The Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation today held a joint meeting with the Department of Water and Sanitation and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.
Briefings were received from the Department of Water and Sanitation, Western Cape Provincial Department of Local Government, Planning and Environment, City of Cape Town, Kouga Municipality, Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, National Disaster Management Centre, Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, Eastern Cape Provincial Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, AgriSA, African Farmers Association and the South African Institute of Civil Engineering.
Minister of Water and Sanitation, Ms Nomvula Mokonyane, informed the Committee that the drought is not only prevalent in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape but in other areas of the country as well. There are some areas in the North West which have not had water in three years. The drought will be declared a national disaster after information from all nine provinces is collected and this could take place on 14 February this year.
The Committee also heard from Minister Mokonyane that “Day Zero” is a phenomenon in Cape Town which has not been declared by the National Disaster Management Centre. The consultant who appeared before the Committee echoed the sentiments of the Minister that “Day Zero” will not happen. It could be pushed back this year as the department has interventions in place, which included six projects around bulk infrastructure in the Western Cape and the daily monitoring of the dam levels.
The Committee will look at policy to review the issue of water licences and the ownership of dams through a proposed legislation. Currently, the Department of Water and Sanitation owns and manages about 330 out of the 5 000 dams in South Africa. It concerns the Committee that 65% of water goes to agriculture whilst 23% is used for domestic consumption. As recent as yesterday, water was released by farmers which was viewed “as a gift” to the people when in fact water is a natural resource which must be freely enjoyed by all. The government must look at expropriating the land where the dams are so that they become national assets.
Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Mr Des van Rooyen, informed the Committee that the Disaster Relief Fund which was allocated to the Western Cape Province in August last year, was only used at 24% by end of December. As of yesterday, funds spent improved to 40%. This was concerning as inefficiencies and maladministration of funds are not to be tolerated and the department will be engaging the City of Cape Town.
At some stage the Western Cape Provincial Government must meet with the Minister of Water and Sanitation and the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to communicate to the people of South Africa the extent of the drought and the interventions which are put in place, said the Chairperson, Mr Mlungisi Johnson.
The Chair also called on the Department of Water and Sanitation to devise the Water Marshall Plan and further appealed to both departments to find each other to institute the War on Leaks Programme. “With climate change we need to do more with less. It is hoped that the discussions at this meeting would be solution-based as the development of desalination plants has come up quite often. The government needs to look at plants such as the one in Ballito in KwaZulu-Natal. This plant turns waste water into drinking water. This plant feeds the affluent Zimbali Estate, at a fraction of what a desalination plant costs and must be looked into,” said the Chairperson.