Hon Chairperson, hon Minister, hon Deputy Minister, hon chairperson of the portfolio committee and hon members, access to water is a human rights issue provided for in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. To this end, the government is biased towards the poor and most vulnerable people who have in the past been left to fend for themselves with minimal or no support from the government. These are the people we find in the rural and fringe areas which, as a legacy of apartheid, were not catered for.
The President stated in the 2009 state of the nation address that South Africa is a dry country with limited water resources. These resources require careful management so that they can be used to extend basic water services to every citizen, while meeting the needs of economic growth without threatening the environmental integrity of water resources.
The ANC-led government's position is that the country's economic growth target should not be attained at the expense of the ecological sustainability of water resources or the meeting of people's human needs. It is therefore our commitment to place water at the centre of all planning decisions, both in the public and private sector. For water to support economic growth without compromising primary ecological functions requires thorough planning at a strategic level and in an integrated manner. There should be a people-centred and holistic approach towards the provision of services, which ensures that the needs and concerns of affected and impacted people are addressed.
The mandate of the Department of Water Affairs is to regulate the water sector nationally, to develop national policy norms, standards and guidelines for the sector and to provide targeted support to municipalities where necessary and in accordance with the necessary regulatory requirements. This mandate is reflected in the department's overall objective of ensuring the availability and supply of water at the national level, facilitating equitable and sustainable socioeconomic development, and ensuring the universal and efficient supply of water services at the local level.
However, almost two years ago, on 26 September 2008, the then Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry admitted in this House that there are dams like Jozini that are full to capacity, while the communities around them do not have access to water. She then said that these dams were being looked at to find out how the infrastructure can be installed which is required to get that water out of the dams, because they were built as single-purpose dams to cater for irrigation and farmers only. She added:
We have worked with the provinces and have found money particularly for the Jozini Dam. We are now busy with infrastructure to get the water from the Jozini Dam to the communities around it.
However, in 2010 the issue of Jozini Dam has radically changed in that the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, the hon Sonjica, recently intervened to ensure that budget for infrastructure and the sourcing of water from Jozini to the surrounding communities becomes a reality.
Abantu beJozini bazowathola amanzi ahlanzekileko njengabo boke abantu beSewula Afrika. [Iwahlo.] [People of Jozini will get clean water like all South Africans. [Applause.]]
Regarding augmentation projects, as well as dams being built, the department has many projects under implementation. Among these are the Vaal River Eastern Subsistence Augmentation Project and the Kumathi River Water Augmentation Scheme. The department is also in the process of implementing the second phase of the Olifants River Water Development Project. The total cost of the dams being built stands at R2,1 billion, while the cost of its distribution networks are in the region of R5,4 billion. The first phase of the Mokholo Crocodile River Augmentation Scheme, which was due to be completed in 2013, was set to cost R2,1 billion. The raising of the Clanwilliam Dam wall was set to cost in excess of R800 million. This project was due to get off the ground in the coming financial year.
The number of jobs created through these projects totalled in excess of 10 000. However, the employment that was created was project-specific, with post-completion employment limited to maintenance and operations.
The department had set a baseline target of 20% in terms of both broad- based black economic empowerment and procurement, though it was aiming to move towards a target of 50%. I want to state very clearly and seriously, hon Chairperson, that we don't agree with 20% black economic empowerment. This should be addressed for the benefit of the people of this country.
Dam safety regulations were benchmarked against international standards. Of the approximately 350 dams owned by the department, 46% needed attention and to be prioritised. Of these, 18 had been rehabilitated, while 14 are currently being worked on.
Further, in regard to urban and rural nodes, these still face major challenges. For example, the O R Tambo node in the Eastern Cape has one of the highest and poorest populations. This has direct consequences for bulk infrastructure and the provision of adequate water sources. However, the Eastern Cape provincial government, in partnership with the Department of Water Affairs, has initiated a study to determine water resources through constructing a dam on the Umzimvubu River. The intention is to provide water for both household and economic-development purposes.
The Sekhukhune nodal municipality in Limpopo faces similar challenges due to a lack of water sources. The Department of Water Affairs has allocated a total of R12 billion to finalise the construction of the De Hoop Dam. This dam will provide water to 2 million people. The ability of water to contribute to increased income, improved food security and social wellbeing of the poor and to improved sustainability of natural resources is certainly a motivation for this government to commit financial resources to secure these services. Water contributes to increased income because it is an important factor of production in agriculture, the food and beverage industry, manufacturing, tourism and hotels, hydroelectric power generation, and many other types of economic activity. It contributes to improved food security and social wellbeing of the poor and, because it is a factor in subsistence or household food production, a safe and uncontaminated domestic water supply is a prerequisite for good health.
We understand that in South Africa the concept of single-purpose dams has long been an issue. We also know that, in the past, dams were developed specifically to provide for certain industries, but that there is now a need to reallocate the water supplies and that a substantial amount of money is required for these conversions. But, Chairperson, the department must do what has been planned and also ensure that it has the capacity to translate these plans into action.
Thus, the budget must reflect what should be done. Water supply characteristics - such as high investment, the natural monopoly features of the sector, buried assets, public health and the environment, the need for universal provision and the fact that water supply is location specific, which requires intensive fixed capital investment - place the water sector in the domain of government, which is required to provide and safeguard public goods. The fixed costs of water supply are typically high, relative to variable costs, especially when compared with other utilities.
It has been indicated that South Africa's consulting engineers are deeply concerned about the current state of disrepair, dysfunction and overloading of water and waste water treatment works operated by some local authorities around the country. It is thus not surprising that the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs stated that South Africa would spend R30 billion over the next five to eight years in continuing construction and establishing 15 water mega-infrastructure projects.
These projects would increase the capacity of existing water resource infrastructure. The 2010 state of the nation address specifically commits the government to improving the provision of water, a commitment that can be properly carried out only if inadequate infrastructure is successfully addressed.
Increasing water and infrastructure coverage and maintenance are two of the biggest challenges confronting the water supply sector. In fact, the need to roll out basic services and water supply in support of human settlement development, in line with government's commitment to universal access to water by 2014, influenced the additional allocations to the Department of Water Affairs.
It is, however, of great concern to note the significant decline in budget allocation to one of the most important programmes in the department, namely the National Water Resources Infrastructure Programme. The budget allocated to this particular programme declined from about R2,5 billion in 2009-10 financial year to about R2,2 billion in 2010-11, a reduction of more than 16% in real terms.
Ironically, the President emphasised in the 2010 state of the nation address that South Africa is not a water-rich country and as a result this government intended to put in place measures to reduce unacceptably high water losses through leaking pipes and inadequate infrastructure by half by 2014. Thank you. [Time expired.] [Applause.]