist in allocating money to Municipalities and make sure they accounted for it.

The Water Services Act was now an old piece of legislation. Most of what had been proposed had legislative implications. Therefore, if these issues were not being addressed through the Act, then civil societies must state this in terms, so that Parliament could use its power to initiate the review of legislation.

The Chairperson stated, in respect of mining issues, that the Committee must request a reply to the submissions given from the Department of Minerals and Energy.

She stated further that there was nothing in the Act dealing with regulations and commented that the Parliament must take steps to address this.

She then asked for general comment from civil society representatives on the issues raised by the Committee Members.

Ms Jessica Wilson commented that there was a difference between separating out the issues of scarce water resources and financing. She stated that the core issue was not how much water was available, but how much the State could afford to give as a Free Basic Service. 

The representative of Eco Trust stated that the policy on Free Basic Water had good intentions but the practical implementation was causing problems. The concepts of water recycling were not complicated, but the State did need to be innovative in implementing them. In respect of the comments on Village Water Committees, she stated that it was necessary to know how they were created and who reported to them. She stated that the regulatory framework did not sufficiently take into account the special nuances of rural water. 

A representative of DWAF thanked the Portfolio Committee for opening their doors to the public and acknowledged that a great deal had been learnt and the Department would be reviewing some of their policies in the light of the comments. He stated that the Department was still experiencing challenges in respect of services provided to people living on private land. He also stated that there was only so much the National Department could do, and that it must be borne in mind that local government played a major role. 

The meeting was adjourned.

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