ATC130328: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs on the Oversight Visit to Gert Sibande District, Mpumalanga Province from 28 – 30 January 2013, dated 26 March 2013

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs on the Oversight Visit to Gert Sibande District, Mpumalanga Province from 28 – 30 January 2013, dated 26 March 2013

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs on the Oversight Visit to Gert Sibande District, Mpumalanga Province from 28 – 30 January 2013, dated 26 March 2013

1. Introduction and Background

The Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs undertook an oversight visit to the Gert Sibande District, Mpumalanga from 28 – 30 January 2013. As a Committee of the National Assembly whose powers are enumerated in Chapter 4 of the Constitution, and in accordance with the rules and orders of the National Assembly, the Committee is required, in respect of the mandate of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to, among other things:

§ ensure that all appropriate executive organs of state are held accountable for their actions; and

§ conduct oversight of the national executive authority and of any organ of state.

Key amongst the issues that define the mission of the Portfolio Committee, is ensuring that local government systems are implemented effectively, in line with the ethos of good and clean governance. The provision of water and related infrastructure is one of the key functions of local government. For this reason, local municipalities are both water service authorities and water service providers.

In Gert Sibande District Municipality , there were three issues which warranted investigation:

· Whether there was indeed a water crisis in the area.

· If there are interventions in place to deal with the matter.

· Any assistance the District Municipality was providing in terms of its legislative mandate

As a result the Committee met with the Msukaligwa Local Municipality , Gert Sibande District Municipality , and had site visits to the Douglas and Brummer Dams. A water reservoir was also visited.

2. Delegation

The Committee consisted of a multi-party delegation led by , Hon DG Nhlengethwa (ANC), Hon WJ Nelson (ANC), Hon JM Matshoba (ANC), Hon FD Boshigo (ANC), Hon GG Boinamo (DA), Hon J Steenhuisen (DA) and Hon C Mosimane (COPE). The following officials accompanied the delegation: Ms S Cassiem (Committee Secretary) and Mr A Sokomani (Committee researcher). There were also officials from the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs).

3. Msukaligwa Local Municipality

The Municipality reported that there is a crisis with the provision of water to the municipal areas. To supply raw water to Ermelo and adjacent areas, the Msukaligwa Local Municipality relies on three principal dams: the Jericho , Brummer and Douglas Dams. Investigations into the water supply shortage found that the Brummer and Douglas dams were running dry. Consequently water abstraction was not possible as the dams were 10% below capacity.

For reasons that were not entirely clear to the Committee, a privately owned major dam in the area, the Driehoek Dam, was not affected. This, and the generous amounts of rainfall the Portfolio Committee witnessed in the area, seemed to suggest that the water shortage may have been due to other reasons other than the lack of adequate rainfall. Bolstering this suggestion is the fact that the percentage of households without adequate water in Msukaligwa is 13.5%, which almost pales in significance when compared to the 25.5% in Mkhondo and 40.8% which is the case in Chief Albert Luthuli – two local municipalities within the same district whose population distribution is roughly equivalent to that of Msukaligwa.

The Municipality held a special council meeting where it was decided to declare a disaster as a result of public outcry on the water crisis. The local municipality, the Provincial Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, the district municipality overseeing the area (Gert Sibande), the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and the Department of Water Affairs, formed a Joint Operating Committee (JOC) to deal with the matter. A plan of action detailing proposed interventions, and target dates for completion, was presented to the Portfolio Committee. Most of the interventions the JOC proposed had 31 January 2013 as the target date for completion.

The Municipality has the following water treatment works for the supply of water to communities:

· Northern WTW - There are total of six (6) pumps and two (2) air blowers installed. Four pumps are connected to a 450 NB pipeline pumping drinking water into the Airport Reservoir which supplies the CBD and other adjacent areas of Ermelo. Only one pump is operational, two pumps are connected to a 250 NB pipeline, pumping drinking water to Wesseltone, Long-homes, Everest Park (currently supplied by water tankers). None of these pumps is operational. Two air blowers are used for filter backwashing. None of them is operational almost for a year. Hence backwashing efficiency is very much compromised.

· Southern WTW - This waterworks consists of Old and New works. New Works - There are two (2) drinking water delivery pumps installed. Only one pump is operational. Old Works - There are five (5) drinking water pumps installed. Only one is operational, the remaining four (4) pumps were removed from the pumping station. There are 48 plastic, pressure filters installed and more than 20 are leaking.

In addition to these water treatment works, the Municipality also has five reservoirs: the South Reservoir, Wesselton Reservoir, Airport Reservoir, SABC Tower and Wesselton Tower . The last two are not operational. The delegation visited the site of the Wesselton Tower and witnessed what appeared to have been a deliberate destruction of the structure. The delegation was told that the South African Police Service had instituted criminal investigations into the matter. However, the report on the findings of the investigation was still outstanding.

4. Interventions

The short term contingency plan as agreed upon by the members of the Joint Operative Committee (JOC) included the provision of Jojo tanks, and a sizable number of water carts in the strategic areas of the affected communities. This was to be supplemented by the implementation of the water restrictions programmes. The Municipality has borrowed eight tanks from the Chief Albert Luthuli Local Municipality , 13 tanks from Mkhondo Local Municipality and the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) will provide sixty tanks.

However, no sufficient consideration appears to have been given to some of the health hazards such tanks may pose. It has been alleged that on previous occasions some community members have expressed their dissatisfaction with the tanks by inserting dead rats, and poisonous substances into them, in order to deter other community members from using them.

Further intervention from the Department of Water Affairs was to approve the Regional Bulk Infrastructure Grant (RBIG), reconstruction of the elevated water tank in Wesselton to increase the supply in the water network at all the reservoirs, increasing of water capacity in both Brummer and Douglas Dams and exploring possibilities with the Jericho Dam. There were also plans for a 6 month project to extract water from Usuthu River pipeline. Plans to construct an emergency pipeline, which would generally follow the permanent pipeline route, were also underway. The envisaged completion date for the emergency pipeline was approximately 8 weeks. The estimated cost of this pipeline was not disclosed to the delegation. A permanent pipeline is anticipated to be completed in October 2013, at an approximate cost of R30,1 million.

T he lack of technical capacity to manage water infrastructure also kept emerging throughout the course of the Committee’s oversight visit. And this appeared to be the crux of the water shortage problem in Ermelo. At the time of the visit the Technical Services Department of the Municipality had no engineers. The Committee was also informed of non-functional meters, illegal water connections, broken water pump stations and the fact that out of the R40 million Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) allocations to the Municipality, only R4 million was allocated for water. It also emerged that silt has been allowed to pile up in the Douglas dam, thus constraining its capacity further.

The Municipality has devised an action plan to this effect.

Action Plan:

Recommended steps to be taken

Supporting tools

Current status

Target dates

Supply of water from the Douglas Dam

DWA catchment reports

Gauteng DWA regional office initiated an aerial study and water quality test on dams in the area. If those dams are found to be illegal that water can be released to the Douglas dam

31 January 2013

Supply of water from the Brummer Dam

DWA catchment reports

There is water available from the Driehoek Dam that can be released to Brummer Dam. The municipality need to enter into discussion with the owner of the Driehoek Dam to release some water

22 January 2013

Determining capacity of personnel dealing with water and sanitation

Section 78 reports

Municipality is currently conducting skills assessment audit. Cogta must speak to MISA for support

20 March 2013

Determining the state of current infrastructure eg. Illegal connections, capacity of the pump stations, calibration of the system

Water Service Development plan (WSDP)/Master plan

The municipality has reported number of illegal connections and non functional meters. Cogta must speak to MISA for support

31 January 2013

Tankering programme

The municipality has 6 water carts currently supplying Ermelo /Wesselton with water

On going

Drilling of boreholes

DWA borehole reports

DWA water resources is currently investigating the possibility of potential boreholes around Ermelo

31 January 2013

Emergency pumping to the Northern Water Treatment Works (WTW)

Rand Water to provide emergency pipeline to the Northern WTW .

Rand Water has deployed a team that is investigating the supply of water and non-functional air valves

24 January 2013

RBIG project progress reporting

RBIG report

RBIG business plan for the construction of a pipeline from Jericho Dam to Northern WTW approved. The District has provided the assistance of a consultant to the project. The consultant busy with design

Increase in temporary raw water abstraction

The municipality requested permission from the DWA. DWA in the process of approving the request

31 January 2013

Reprioritisation of Capital projects

R30m of the R40m MIG allocations has been allocated for roads projects and only R4m allocated for water. The local and district municipalities to reprioritise projects (RBIG, MIG and other CAPEX)

31 January 2013

Engaging Eskom and Mines (Ermelo Business Community

Request support in addressing the water crisis

31 January 2013

4.1 Gert Sibande District Muncipaltiy (GSDM)

Msukaligwa is part of a family of seven municipalities that fall within the Gert Sibande District Municipality (GSDM). In terms of the Structures Act, a district municipality must, among other things, build the capacity of local municipalities in its area to perform their functions and exercise their powers where such capacity is lacking. In this case the capacity of Msukaligwa to fulfil its functions of providing potable water was in question, and the District was duly expected to intervene.

The District Municipality however has no authority over water supply and waste water treatment in individual local municipalities in its area, because local municipalities are Water Service Authorities (WSA) as well as Water Service Providers (WSPs). Regrettably, Msukaligwa has limited capacity to perform both these functions. The District Municipality has only co-ordinating and advisory roles. This could be a major source of problems and reason for lack of service quality if the local municipality fails to implement relevant advice.

This is a source of many problems with water services throughout the district and it is a well-known fact that the District Municipality lacks the capacity to handle water services projects effectively. However the District Municipality is better capacitated than the local municipality to address all relevant issues associated with water service projects. This starts with the planning of new infrastructure, the capability to appoint the most suitable consultants for individual projects, upgrading of the existing works, effective operation and maintenance of infrastructure, etc.

It was admitted by the Municipal Manager (MM) of the Msukaligwa Local Municipality that they do not have a single engineer in the Technical Services Department. The Municipality should be water service providers and not water services authorities, since generally, they lack the capacity required to perform the functions of a water services authority.

The District was providing support to Msukaligwa Local Municipality in the form of:

· Modelling the Ermelo Water Reticulation Network.

· Providing a Water Safety Plan for implementation.

· Developing and providing an asset management plan.

· Upgrading of the abstraction infrastructure at Douglas dam.

· Procuring the services of three tanker services.

If the District provided all this support before the problem emerged, the water shortage could possibly have been averted.

5. Committee findings

The following findings were made:

· No forward planning to accommodate increase in migration and climate change.

· Insufficient bulk infrastructure, ageing infrastructure and lack of maintenance.

· There were water losses.

· Limited knowledge capacity of reticulation networks.

· Technical capacity – no qualified engineers.

· No clear terms of the tender conditions for trucking of water with tanks to supply Everest Park, Long-homes, Thembisa, etc.

· The Municipality started planning only eight months ago when the crisis of water started (no previous risk management plan) and only when in crisis state the Municipality realised that there were illegal water connections and non functional water meters.

· Negotiations with the owner of Driehoek Dam to release water to the Brummer Dam were underway.

6. Recommendations

The following recommendations with timeframes were made:



Time frame


There is a lack of technical capacity to deal with the challenges of water provision.

The Department of Cooperative Governance nationally should send Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA) engineers to assist with technical capacity.


Department of Cooperative Governance and MISA.

Due to the dissatisfaction with the use of the jojo tanks its alleged that the tanks are contaminated with dead animals, etc. which poses a health hazard.

The Municipality should devise a risk management plan to deal with disasters.


Msukwaligwa Local Municipality with the assistance of Gert Sibande District Municipality and Department of Cooperative Governance.

The timeframe for the trucking of water as immediate intervention was not clear as well as the money spent for this.

A clear breakdown of funding for this project should be made available as well as a contingency plan for provision of water to communities.


Msukwaligwa Local Municipality.

The Municipality has no plans in place to deal with maintenance of infrastructure (ageing, non operational, etc).

A maintenance plan should be put in place to deal with this. The abstraction infrastructure at Douglas Dam should be upgraded and all broken pumps should be fixed.


Msukwaligwa Local Municipality with the assistance of Gert Sibande District Municipality and Department of Cooperative Governance

There were illegal water connections and non functional meters as well as billing systems that were not accurate.

The Municipality should ensure that it deals with the issue of illegal connections and servicing of meter readers. The billing systems should be cleaned up.

Three months.

Msukwaligwa Local Municipality with the assistance of Gert Sibande District Municipality and Department of Cooperative Governance.

The affected communities are not informed about interventions and timeframes for completion of the intervention.

Community meetings should be convened to firstly apologise for the violating their rights to access and clean water, and explain the interventions in place.


Mukwaligwa Local Municipalities and ward councillors.

The Municipality received R40million allocation for MIG funding and only R4 million budgeted for water.

The Municipality should increase the budget for water taking into consideration the problems faced with the provision of water.

June 2013.

Msukwaligwa Local Municipality.

The demand for water is ever increasing.

The Municipality should pro-actively implement a programme to conserve water and manage demand. New developments should consider the harvesting of rain water


Msukwaligwa Local Municipality with the assistance of Gert Sibande District Municipality and Department of Cooperative Governance.


A skills audit should be performed at municipal level to address the challenge of capacity.


Gert Sibande District Municipality.

The problem of water was detected in 2010 and nothing has been done since then.

A report on when the problem with water came to light and way of addressing it should be made available to the Committee.

June 2013.

Department of Cooperative Governance.

It was reported that a temporary pipeline will be installed which will be followed by permanent pipeline to address the water crisis.

A report on the cost of the temporary pipeline and the source funding going to be used for this should be made available to the Committee.

June 2013.

Msukwaligwa Local Municipality with the assistance of Gert Sibande District Municipality and Department of Cooperative Governance.

Its alleged that the reservoir in ward 1 of Ermelo was blown up (exploded) and an investigation into this is sitting with SAPS.

A full report detailing the reasons for the collapse of the reservoir, actions taken against perpetrators and the intended action for implementation should be submitted to the Committee.


Msukwaligwa Local Municipality with the assistance of Gert Sibande District Municipality and Department of Cooperative Governance.

It is requested that the Minister should ensure the implementation of all of the above recommendations.

7. Conclusion

The Committee strongly feels that if there were long-term plans in place, the water crisis could have been prevented. Effective early warning and monitoring systems to detect shortages should have signalled before the disaster occurred, and contingency plans should have been in place to deal with the situation.

The Committee will have a follow up meeting with the municipalities and all other stakeholders concern, to get a progress report on the implementation of the action plan.

Report to be considered.


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