Chairperson of the session
Honourable Ministers, Deputy Ministers, MECs here present
Senior government officials and heads of the SOEs and Water Services Authorities
Ladies and gentlemen
Thank you to the organisers of this Summit which is ushering in a more business unusual approach to providing sustainable water security and dignified sanitation to our communities. Nothing has underscored the requirement of the business unusual approach as has the global Covid-19 pandemic. Indeed, as we mounted our coordinated response to Covid-19 which included 3 important messages of (1) masking, (2) washing of hands, and (3) maintaining a safe social distance, the realities of hunger, poverty, unemployment, and inequality, were a constant reminder that the majority still live-in in the peripheries of our economy and are marginalised.
We are also pleased to see that this Summit, brings together all spheres and role players in water and sanitation. As we develop our plans and solutions, we can therefore provide wider and integrated plans that bring together all our infrastructure and development areas. The fact that we have representatives from water, sanitation, human settlements, infrastructure, energy, agriculture, and education as well as provinces, municipalities and agencies of government is a major leap in the right direction, including private sector and farmers.
This is what is envisaged by the District Development Model (DDM) Approach, which goes beyond the state but also integrates our private, international, and civil society partners. Section 40 of our Constitution recognises that whereas our spheres of government are “distinctive, interdependent and interrelated” they must assist and support one another in the execution of their individual and collective duties. In so doing the founding authors of the constitution brought to life a known fact — that if we act together, we can achieve much more.
In recognising the value of the team approach Section 154 of the constitution therefore calls upon “the national government and provincial governments, by legislative and other measures, [to] support and strengthen the capacity of municipalities to manage their own affairs, to exercise their powers and to perform their functions”. We see this Summit and other such engagements as important attempts in the exercise of “other measures”.
We also see these platforms as opportunities to explore appropriate and effective instruments by which we can support municipalities. These municipalities are at the centre of our delivery mechanisms and pursuit for development since every development is undertaken in a locality.
Facilitator, Section 152 of the Constitution calls for the provision of democratic and accountable government for local communities. This means that local government’s role is to (1) facilitate for service provision in a sustainable manner; (2) promote social & economic development; (3) promote a safe & healthy environment; and (4) encourage the involvement of communities. As part of the services to be provided municipalities which are critical to social and economic development as well as a healthy and clean environment section 27 of the Constitution directs that there should be sufficient food and water.
Flowing from the section 152 and 153 of the constitution the Water Services Act locates the responsibility of progressively realising efficient, affordable, economic, consistent, and sustainable access to water and sanitation to every municipality through Water Service Authorities. However, the national and provincial governments are given the roles of creating an enabling environment, with national government having the responsibility to finance and provide bulk services. This national government does SO through the nine waterboards established by the Minister responsible for water and sanitation. All of which work in unison to secure the rights to water and sanitation.
Indeed, long before the 28 July 2010 UN Resolution 64/292 which explicitly recognises the right to water and sanitation as a human right, our policies recognised these rights as fundamental to securing the non derogable rights to life and human dignity. This means these rights cannot be limited or suspended under any circumstances. Thus, our implementation programmes include Free Basic Services. WATER SECOND TO OXYGEN IS NB FOR SURVIVAL According to the RDP this was to include, in the short-term, providing “ALL households with clean, safe water supply of 20 to 30 litres per capita per day within 200metres, an adequate/safe sanitation facility per site, and refuse removal system to all urban households”.
However, despite the good delivery of water services, 1 in 10 households still do not have access to clean drinking water. Additionally, over 22% of our households may not have access within a 200-metre radius of their home. According to the National Water Master Plan 46% of the households with access, find water services unreliable.
The dignity of our residents is also challenged with nearly 2 out 10 households not having access to sanitation. Over 34% of residents either utilising pit latrines or unhygienic means to relive themselves. No doubt, the situation is far worse in rural South Africa. Indeed, we are very far from the medium-term targets set by the RDP which provided that by now we should have surpassed the “50 to 60 litres per capita per day of clean water [with] improved on site sanitation and an appropriate household refuse collection system”.
Facilitator, one cannot divorce these shortcomings from South Africa’s history of conquest, expansion, and separate development. In providing a water governance framework the colonisers utilised the approaches of the well-watered colonising countries of Europe. These practices contrasted with age old African conservation philosophies which also located settlements closer to water sources and productive activities. The settlers carved for themselves areas of better access. It is therefore no coincidence that the Irrigation and Conservation of Water Act of 1912, preceded the infamous 1913 Land Act. This gave exclusive water rights to white farming communities and white owned mining houses, which mischief was sealed by restricting black land ownership through the Land Act. Thus, the water license debate which continues today is in fact a construct inherited from colonial architecture. Consequently, the water licensing debate can never be divorced from the land rights debate. The colonial and apartheid states also paid little attention to the fact that South Africa due to its location and vastness is a water scarce country. Therefore, and because water is a finite resource, today South Africa ranks as one of the 30 driest countries in the world with an average rainfall of about 40% less than the annual world average rainfall. This is so because the apartheid state employed inappropriate and environmentally unfriendly water irrigation schemes such as the Hartbeespoort Dam Irrigation Scheme of 1915 to 1925, to the exclusion of Africans. The resident Africans were forcibly removed downstream to largely rocky areas which are unproductive.
In contrast, India which ranks in the top 13 driest countries in the world employed more environmentally friendlier methods. These include the Indian Rivers Interlink Projects, which effectively manage water resources by linking Indian rivers by a network of reservoirs and canals. In so doing it enhances irrigation and ground water recharge whilst also addressing the reduction of floods and water shortages. This has meant building smaller and more cost-effective reservoirs which include 14 inter-link projects for the Himalayan component, 16 inter-link projects for the Peninsular component and 37 intrastate river linking projects. As a result, and through the employ of an appropriate water mix, ground water forms 45% of total irrigation and 80% of domestic water consumption.
As we seek to address and unpack our inherited and current water challenges, we must learn from the likes of India. We must employ alternatives such as the building of smaller and more cost-effective reservoirs closer to where people live and work.
This will also ensure that communities do not wait for over ten years to access water. It will also secure affordability for municipalities, water authorities and residents. As we take stock and seek better solutions, we must remember the words of Amilcar Cabral and not tell any lies nor claim easy victories. The truth is that despite the accelerated water access programmes, we have lost about 42% of potable water due to leaks, wastage, and illegal connections. In fact, in some municipalities this loss is above 50%. This has resulted in South Africans using over 61% more water that the world average of 173 litres per day.
For our part we have ringfenced the maintenance and repairs budgets. We must therefore pay greater attention to our overall water management and maintenance strategies. In undertaking this we must also ensure that the past inequities in the allocation of water resources and access to services are redressed as speedily as possible. For example, whereas 61% of our water resources are utilised for agriculture, only 5% of that goes to black farmers. Therefore, we must emerge from this Summit with a common action plan which will answer the redress and redistribution challenges.
Because we are not an island and we live on the continent, this action plan must be anchored on global and continental plans such as the Dar es Salaam Roadmap to achieving the Ngor Commitments on Water Security and Sanitation in Africa. These commitments seek the just optimisation of Africa’s Water Resources, through innovations such as ground water, to ensure positive socio-economic transformation in line with Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.
To realise these objectives, we must also act locally, by embarking on key actions such as directly supporting our municipalities to reach the 8% allocation and spend threshold prescribed by the National Treasury Guidelines on Spending on Repairs and Maintenance. Over the past 3 years municipalities have been spending between 2 and 5%. Besides the unjustifiable reallocation of these maintenance and repairs funds, the matter of technical skills comes top in the reasons for this under expenditure. It has also been a major source of the rising municipal debt to Eskom and the waterboards. This together with the non-payment culture and limited means to pay render most of our municipalities financially unviable. Overtime these have been compounded by the challenge of ageing infrastructure, with 644 of the 1 150 municipal wastewater treatment works being in a critical condition and 232 of them being totally dysfunctional. Together with the energy crisis this threatens to reverse the gains we have recorded in promotion of dignity, livelihoods, and health.
Chairperson, our challenges call for joint planning and execution. The issues related to financing top the challenges confronting most water services authorities. A key policy assumption in the delivery machinery of services had been that the municipalities themselves would be able to raise revenue to deliver and maintain their own infrastructure. However, in implementation, this logic proved to be flawed because even the urban areas continue to be sites of much distress with an army of poor and unemployed rural unskilled folk constantly migrating to the urban areas. This means very few urban municipalities can maintain a balance sheet which can produce a sufficient surplus to subsidize rural municipalities. This is partially on account of poor revenue collection, but also because a sizeable number of users cannot keep up with payments. It is also because the revenue collection landscape and architecture have no means by which a successful municipality can subsidise a poorer or struggling municipality.
This is compounded by the equitable share formula. The formula includes population size but does not pay due attention to needs. It also does not consider the large numbers of people who leave rural areas out of sheer desperation and the fact that these poor do not have the sufficient resources to pay. The financing model also doesn’t pay attention to the fact that municipalities have also not undertaken their fundamental role of economic development, for various reasons.
Beyond revising the funding model for municipalities, we must actively pursue programmes and projects that will develop and provide economic opportunities in rural South Africa. This will favour the rural municipalities with a sufficient and taxable client base. Simultaneously we would be relieving the urban centres with the galloping inward migration flows. In turn we must ensure the active participation of our communities in water services delivery. For instance, in some areas communities have taken it upon themselves to use spring and ground water to reticulate. We must encourage this type of activism so that communities can be drivers of their own development. As we must also encourage the culture of payment.
Chairperson, we must also jointly explore innovative and immediate solutions. From a supply side we must pay attention to the immediate and sustainable responses which will contribute to a sustainable water mix. We are therefore pleased to see that the new RDP Human Settlements also include rainwater harvesting tanks for household consumption and irrigation.
As part of the District Development Model, we are developing he high potential Eastern Seaboard Development which in its initial phase unites in action the four districts of Alfred Nzo, OR Tambo, Harry Gwala and Ugu, in the Eastern Cape and KZN. Amongst other reasons we have chosen this area because it is rural, with limited employment but endless opportunities and endowments. I hope we call work together to develop this area which lies in the underdeveloped area between eThekwini and Buffalo City.
Through our Municipal Infrastructure Support Agency (MISA) we are also implementing a groundwater mainstreaming programme. Thus far we have drilled, equipped, and energised over 240 boreholes to the benefit of over 123 000 households. These efforts have also complemented the ongoing work we are doing in constructing smaller reservoirs and medium sized water treatment works. These will add to the available water pool which can also be increased trough environmentally sound initiatives such as rainwater and dew harvesting as well as water recycling.
These must be complemented by the installation of water harvesting tanks in new and old human settlements and houses, which can also be reticulated. It means that we must also protect our springs and use them, like in India, to reticulate water.
These initiatives will only render better results if we also conserve and appropriately utilise the limited water resources. For instance, South Africa has the sixth largest number of pools in the world with 800 000 residential pools and 2 000 public pools. All these pools, with a few exceptions such as the Sea Point Saltwater pool utilise and compete for much needed fresh water. This situation is also exacerbated by the employ of freshwater resources in non-productive activities such as golf courses. Remarkably South Africa has 450 of the 828 golf courses on the continent.
Chairperson, we are now taking a more proactive approach by deploying 153 MISA technical experts to unlock expenditure and support to these municipalities. These include engineers, town planners and managers. This has been complemented by the active recruitment of students in those areas. We have enrolled them in our bursary and apprentice programmes, so that in the longer run those municipalities can have sufficiently qualified and motivated technical personnel. We take this opportunity to appeal for your assistance in this regard, as well as with regards to registering the over 800 unregistered engineers who are a critical lifeline in the lifecycle of municipal infrastructure.
We believe we can maximise impact if we work together and with the private sector, as anticipated by the DDM. To this end, we will actively pursue Private Public Partnerships in supporting our municipalities. We have noted the declining quantum of private sector investment in municipal infrastructure and are working with Presidential Infrastructure South Africa to prepare projects and pursue blended financing. Of importance is the declining confidence and perceptions of the failures of local government. Which failures we must all embrace and understand that a failure in that sphere is a collective failure.
To understand and provide solutions to the challenges facing that sphere, we will undertake a detailed review of the 21 Years of Democratic Local Governance. The Review which will include traditional leaders, as well as community, private, academic, civil society, and public sector consultations. We intend to provide an account for the state of development and delivery in that sphere with a view of giving solutions and reimagining a democratic, ethical, capacitated, capable and developmental local government – based on lived and international experiences. We therefore wish to solicit your support and important inputs in that review.
Chairperson, thank you once again for this invaluable opportunity to present to this important panel of the Water and Sanitation Summit. For us the water priority is second only to oxygen in the survival and sustenance of humanity. Water is also a cause of many of our disasters. Too much of it can cause floods and too little of it can cause droughts. All of which lead to untold suffering. Therefore, as municipalities we must employ risk mitigation strategies where for instance, we ensure people do not settle on the flood line. We sincerely believe that this summit will be an important contributor towards realising the vision of vibrant, resilient, sustainable, prosperous, connected, cohesive and climate smart communities.
I thank you