27 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: https://cer.org.za/news/new-fact-sheet-proposed-mpumalanga-coal-mine-who-benefits-and-at-what-cost
Read the GroundUp / Daily Maverick coverage of the case here: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2018-07-24-coal-mine-opponents-targeted-on-social-media/
The 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.
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).
The 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.
Members 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.
Our 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...
Having 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.
27 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.
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:
The 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?
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.
EMG'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!)