SAWC logo27 July 2018

The South African Water Caucus (SAWC) is a network of more than 20 community-based organisations and non-government organisations active in promoting the wise, equitable and just use, protection and provision of water.

The SAWC fully endorses the legal challenges launched by the coalition of civil society organisations to set aside the approvals for the large coal mine proposed by Atha-Africa Ventures Pty Ltd outside Wakkerstroom in Mpumalanga.

The coal mine would be situated inside a Strategic Water Source Area, a National Freshwater Ecosystem Priority Area and a declared protected area. This area is important to the water security of the region and the country, as well as for South Africa's obligations to its neighbouring countries. The mine would pollute this important area for decades to come, long after this mining company has come and gone. The approvals given for this mine appears to be the result of political expediency, and not in the interest of the long-term protection of water resources.

As the SAWC, we know that water is essential for economic development, and for shifting people out of poverty. Sacrificing a strategic water resource and saddling local communities and the state with the costs of dewatering and water pollution in the interest of one mining company, are not in the interest of economic transformation.

The SAWC also condemns the threats to and attacks by Atha-Africa and associated individuals against the civil society organisations who are exercising their Constitutional rights to speak freely, to criticise, and to use their rights under national laws to challenge a proposed coal mine. Those who disagree with the legal challenges have their own legal remedies under the law, and they should make use of those remedies. For these reasons, we regard the attacks on our fellow civil society organisations as an attack on democracy, and we will vigorously oppose such conduct.

 For more information about this case, read CER's fact sheet here:

Read the GroundUp /  Daily Maverick coverage of the case here:

SAWC logoThe South African Water Caucus (SAWC) has written to the Honourable Minister of Water and Sanitation to present a set of far-reaching recommendations which, if accepted, would significantly improve water governance in SA. This follows the November 2017 publication of the SAWC’s damning “State of the DWS” report, which paints a bleak picture for water security in SAIn its letter, SAWC also requests a meeting with the Ministry and Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), as well as ongoing, long term dialogue to support what it considers one of government’s most critical portfolios. 

Download the letter here.

Due to our long-standing involvement in the water sector; our ongoing engagement with senior officials and regional managers in DWS; and our knowledge and experience with local, community water-related challenges, we believe we are able to play a meaningful role in addressing challenges in the water sector. In this regard, we outline critical actions and steps that are urgently needed and request that the Ministry and DWS prioritise and proactively realise these actions. These include the following.

  • Catchment Management Agencies: Hasten the establishment of remaining seven CMAs and reinvigorate capacity-building in CMAs to ensure that they are fully functional as soon as possible.
  • Water Tribunal: Ensure the Water Tribunal is properly resourced and supported; to ensure it functions in a manner that is accessible and cost effective for communities and civil society organisations and in accordance with the principles of the National Water Act.
  • Compliance monitoring and enforcement: Prioritise and allocate appropriate resources, including funding, staff and training for compliance and enforcement capacity.
  • Strategic Water Sources Areas: Prioritise the legal protection of our Strategic Water Source Areas, in collaboration with other departments, and allocate appropriate financial and human resources to ensure the effective management, protection and restoration of these areas.
  • Green Drop-Blue Drop Reports: Recommit to and prioritise the effective functioning of the Blue Drop-Green Drop reporting system and establish structures to undertake effective remedial action in response to the findings of Blue Drop-Green Drop reports.
  • Remediation of dysfunctional wastewater treatment works: Develop an urgent plan, with appropriate funding and resources, to address wastewater treatment works in condition of ‘critical risk’.
  • Treatment of acid-mine drainage: Develop an urgent plan to regulate and manage treatment of acid-mine drainage.
  • Upliftment of automatic suspensions: Review all decisions made by the previous Minister to uplift suspensions made in terms of section 148(2)(b) of the National Water Act and develop and adopt guidelines for the future exercise of this discretionary power.

The Ministry and Department of Water and Sanitation’s work is central to South Africa’s water security, development, dignity and well-being. SAWC acknowledges the enormity of the important task before the Minister. We also know that the Minister has inherited a department in a state of institutional crisis; with severely deteriorating water infrastructure; at a time when our water security is under considerable threat. We are in a strong position to play a constructive role in responding to these challenges and look forward to a favourable response in relation to engagement with the Minister and Department.

In December 2017, staff from EMG met with sailors and support staff of the one of the yachts participating in the Volvo around-the-world yacht race -- Vestas 11th Hour Racing.

The Volvo Ocean Race included a stop-over in Cape Town and we had the priviledge of spending the day introducing them team to some of the commuity groups we work with, and sharing with them aspects of our work and our concerns about water management and distribution in the face of drought and climate change.

Artist ND Mazin a.k.a. Andy Mason accompanied us and subsequently produced these 4 brilliant posters. Feel free to download the hi-res printable PDFs by clicking on the thumbnails below (approx 5Meg each). 


TCommunity Food Garden thumbhe Makhaza Food Growers Association in Khayelkitsha, with support from EMG, helps their members with permaculture training, access to seeds and gardening tools, and access to water and land. They are also active in raising awareness in their community about the importance of using water carefully and conserving the local wetland.

Khayelitsha Canoe Club thumbMembers of the Khayelitsha Canoe Club volunteer to teach young kids about boats and safety on the water. They have an obvious interest in ensuring that the Makhaza wetland is maintained and conserved, and are active in river clean-up campaigns and lobbying the City to ensure that waters flowing into the wetland are not polluted by upstream industry. The resonance between the Canoe Club's local concerns and the ocean pollution concerns of Team Vestas 11th Hour Racing were obvious.  

 Table mountain graffitti thumbOur tour included a short walk up the lower slopes of Table Mountain to one of the many mountain streams that once supplied early Cape Town with drinking water. Our resident artist ND Mazin could not resist imagining the imposing face of Table Mountain as a giant graffitti wall...

Two gardens thumbHaving started our tour at a "guerilla garden" in Khayelitsha, we decided to end the tour at the Oranjezicht City Farm, a community garden initiative with very similar aims, but in a very different part of town.

SAWC logo27 November 2017

The South African Water Caucus (SAWC) today launched a report which exposes the dysfunction and institutional paralysis in the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS). The report is almost entirely based on publicly accessible information including Parliamentary Questions and Answers, Portfolio Committee meeting reports, information from access to information (PAIA) requests and media articles. However, importantly, it presents it in a single document which paints a particularly bleak picture for SA’s water institutions and hence water security.

The report reveals deeply concerning institutional and governance challenges in the DWS. It lays bare a situation of institutional paralysis within the department and associated deterioration in financial management, service delivery, policy coherence and performance. In brief, the central challenges facing the department, outlined in the report, relate to the following:

o Considerable human resource and organisational challenges including the suspension of senior managers, high staff turnover and vacancy rates and intensified capacity constraints;

o Serious financial mismanagement related to over-expenditure, accruals and failure to pay contractors and corresponding escalation of debt, overdraft of the Water Trading Entity and debt owed to the Reserve Bank, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, poor revenue collection and corruption allegations;

o Considerable policy and legislative uncertainty related to inter alia the proposed Water Master Plan, proposed Water and Sanitation Bill and the proposed National Water Resources and Services and Sanitation Strategy;

o Highly worrying steps to undermine or destroy established water institutions, including plans to consolidate nine catchment management agencies into a single national agency and plans to discontinue key statutory bodies like the Water Tribunal and Water Boards;

o Failure to publish Blue Drop (water quality) and Green Drop (waste water treatment) reports since 2013. The Blue Drop-Green Drop reports are arguably the only comprehensive assessments available to the public and water service authorities on whether water and wastewater treatment plants are functioning and complying with water quality standards. The absence of such assessments has considerable implications for management, operation, risk mitigation, remedial action and refurbishment plans related to treatment plants - and hence water safety and water quality;

o Deterioration in wastewater treatment works and infrastructure due to lack of maintenance and investment, with initial findings of the 2014 Green Drop report indicating that 212 waste water treatment plants fall within a “Critical Risk” categorisation. These plants pose serious risks of completely untreated sewage entering rivers, streams and dams. This has dire impacts on water quality and human health including enhancing the spread of diseases such as e-coli, hepatitis A and diarrhoea;

o Significant deficiencies in compliance monitoring and enforcement. Notably, DWS only has 35 compliance and enforcement officials for the whole country, and has never published a specific water compliance and enforcement report. The 2016/17 National Environmental Compliance and Enforcement report highlights that DWS has completely failed to undertake meaningful enforcement action against offenders. In 2017/2017, of 321 facilities inspected, 76 of which were found to require enforcement action, DWS has had zero (0) convictions for criminal offences. Despite widespread non-compliance, DWS has only suspended one water use licence since 1 January 2008.

The SAWC intends presenting the report to the Portfolio Committee on Water & Sanitation this week. The report can be downloaded here.

The South African Water Caucus (SAWC) is network of more than 20 community-based organisations, non-government organisations and trade-unions active in promoting the wise, equitable and just use, protection and provision of water. It was formed in the lead up to the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. At its most recent Biennial General Meeting (BGM), SAWC urgently convened a task team to respond to the state of the water sector in general and the institutional and governance challenges in DWS in particular. In response, the task team seeks to build a broader coalition of support to respond to these challenges, engage with decision-makers and portfolio committee members, raise awareness of the state of the water sector and water institutions and, if necessary, institute legal action.


As a first step, SAWC recently addressed a letter to the Minister to strongly object to the decision to consolidate the established and planned CMAs into a single national agency. The letter highlighted that this decision “would fly in face of existing national water policy that provide for the decentralisation of and public participation in water governance” and hence called for the Minister to “keep the nine CMAs intact”. SAWC has received no response to this call.


For comment on the State of the Department of Water and Sanitation report, please contact:

  •   Samson Mokoena, Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 016 933 9079 / 084 291 8510

  •   Mariette Liefferink, Federation for a Sustainable Environment, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or ) 011 465 6910 / 073 231 4893

  •   Thabo Lusithi, Environmental Monitoring Group, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 021 448 2881

  •   Saul Roux, Centre for Environmental Rights, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 021 447 1647 / 082 777 9904

  •   Bryan Ashe, KZN Water Caucus, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 031 261 6524 / 082 652 1533

  •   December Ndhlovu, Environmental Monitoring Group, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 082 601 3664

Quiz your Councillor SThe local government elections have come and gone.

Your municipal or metro council has the serious task of managing service provision

How well they pay attention to the environmental justice issues that affect you and your community will depend, in part, on your active participation as a citizen.

What is the role of local authorities
when it comes to decisions that impact on your environment?

false solutions cover"Energy for Sustainable Development - How false solutions to climate change undermine equity, energy security and poverty reduction" (3.7MB)

The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation has just published this new report highlighting the dangers of responding to climate change with "false solutions". The report is a collaborative effort with input from a range of individuals and organisations from Africa, latin America and Asia, including EMG.

Living Land - AvontuurEMG's work with small-scale rooibos farmers in the Northern Cape has been highlighted in a chapter of a new book "Living Land" co-published by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and Tudor Rose for the United Nations Decade for Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification (2010-2020).

Vulnerability to land degradation on a global scale is driven by a combination of a changing climate and patterns of land use. Addressing climate change requires co-operation at a global scale. Ensuring appropriate land use requires local action.

According to the UNCCD, the new book is a powerful outreach tool for sensitizing the public about land degradation problems and the mobilizing efforts that are taking place around the world.

You can access the digital version of "Living Land" via this link to the publisher's website.

Squeaking in just before the end of 2015, our Annual Report for 2014 (1.1MB).
We promise to get next year's report published sooner!  Watch this space.


(This is no ordinary ticket office. Its where you get
tickets for Goedverwacht's annual Snoek en Patat Fees,
an event not to be missed!)