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Speech delivered on the occasion of the Budget Vote Debate of the Department of Water And Sanitation (Budget Vote 36), in National Assembly Chamber, in Parliament

26 May 2017

Chairperson,
Comrades,
Colleagues,
Fellow South Africans

I rise on this occasion on behalf of my Organisation, the Organisation of the People of South Africa, the African National Congress (the ANC), in support of this Budget Vote 36 allocation to the Department of Water and Sanitation.

Fellow South Africans

South Africa is hard at work.

Chairperson

We meet again to debate our 4th budget since the current administration, whose major thrust must always be about changing the lives of the working class and the poor, the vulnerable in society, especially women and children.

This budget vote takes place in a year characterised by so many developments and monumental events, the centenary birthday of OR Tambo; the 50th anniversary of the Wankie and Sipolilo campaigns and the Centenary of the October Revolution amongst others.

In his own words, President OR Tambo said that "the fight for freedom must go on until it is won; until our country is free and happy and peaceful as part of the community of man, we cannot rest. We have a vision of South Africa in which black and white shall live and work together as equals in conditions of peace and prosperity"

Comrades,

Let this budget vote of 2017/18 be the last when we shall still be lamenting about being 23 years into our democracy, that there is no equality in the use of, and access to water. A significant number of black people has no access to water especially emerging black farmers.

Yet our Constitutional provision of Section 25 (4) (b) informs us that property is not confined to land only, as water remains one of those resources that this significant number of South Africans still does not have access to.

Fellow South Africans,

Allow me to share a plight of an emerging black farmer in Brits, North West Province, Mr Bizana Ngesi. Mr Bizana Ngesi says "the elephant in the room for farmers and food production is the issue of water rights. The farms are being sold without water rights by white farmers and this is fatal flaw in the entire land and water reform process".

He goes further and says that he is unable to make ends meet because he has a farm that does not have water rights. This is one example of many heart-breaking stories that our people are suffering at the hands of few white farmers who continue to hold onto water rights.

This situation is informed by the continued effects of the 1956 Water Act, through the riparian rights, whose practice has been failing a number of land reforms of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.

I therefore challenge the Department of Water and Sanitation, working together with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to institute an inquiry into water allocation reform across the country. The inquiry must inform us about the number of water rights are still in the hands of White farmers that have been sold these farms via the land reform programme

Fellow South Africans,

The 2017/18 budgetary allocation for water and sanitation has been on a downward declining trend since 2016/17 R15, 5 billion and now stands at R15,1 billion. In summary the allocation for budget of vote 36 constitutes 2 per cent of the total share of the 2017 appropriation and it puts Vote 36 at number 13 in comparison with other budget votes.

With all being equal, this implies that service delivery will be compromised.

However, this situation also provides an opportunity for innovation and creativity in the delivery of water and sanitation services. It is an opportune time for the Water Research Commission and others, to identify and offer water and sanitation technology and governance systems that are cost efficient and fit for purpose.

Minister,

The situation calls for your department to practically do more with less, especially with the advent of our technological advancements we are exposed to.

Part of doing more with less involves avoiding all unnecessary costs such as fines and interest on late payments, especially the Black Service Providers, without these on time payments, you are as good as killing them as they don't have old money.

We should also ensure that we have competent human capacity in all relevant programmes. We need engineers, scientists, project managers, lawyers, amongst many other competencies to ensure that we do it right the first time.

Chairperson,

Leadership is key when you are working with limited resources. We can have all human capital in right places but without smart leadership, we are set up to fail. Boards of all entities must be constituted with competent and well qualified people with different backgrounds such as finance, law, supply chain, human resource and others. This would ensure efficient running of these entities.

The effect of budgetary constraints will be compounded further by climate change and drought. South Africa has witnessed the worst drought in the past two years.

Although majority of these provinces have since recovered with an exception of the Western Cape.

As South Africa is a signatory to UNFCCC protocols, whose objects are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, programs on adaptation strategies must be fully exploited, especially targeting the rural areas.

Fellow South Africans,

The climate forecasters tell us that the rainfall is going to be uneven and erratic. We are therefore encouraged to do away with water intensive practices in households, industries, farms, schools and mining. The Department must provide the regulatory environment for water efficient practices such as rain water harvesting, dry sanitation, desalination in coast areas, and other water conservation and demand management activities.

Chairperson,

Against this background, that National Water and Sanitation Master Plan we have been raising since 2015 should be put in place as a matter of urgency. The Plan would amongst others provide a list of disaster vulnerable areas and how they would respond to these water related disasters.

Minister,

In order to deliver water services to our people equitably, we need an appropriate legislation that is in line with the Constitution of the Republic. The legislation that would ensure that there is equity and sustainable development.

To this end Chairperson, Budget Vote 36 intends to have the amended National Water Bill approved in the medium term. This will be a progressive step towards realising equitable water service delivery. Furthermore, this would address the current administrative and technical failures and/or challenges identified in the National Development Plan.

Chairperson

These challenges include lack of law enforcement; delays in issuing water use licenses; poor implementation of the broader water resource policies; delays in investment in water infrastructure; and the erosion of institutional memory in the water sector, along with the loss of experienced water engineers and scientists.

Fellow South Africans, having just celebrated Africa Day yesterday, we have more achievements to celebrate as Africans through a number of international strategic partnerships that will be established and to some extent maintained through this budget vote all aimed the provision of water security in our African Continent. These strategic partnerships are very important to South Africa since we heavily rely on trans-boundary waters or shared water courses such as the Limpopo River shared with Botswana, Zimbambwe and Mozambique; Inkomati River shared with Swaziland and Mozambique; Orange-Senqu River shared with Lesotho, Botswana and Namibia and Maputo-Usuthu Pongola River shared with Swaziland and Mozambique. These partnerships would ensure that our water supply is secured and our economic development is sustainable.

Chairperson,

In order to deliver water to the people, industries and businesses - you need appropriate infrastructure that is in good working condition through maintenance. This infrastructure includes dams, pipelines, power lines and pumps. In 2012, the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission (PICC) produced a ground-breaking National Infrastructure Plan (NIP), which amongst others contains a list of Strategic Infrastructure Projects (SIP). Amongst these SIPs, is the SIP 18: Water and Sanitation Infrastructure, which amongst others, Chairperson, seeks to address the estimated backlog of inadequate water supply to 1.4 million households and 2.1 million households with basic sanitation.

Furthermore, these projects will involve the provision of a sustainable supply of water to meet social needs and support economic growth. SIP 18 will also provide for new infrastructure, rehabilitation and upgrading of existing infrastructure, as well as improve management of water infrastructure. In this regard, the plan to establish the Water Infrastructure Agency and the Independent Economic Regulator in the medium term is a step in the right direction - that would ensure consolidation of all bulk water infrastructure activities. The Independent Economic Regulator would also provide a platform for proper regulation of the water pricing in the country.

Chairperson,

It is common knowledge that water is life - sanitation is dignity.

As South Africa continues to lose almost R7 billion per year due to water loss, effectively 37% of our water resources is unaccounted for, the artisans or plumbers you have just trained must be seen to be at work in fixing the leaking infrastructure in their respective communities in this financial year 2017/18.

Minister,

Notwithstanding the progressive nature of this Budget Vote, there are a number of challenges that should be addressed in order to effectively deliver the mandate of this Budget Vote among others, the insufficient funding for various programmes, for example the Learning Academy working with the Energy and Water SETA can produce more students with additional funding and the entire Budget Vote mandate could effectively be achieved with such additional funding. I therefore, Chairperson, support any initiative that is geared towards improving the funding for this Budget Vote, including attracting private sector investment.

Chairperson,

Allow me to conclude once again with President OR Tambo's words of wisdom, "the fight for freedom must go on until it is won; until our country is free and happy and peaceful as part of the community of man, we cannot rest. We have a vision of South Africa in which black and white shall live and work together as equals in conditions of peace and prosperity"

ANC Lives - ANC Leads!

I wish to thank you all for your attention.

     
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