Address by Cde China Dodovu (MP) on the budget vote debate on Water & Sanitation
25 July 2019
Minister of Human Settlements, Water & Sanitation, Hon Lindiwe Sisulu;
Deputy Ministers (Hon Mahlobo & Hon Tshwete);
Heads of All Entities reporting to the Ministry;
Permanent and Special delegates.
64 years ago on the 26th of June 1955 in Kliptown (Soweto), men and women of vision congregated under the banner of the “Congress of the People” to adopt the Freedom Charter, a living document which embodies the hopes and aspirations of the South African people.
As they proclaimed, they wanted the whole world to know that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white. With undiminished vitality, in unison they proclaimed that no government shall justly claim authority unless it was based on the will of the people.
With the magnitude of their vision as contained in the Freedom Charter, they were paying a deposit in our moral banking account so that many generations thereafter must emulate their virtues and follow their exemplary leadership.
Honorable Chairperson, one of the perspectives encapsulated in the Freedom Charter is clause 9, entitled: “There shall be Houses, Security and Comfort”, and for the purpose of this debate this afternoon, this shall be my focus area.
These men and women wanted “All the people (to) have the right to live where they choose, to be decently housed and to bring up their families in comfort and security. They wanted “Slums (to) be demolished, and new suburbs built where all (people) have transport, roads, lighting, playing fields, crèches and social centres”.
Honorable Chairperson, during the last 25 years since the advent of our constitutional dispensation, the ANC has implemented housing policies which have undergone serious metamorphosis. The ANC government developed important policy, regulatory and institutional instruments essentially to reduce the housing deficit, to make the finance system effective and to establish compact and sustainable communities.
The pillars of the policy remain to provide subsidies to low income families; to mobilize credit and savings; to protect housing consumers and to coordinate investment in development. But policy also seeks to stabilize the environment by restoring order; to maximize benefits of state expenditure and private sector investment; to establish the capacity to create secondary markets and to identify and facilitate the land delivery processes.
Honorable Chairperson, these policy interventions were necessary in order to address the exclusion of the significant proportion of the population from economic opportunities and social services which has to do with the apartheid form of our settlement patterns: low-density, high income, well serviced white suburbs close to work areas; and large, impoverished, sprawling, poorly serviced black townships and informal settlements on the urban periphery and in the rural landscape of South Africa.
Honorable Chairperson, this is indeed a good story to tell. However, despite these important milestones made by the ANC government, much still needs to be done. There are serious weaknesses especially in the water and sanitation sector which need urgent attention.
I am not convinced that given what has transpired in the last few years, the department of water and sanitation is up to the challenge to meet these imperatives. With slow expenditure on infrastructure of R1,9b; unauthorized expenditure of R640m on unbudgeted War on Leaks program; accruals and payables of R3b; the contingency liabilities of R134m and the forensic investigations on allegations of fraud and corruption as well as vacant positions at the top echelons, all these signify that not all is well in that department.
Honorable Chairperson, as we speak, more than 60 000 households still use the bucket toilet system - 12 years after the initial deadline of 2007 was set by our government to eradicate them. In some rural communities, some people still have no access to water; and 4000 schools are without proper sanitary facilities and they mostly use pit latrines. This shameful picture is unacceptable 25 years in our democracy. The dignity of our people shall never be restored until these matters are urgently attended to.
While we are sitting here in these chambers, pontificating and sometimes bickering over petty squabbles, millions of our people still live in informal settlements, in backyards and ghettos. While we pour venom and direct vitriolic attacks at one another, the poor continue to live in places of lowest environmental quality and suffer severely from problems such as inadequate shelter, no proper infrastructure and services, poor sanitation and polluted water.
Honorable Chairperson, if there is anything that must unite us as South Africans is to ensure that our people have access to water and better sanitary facilities. Water is life and sanitation is dignity, and this must not be an empty slogan but something that we must make a reality. Water is at the heart and backbone of our livelihoods and there is no sanitation for the rich or for the poor, but when nature calls, we are the same.
In order to extricate the department from a quagmire of ignominy and shame it is entrapped in, we need a paradigm shift to propel the department to the majestic heights of success and turnaround.
As the ANC, we unreservedly support the budget of the Human Settlements. On the other hand, we support the Budget of the Department of Water and Sanitation, subject to the following conditions:
- that a turnaround plan is developed on how all the problems above will be solved;
- that a financial recovery plan is developed on how to solve the problems of accruals and of unauthorized, irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditures;
- that by December 2020, eradicate all bucket toilets in our communities and to work with the Department of Basic Education to eradicate the pit latrines in all our schools.
In addition, the department must ensure consequence management for all responsible for poor performance and on allegations of fraud and corruption. It must also develop and invest in infrastructure to ensure universal access to drinking water and sanitation, protect the ecosystem and improve the water quality.
Honorable Chairperson, for our part as the Select Committee, we shall strengthen our oversight role by closely monitoring the performance of the department. In addition, we shall be proactive by conducting research including visits to other countries in response to the call by the President to build a new city in the democratic South Africa.