FSE’s summary of recent engagements with Minister of Water and Sanitation with supporting documents

INTRODUCTION:  

The SAHRC Report on the Gauteng Provincial Inquiry into the sewage pollution of the City of Tswane Rivers and the Roodeplaat Dam (26 October 2021) recommends that the situation regarding failing Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTWs) in South Africa and its subsequent pollution of South Africa’s water resources be declared a national disaster.  Please refer to the attached Report.

SUMMARY OF THE FSE’S RECENT ENGAGEMENT WITH THE MINISTER OF WATER AND SANITATION (7 OCTOBER 2021 – 5 NOVEMBER 2021):

  1. The FSE was invited to a meeting with the Honourable Minister of Water and Sanitation, Minister Senzo Mchunu, Deputy Minister, Mr David Mahlobo and officials of the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) during his visit to Gauteng Province on the 7th of October 2021 to “engage with Provincial Government, Local Government and Water services and Stakeholders on Water Service Issues”.
  1. The notification to engage was received at 4:20pm on the 5th of October, 2021.
  1. The Venue was changed from Roodeplaat Training Centre to Gallagher Convention Centre at short notice, which resulted in some stakeholders traveling to Roodeplaat, incurring wasted costs.
  1. The programme included the presentations by the Chairpersons of Tshwane Water and Sanitation Forum; Johannesburg Water and Sanitation Forum; Water Users Association; Catchment Management Forums; the House of Traditional Leaders and Hammanskraal Residents Forum.  
  1. The meeting with the Minister and Deputy Minister did not allow for participation by other stakeholders.
  1. Key stakeholders in established Catchment Management Forums (CMFs)* in Gauteng e.g. the Klip River CMF, the Blesbokspruit CMF, the Wonderfonteinspruit CMF, the Rietspruit CMF, etc. were not invited and there was uncertainty regarding the criteria by which it was decided who to invite to the meeting and who advised the Minister of the list of presenters. 

*(Catchment Management Forums are important supporting institutions of proto Catchment Management Agencies.)

  1. The FSE was allowed, on request, to make an impromptu 1 minute presentation.  Following the presentation, the Minister requested the FSE to submit its requests for information to the Minister.  The FSE’s letter, dated the 10thof October, 2021, to the Minister is attached hereto.  At the time of writing the letter was neither acknowledged nor responded to.
  1. A subsequent (virtual) meeting was scheduled for the 11th of October 2021 with the Deputy Minister.  The invitation to the meeting read:  “The Department is kindly inviting you for a further engagement with the Minister.  This engagement will assist in addressing some of the issues that were not addressed on the 7th”.  The invitation was at short notice.
  1. The list of invitees to the meeting did not include some key stakeholders in established CMFs and concerns were again expressed regarding the criteria employed and who advised the Minister.
  1. The Agenda included presentations on the DWS Draft Strategic Partnership Framework; the Establishment of the Vaal Catchment Management Agency; the Transformation of irrigation boards; the CMFs as Catchment Management Agencies;  supporting institutions and the roles of water Services Institutions.
  1. Stakeholders’ participation in the meeting was limited.
  1. The FSE was invited to a meeting with the Minister and Deputy Minister at the Riverside Sun Hotel in Vanderbijlpark on the 12th of October 2021.  The invitation was a short notice, which resulted in some key stakeholders not being in the position to attend.
  1. The FSE was allowed to present together with AfriForum, SAVE, Bophelong Residents Association, Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association, and the Vaal Business Chamber.
  1. The meeting was scheduled from 12h00 to 14h00.  The Minister, Deputy Minister and his delegation arrived 2 hours late and consequently presenters were allowed 3 – 5 minutes instead of the scheduled 10 minutes to present.  
  1. The meeting did not allow for additional participation by stakeholders.
  1. The FSE was invited to another meeting with MEC Maile, Mr Mahlobo and Mr Mehlo on the 25th of October 2021.  The objective was to discuss the Vaal River Intervention Project and the Agenda included input by all and the way forward.  
  1. Input was limited to only 3 persons namely Ms Rosemary Anderson, Mr Andrew Barker and M. Liefferink of the FSE.
  1. An additional meeting was scheduled for the 26th of October, 2021 at the Vaal Dam. The Deputy Minister and the MEC Maile were not at the meeting.   The meeting was chaired by Dr. K. Khorommbi.
  1. The meeting was disrupted by the 2019 Sebokeng Waste Water Treatment Works’ protesters.  Most of the protesters were unemployed young person seeking greater participation for the residents of Sebokeng and alleging that the promises by former Ministers Mokonyane, Quinti and Sisulu were not honoured.
  1. Local residents including the Vaal Business Chamber and SAVE did not accept the Terms of Reference, which was presented to them without prior consultation.
  2. The FSE and other stakeholders were again invited to a meeting with the Deputy Minister on the 5th of November, 2021
  1. The invitation to the meeting was extended by the DWS during the evening of the 4th of November, 2021. 
  1. The presentation by Rand Water, the appointed implementation agent of the Vaal Intervention Plan, is attached hereto.
  1. The focus of the meeting was on job creation and procurement/recruitment opportunities.
  1. Five persons were allowed to ask questions.  The FSE’s questions to the Deputy Minister were:
  1. What is the DWS’ status of compliance with the SAHRC’s Directives namely:

                                                              i.      The DWS to contract skilled people for the implementation of the Plan.

                                                            ii.      Officials in non-compliance with legislation to be dismissed.

                                                          iii.      Corruption to be referred to the Public Protector and SAPS.

  1. What are the DWS’ plans for the rehabilitation of the Vaal Barrage, the degraded wetlands and the eco-system?
  2. How will the DWS address the disconnect between the Water Services Act and the National Water Act?  What is the status of the proposed amalgamation between the Water Services Act and the National Water Act?
  3. How will the DWS address the disconnect between the development of informal and formal housing within the Vaal and sanitation services and the capacity of Waste Water Treatment Works?
  4. The FSE furthermore advised the Deputy Minister that it has appointed two independent biodiversity experts who are conducting bio-monitoring of the Vaal Barrage.  FSE offers the results of this biomonitoring programme to the DWS.
  1. The Deputy Minister did not respond to the FSE’s questions.
  1. The other stakeholders’ questions pertained to job creation and procurement/recruitment opportunities.

CONCLUSION:  

The FSE concludes that the engagements with the Minister and his Deputy Minister were unsatisfactory with limited opportunities for stakeholder participation.  The FSE found that the approach was a top down approach and not inclusive.  Fine-sounding initiatives that make claims of public participation are often constrained by political agendas and narrow self-interest, and unless efforts are made to enable broad based participation, claims to inclusiveness and transformation in the water sector will remain a pipe dream.

Supporting documents can be viewed and downloaded below.

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