Bureaucratic incompetence behind NC government’s inadequate drought response

By Ismail Obaray, DA Northern Cape Provincial Spokesperson of Agriculture:

The tardiness on the part of the provincial government to declare the drought conditions in the Northern Cape a disaster, threatens to cause irreparable damage to the agricultural sector.

While the DA waits for the ANC government to heed its call to declare the drought a national disaster, the Northern Cape, one of the hardest hit provinces, is yet to be declared a disaster area due to administrative bungles by the provincial government. With drought conditions long ago having reached crisis point in the province, the delay in declaring it a disaster area is delaying the allocation of emergency assistance to farmers. This is in spite of Premier Sylvia Lucas having signed the drought declaration on 18 December 2015 already.

It has come to light that government officials are blaming new business requirements, as set by the Government Printers for the submission of publications in the Northern Cape Provincial Gazette, for the delay in publishing the Premier’s drought declaration.

The DA finds this totally unacceptable.

Late last year, at least three notices were openly and timeously sent by the legislature to all government officials in the province, including Heads of Departments, clearly informing them of the new processes to be followed when publishing Proclamations, Acts, municipal notices and so forth in the provincial gazette.

Laying blame on the new government printing processes is thus a feeble excuse. It not only highlights the ineptitude of the provincial government, but also once again underscores their attitude towards the ailing agricultural sector in the Northern Cape.

This is not the first time that provincial government has failed to treat drought conditions with the necessary urgency. Previously, administrative bungles and the lack of a proper disaster management plan to guide a coordinated response to the devastating drought of 2013/2014, saw it take over six months for the Premier to declare a state of disaster, and another two months for the National Disaster Management Centre to classify the disaster as a provincial disaster. As a result, the province only received drought relief a year after the drought had started. In the meantime, thousands of animals starved to death.

The drought situation in the entire Northern Cape is dire despite scattered rainfall and the province simply cannot afford another delayed response to the excessively dry conditions.

Even if the province gets enough rainfall within the next few weeks, the situation will remain critical and will still necessitate additional state assistance, as farmers are under severe financial strain, grazing land needs time to recover and breeding herds need time to reproduce.

The DA is calling on Premier Sylvia Lucas to urgently take ownership of Northern Cape provincial government’s lacking disaster response and to hold cabinet members and officials accountable for repeatedly failing to manage disasters in the Northern Cape effectively.

In November last year, the Northern Cape Department of Agriculture allocated a roll-over of R7,7 million from the drought relief scheme of 2014/2015 to commercial farmers and R14,6 million from the Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme (CASP) conditional grant to smallholder farmers. This helped but it is not nearly enough.

If additional assistance from government is not forthcoming soon, then the Northern Cape stands to lose a number of stock farmers. This will have a calamitous knock-on-effect on food security, food prices and unemployment rates.

We only hope the Premier and her administration grasp the magnitude of the repercussions of their inaction and proceed with haste before it is too late for Northern Cape agriculture.

Water crisis in Themba hospital and surrounding areas risks raising unemployment

By James Masango MPL, Spokesperson on CoGTA:

The Mbombela local municipality is yet to find a permanent solution to the water crises that has been experienced in Themba hospital and surrounding areas since 2011.

Once again, patients and staff in the Kabokweni based hospital are forced to do without clean running water because the municipality is still failing to deal with illegal connections, leaks, and failing infrastructure.

According to media reports, patients at the hospital are unable to take baths, and don’t have drinking water, hospital staff are also left without water to clean. Relatives of these patients are left with no choice, but to bring water from their respective homes.

The DA is extremely concerned that since the dawn of democracy, the Mbombela local municipality cannot or do not have the ability to deliver quality essential services. The unhygienic living conditions in the hospital will cause major health risks.

Without water people are being compromised in their ability to work, and risk poor performance and possible job losses.

According to Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), unemployment in Mpumalanga is standing at 26.2%.

Last week, the DA launched its Jobs Campaign where South Africans are shown how the party plans to create job opportunities by following these five simple steps:

  1. Invest in integrated energy, transport and ICT infrastructure for job creation;
  2. Give more people the education and skills they need to get a job;
  3. Radically reform the labour regime to support job creation;
  4. Provide direct incentives for job creation; and
  5. Create a nation of entrepreneurs by making it easier for South Africans to start and grow their own small businesses.

Figures are showing that millions of South Africans have joined the ranks of the unemployed since the beginning of President Jacob Zuma’s tenure.

Mogalakwena water crisis: DA to lay a charge with HRC

By Beyers Smit (MP), DA Constituency Head for Mogalakwena:

The DA is planning to file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission after Mogalakwena Municipality Mayor , Parks Sebatjane failed to provide satisfactory explanation on how the continuous water crisis in 179 villages will be addressed.

The DA met with Mayor Sebatjane yesterday and acknowledged that he is aware of the water crisis but claimed that the crisis is beyond the Municipality’s ability to handle.

These villages have been without water since October 2015 but the Mayor indicated that only seven water tankers are operational out of the eight while four of them are still to be delivered.

The Mayor failed to commit and give time frames with no immediate solution to the life threatening crisis.

Failing to seek assistance from the National Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation is a clear indication that the Mayor is failing the residents of Mogalakwena.

This means that all these affected residents will continue to risk their lives by sharing water with animals from the river beds.

This is a proof that our people are being neglected by this ANC government.

Depriving people of clean drinking water is a violation of human rights.

We will proceed with the signing of petition campaign and march to the municipality to submit the signatures and other grievances to the Mayor.

The DA will further submit a motion to the Minister of Water Affairs , Nomvula Mokonyane when parliament resumes for her immediate intervention to resolve the crisis.

Mogalakwena water crisis: DA to meet with the Mayor

Media Advisory:

Tomorrow, 12 January 2016, the DA Political Head for Mogalakwena and Member of National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Beyers Smit (MP) will meet with Mogalakwena Mayor , Parks Sebatjane to discuss water crisis in 179 villages around Mogalakwena.

These villages have been without water since October 2015 and the municipality is failing to keep up with interim relief measures such as water tankers to all villages. Residents are forced to purchase 25 litres of water for R20 and those who cannot afford it share water with the animals from the river beds.

Date: Tuesday, 12 January 2016
Time: 10H00
Venue: Mayor’s Chamber , Mogalakwena Municipality (54 Retief street, Mokopane)

There will be an opportunity for photographs and interviews.

DA launches petition against Mogalakwena water crisis

By Beyers Smit (MP), DA Constituency Head for Mogalakwena:

Today , the DA has launched a petition against the continuous water crisis in all 179 villages around Mogalakwena compounded by the water scarcity , severe heat waves and drought since October 2015.

Villages such as Ga-Magongoa, Vergenoegd , Galakwena , Mapela and Mahwelereng spent the festive season without water. Residents are forced to purchase 25 litres of water for R20 and those who cannot afford it , shares water from the river beds with animals.

Click here.

Consistent water supply to these areas is non-existent, taps without a drop, water deliveries by the local municipality are sporadic , and boreholes are not functioning for many years.

This dire circumstances prevail despite the allocation of R5.4 million for the replacement of pipes, particularly pipes that are vulnerable to burst and for the water supply by Mogalakwena Municipality. This a proof that our people are being neglected by this ANC government. A caring government should provide good basic services and repair when things go wrong, as the DA does where it governs.

Depriving people of clean drinking water is criminal as this right is constitutionally mandated.

A DA run municipality will prioritises spending on critical infrastructure, such as water and sanitation, while cutting the cost of the bloated public sector wage bill.

After obtaining signatures from the affected residents, the DA will march to the municipality and submit petition to the Mayor for his immediate and permanent solution to the water crisis.

The DA urges the municipality to urgently call for assistance from the Department of Water and Sanitation to provide water tankers for the residents as an interim relief measure.

Nearly 80 000 in Tswaing without water

By Carin Visser, DA North West Chairperson:

The DA in North West is deeply concerned that the Human Rights of residents in Tswaing are blatantly being violated with almost 80 000 people in dire need of water in all 15 Wards in Tswaing.

The tankers that should transport water to the four towns, three townships and 27 villages came to an abrupt standstill after the municipality failed to honour the payments of the fuel account.

These communities last received water on 31 December. Despite this extreme heat residents are being left entirely without water, which amounts to a constitutional violation.

Even more alarming is that ever since the bulk water supply stopped, the Administrator Moses Pholo has failed to answer his phone or be available in any way to deal with this crisis.

During the past festive period, electricity problems escalated and chain stores, pharmacies, fast food outlets, supermarkets, butcheries and residents in Tswaing suffered losses due to the unreliable supply of electricity. Currently there are no qualified electricians to work with high voltage electricity in the municipality.

The Minister of Water Affairs Nomvula Mokonyane issued a directive in April last year which is being ignored. Directive 38100 issued by DWA entails that Sedibeng Water was appointed as a joint Water Service Provider with Tswaing Local Municipality.

Implementation of the Directive failed due to political infighting and lack of cooperation.  

Administrator Pholo is recklessly violating the rights of Tswaing residents and he must be swiftly brought to account.

Condolences on drowning in Dr JS Moroka Municipal Reservoir

By Henro Kruger MP, Political Head: Dr JS Moroka Constituency:

The DA sends heartfelt condolences to the family of the 13 year old boy who recently drowned while swimming in the local reservoir in Phake, Dr JS Moroka Municipality.

Our hearts go out to the family who had high hopes and dreams for the young boy as they go into the New Year with one less family member.

It was clear during a recent oversight visit that the municipality neglected to secure the reservoir, as these are often in isolated places.

(Click here for pictures)

The municipality must take full responsibility for the incident and must immediately ensure that the reservoir is secure to avoid any further tragedies.

The DA will run an awareness campaign in that municipality to make children and parents aware of the dangers of swimming in municipal reservoirs.

We will also deliver a signed petition by the community to the Executive Mayor, Cllr Rhoda Mathebe, of Dr JS Moroka to make her aware of the residents’ plight.

Gauteng metros collectively lose over 88 billion kilolitres of water

By Fred Nel MPL, DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Cooperative Governance:

A total of 88,177 billion kilolitres of water losses were reported in Gauteng’s three metropolitan municipalities from July 2014 to June 2015.

This is enough to fill approximately 35 000 Olympic sized swimming pools.

The MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Jacob Mamabolo, revealed this information in a written reply to a DA question in the Gauteng Legislature.

(Click here to view the reply)

These water losses were largely due to flaws in the metering and billing systems in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni.

Furthermore, the MEC ascribes the massive losses to illegal connections, physical leaks and reservoir overflows.

Old pipe replacement projects for the 2015/16 financial year will collectively cost the three metros R1,785 billion.

The City of Johannesburg alone will fork out R3, 138 billion over the next three years to replace pipes, faulty meters and install pressure reducing valves.

Where it governs, the DA has reduced water losses to below 21% through the effective implementation of an array of strategies.

Joburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni can take a leaf out of the DA-run City of Cape Town’s book to reduce the amount of losses and revenue being spent on frivolous programmes.

The 2016 Local Government Elections is fast approaching and the DA can deliver these programmes to cut water losses and improve services when it wins Tshwane, Joburg and Ekurhuleni.

DA oversight reveals critical state of infrastructure

By Leon Basson MP, DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Water and Sanitation and

Tarnia Baker MP, DA Member on Water and Sanitation Portfolio Committee:

This press statement was presented at a press conference held in Parliament today and was chaired by DA National Spokesperson, Phumzile Van Damme MP.

The ANC’s mismanagement of our water infrastructure has brought South Africa to the brink of a water crisis that will have a disastrous humanitarian impact on all our people. As our country faces the worst drought since 1992, Minister of Water and Sanitation, Nomvula Mokonyane, was forced to admit that one third of all waste-water treatment plants are in a critical state. The little water we have is being entirely mismanaged and it is the poor who are suffering most.

Across the country, dam levels are lower than last year. While the drought may be a meteorological phenomenon, the crisis is one of water infrastructure management exacerbated by low rainfall. This underscores the need to properly manage our scarce water resources and prevent any loss due to inadequate infrastructure and pollution. This is vital not only for human consumption, but for food security.

Yet water losses due to leakage, commercial losses and unbilled consumption is exceptionally high. In the biggest metros losses averages at 40% – it is only the DA-run City of Cape Town that bucks this trend at a mere 21%.

The crisis before us clearly requires urgent intervention, but Minister Mokonyane is doing everything she can to obfuscate the failings of the ANC. The 2014 Blue and Green Drop reports into the state our water infrastructure are yet to be released. The DA has since filed an application in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) for the reports and accordingly the Minister has until next week Wednesday to release the report. We urge her to do this as soon as possible.

Although the Minister has stalled the release of the reports, countrywide oversight visits by Democratic Alliance has revealed the extent of the problem that we are facing. Our findings are extremely concerning and reflect major problems in all ANC-run provinces:

  1. North West:
  • The Lichtenburg Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTW) is non-functioning and sewage is pumped into the veld next to the Boikhutso Township where children play and people walk every day.
  • In Kraaipan, almost 10,000 residents in an area of 31.47 square km share only one working tap. There is no government-supplied water at all in Lokaleng (part of Kraaipan), and residents are forced to buy water from private boreholes at R100 per week.
  1. Eastern Cape:
  • In Cradock in the Eastern Cape, untreated sewage was found to be flowing directly into the Great Fish River.
  • In Humansdorp in the Eastern Cape, the WWTW is non-functional with raw sewage – still containing solids – running through an informal settlement into a neighbouring farmer’s dam.
  • In Jeffreys’s Bay, untreated sewage is being pumped out of a sewer line into a dam in a residential area, opposite the Jeffreys Bay High School.
  1. Limpopo:
  • The Bela-Bela WWTW is dysfunctional. Untreated sewage runs through the plant at 92 litres per second. Solids are taken out by a manual grid and then the untreated water flows straight into the river.
  • With the inspection of the chlorine room at Bela-Bela, we found that there was no equipment to treat the water with chlorine. When asked about chlorine treatment the operator fished a HTH swimming pool chlorine floater from a wheel barrow which he said he would add to the water the next day.
  • At Modimolle, toxic waste goes through the WWTW system and straight into the river, this includes condoms, toilet paper, sanitary towels etc.
  1. Gauteng:
  • We first visited Rooiwal in Pretoria on 10 July 2015. Here we witnessed 104.8 million litres of untreated sewage spilling into the Apies River each day. Due to the non-functioning of the sludge plant, sewage sludge is pumped straight onto an adjacent farmland that drains into a large wetland.
  • You can see methane gas burning on the adjacent farmland and the dumping of toxic waste in the veld in numerous locations. Sludge pools can be found in the Apies River and boreholes adjacent to the Apies River are polluted with E.coli. Subsequent visits in October and December revealed that nothing has changed.
  1. KwaZulu-Natal:
  • The Umkhanyakude district in northern KZN is one of the areas hardest hit by the drought, but our oversight there revealed existing infrastructure problems that have been only compounded by the shortage of rainfall.
  • The St. Lucia estuary, a world heritage site, is highly polluted as a result of a dysfunctional WWTP. Water supply to this area is also very inconsistent, with residents going 2 to 3 weeks without water at a time. The tourism industry has been badly affected.

In contrast to the dire state of plants in ANC-run provinces, our oversight visit to the newly-constructed WWTW in Malmesbury in the DA-run Western Cape exemplified how water treatment should be managed.

The WWTW was completed in 2012 at a cost of R113 million and the treatment of the water is of such a high quality that it can be sold to farmers for irrigation. The Municipality is also in the process of installing a system whereby electricity can be generated with methane case, which will mean the WWTW can be taken off the Eskom grid.

In order to address the water crisis, the DA has proposed a number of measures to deal with it in the hope of mitigating further humanitarian impact:

  • Minister Nomvula Mokonyane should immediately release the 2014 Blue and Green Drop Report to give the country an idea of the scale of the problem;
  • The waste water systems that are deemed critical in the Green Drop Report should then be placed under administration in accordance with the National Water Act, Act 36 of 1998;
  • The South African Police Service (SAPS) and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) should establish a specialist unit to deal with water pollution. Many dockets that are sent to the NPA do not contain sufficient information to prosecute polluters;
  • The lack of engineering skills is often a problem with regards to the maintenance of water infrastructure, especially in rural municipalities. The Western Cape provincial government has tackled this problem by maintaining a pool of engineers that can be deployed to municipalities where needed. This approach can be replicated elsewhere;
  • The Department of Water and Sanitation should prioritise legislation to amend the National Water Act to allow the Minister to withdraw a water use license from a water use authority (municipality) if certain minimum standards and requirements are not met;
  • The Minister should satisfy herself that all municipalities – especially the metros – have an adequate plan to drastically reduce non-revenue water losses; and
  • The Minister should also prioritise policy and legislation that will put South African on track towards being a country that recycles water. Grey Water is being used with great success by both the City of Cape Town and Swartland Municipality.

Section 27 of the Constitution states that everyone has the right to “sufficient food and water.” Water is vital to life and must be protected at all costs yet under the ANC we have seen this scare resource entirely mismanaged.

In 2013 former Minister of Water, Edna Molewa, stated that in South Africa 98% of water in the country is considered “fully allocated”. “[T]his means that my child and your child that is being born tomorrow has 2% of water for use going into the future.” This situation has since worsened.

It is imperative that action be taken to safeguard future generations and the DA has shown that it can be done.

ANC ignorance and negligence can lead to loss of lives, no drinking water and damaged property

By Cllr. Willie Louwrens, DA Constituency Chairperson, Matlosana:

The Democratic Alliance is concerned that ignorance and negligence by the Matlosana Council to pay attention to warnings by the DA about the poor management and maintenance of an old reservoir in Stilfontein now might cause major damage.

The DA warned on numerous occasions over the past few years that the water leaks will contribute to sink holes. In mining areas the dolomite rock, if exposed to water for long periods, dissolves.

Sinkholes now appeared over the last ten days, around the old damaged reservoir and unused dam. It not only caused ground damage, but also damaged the main water line transporting water to Klerksdorp.

Residents are informed to be patient with the poor water pressure and supply, but none of the residents adjacent to the reservoir were warned of the potential risks. Ironically enough, a council house next to the water tower has been evacuated.

A public notice explaining water supply problems only mentions: Geological assessments by specialists are currently underway and repairs will resume after assessment report indicating the impact of the sinkholes is released.

This is downplaying the risks involved for the community. It seems as if the municipality’s main concern is to rather inform people to use water sparingly.

The Matlosana Municipality replied to written questions, in February this year, this specific reservoir and the dam next to it will have to be demolished, but said this will only happen when there are funds available.

Letters from the DA to the Administrator Seth Ramagaga also had no impact to pay attention to this serious matter.

The DA Deputy Shadow Minister for Water and Sanitation, Leon Basson wrote an urgent letter last night to the Director General of Water Affairs, requesting immediate intervention, again warning against a possible disaster if this old tower should collapse.   The DG acknowledged receipt of the letter and said they will attend to the matter.