Agencies set up to manage water use flounder

Written by  SHEREE BEGA Tuesday, 27 June 2017 09:57
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NEARLY 20 years after they were written into South Africa's National Water Act, most of the crucial agencies that have the power to authorise water use are still not functional.

The landmark 1998 Water Act provided for the progressive establishment of 19 Catchment Management Agencies (CMAs) in key water management areas across the country.
But these were later whittled down to nine, and todaY, only two CMAs exist, the Breede-Gouritz and ! Inkomati-Usuthu.
"The CMA delay is very concerning," remarks Anthony Turton, a water expert and professor at the University of the Free State. "It reflects two things ailing us. Firstly, the lack of capacity in the state, even two decades after democracy. Secondly, a deep-seated disregard for the law that has crept into everything under President (Jacob) Zuma." CMAs are required by law and their absence is a clear violation.
"While we've tolerated excuses for two decades, maybe the current crisis of confidence in the ruling party creates a window of opportunity for the public to demand the law be applied."
Even the Department of Water and Sanitation. (DWS), in its new proposed Water Quality Management Strategy and Policy, bemoans the delay.
"While there are significant challenges at the international and national levels, potentially our most significant issues from a water quality perspective reside at the more local levels. The delays in establishing, capacitating and delegating powers and duties to CMAs has meant that there has not been sufficient on-the-ground management."
Municipalities, it says, are a major source of waste water containing pollution.
CMAs and the catchment management forums are important institutional structures for engaging at the municipal level "despite the challenges that exist due to misalignment of operational boundaries, differingplanning cycles and an array of institutional complexities".
"It's nearly 20 years later, and we still don't have the government institutions in place that are designed to look after our catchments," remarks Christine Colvin, the senior freshwater manager at WWF-SA. And we need them more than ever. We need them to be functional and effective, and part of the conversation around water and economic development."
Turton, who agrees, says: "We've just been through the worst drought on record and it has shown up many weaknesses in our water resources planning and implementation. In truth, we've not yet recovered from that drought, with the Western Cape still in its grip, and the rest of the country vulnerable even if some of the dams are full.''
The purpose of CMAs is to implement catchment management strategies. "These are important because they reconcile the political aspirations on the one hand (let's build more dams and double irrigated agriculture as specified by the second National Water Resources Strategy) with the harsh reality of water availability on the other (we can't build dams and double irrigated agriculture because we simply don't have enough water).
"Without a functioning CMA, no effective long-term planning can be implemented, so no lessons from the current (recent past) drought will be learnt and we will be forced to relive the distress," says Turton.
In a 2013 paper 'Why has the South African National Water Act been so difficult to Implement?' Barbara Schreiner of Pegasys Strategy and Development says two critical factors allowed the creation of CMAs to fall behind schedule.
"The first was that those responsible for the establishment of the CMAs - heads of regional offices were not held accountable for not achieving their targets. Lack of capacity was often cited as a reason for not achieving targets but proper 'performance management and accountability were weak. The second (reason) was the questioning of decisions taken.''
DWS spokesperson Sputnik Ratau says the process to establish institutions is "extremely complex and requires a thorough change management process. As a result, the process to establish CMAs ... has taken time. The department is working on the rationalisation of entities to ensure improvement of governance and the financial viability of such state entities" .
This is envisaged to be completed by the end of March, he says. "The fact that there are two operational.
CMAs does belie the fact that processes to establish the other CMAs have been ongoing. There are another four that have been legally established. Business cases for the establishment of the remaining three CMAs are being completed."
Institutional reforms and realignment to rationalise the number of water management areas and CMAs were amended and "did require some of the institutional processes to be restarted.
"There have been ongoing concerns about the sustainability of these institutions and ongoing discussions about further changes to the institutional model. The department is still committed to institutional reform to strengthen our management of water resources.
"The pressure upon our water resources is increasing, and will only become worse as our country develops its social economy."
In its new policy, the DWS outlines how CMAs will be in charge of water quality monitoring, with oversight from the DWS. Through the CMAs citizen-based water monitoring programmes will be strengthened.
But environmental activist Mariette Liefferink says too often the level of community involvement in catchment management forums is low or non-existent. "It raises concerns whether civil society has a genuine influence in CMFs or only the appearance of participation."
CMFs are embedded within a political context, she believes.
"The overwhelming majority of participants are from the national, provincial and local government.
"Officials of the DWS, Rand Water and local government fail to escalate ongoing pollution incidences, which are brought to the attention of the forums, to the director-general and minister of water and sanitation because of fear of being indicted for their alleged failure of duty of care"
On the future of CMAs, Ratat says issues of non-payment of water resource charges might be a challenge to CMAs as one of their funding sources is revenue from the users.
"Issues of capacity are also a concern and the ability to attract staff with the skills and experience for managing water resources."
Hugo Retief, from the Association of Water and Rural Development, which works to protect the Olifants River catchment, agrees.
"It's a challenge to find staff with the background needed in water management. The big challenges are the scale of a catchment like the Olifants. There are over 360 monitoring
points and you have to go out once a month to take samples with limited staff."


Polluted lives: The cost of South Africa's gold rush

Johannesburg in South Africa has one of the world's largest gold deposits. After decades of mining, large swathes of the population are thought to be exposed to toxic and radioactive mine waste. The BBC's Sophie Ribstein went to meet people living close to the dumps to find out what effect it is having on their health. Filmed and edited by Christian Parkinson.

NPC Pathways for a Just Transitions- Broader Stakeholder Workshop Invite 16 August 2018

Dear Colleague The National Planning Commission (NPC) invites you to participate in a dialogue process on developing pathways for the just transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient society.  As articulated in South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP), specifically Chapter Five, the NDP envisages that by 2030, the country will have made headway in transitioning to a society that is just, inclusive, sustainable and resilient. The intention over the coming months is to run two parallel engagement processes. One will involve key government, civil society, business and labour representatives in a Social Partner Dialogue Series. The second one will be a Broader Stakeholder Engagement which intends to open up the conversation to all stakeholders around the country, and inform the Social Partner Dialogue Series. The aim of this process is to reach a social compact which will involve seeking an agreed vision and identified pathway for a just transition which addresses poverty, inequality, and unemployment. Attached to this article please find the Briefing Note, chapter 5 of the National Development Plan which we hope you will be able to read before the workshop and a programme for the day.  Kind regards, Megan Hendrickse Admin Assistant Sustainable Energy Africa NPC 9b Bell Crescent Close Westlake Cape Town 7945 e:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. t:+27 217023622 m:+27 713149861 website: Sustainable Energy Africa is a not-for-profit organization supporting cities and other institutions with sustainable energy transitions

Attacks on activists

  See below an article that appeared in GroundUp, the Daily Maverick and The Citizen yesterday about recent attacks on activists in South Africa. Coal mine opponents targeted on social media By GroundUp• 24 July 2018 “Powerful interests use violence and threats to cut off those defending human rights.” By John Yeld. First published by GroundUp. Coal mining is a very dirty business. And as a stream of abuse on social media against those challenging a new coal mining venture in one of South Africa’s most critical and formally protected water catchment areas confirms, the dirt isn’t always in the coal dust. Twitter accusations against a coalition of eight environmental and social justice groups and their lawyers seeking to block the planned Yzermyn Underground Coal Mine development at Mabola in Mpumalanga, include treason, economic sabotage, extortion, bribery, blackmail, duplicity, dishonesty and lies. They are further accused of being “anti-national, anti-people, anti-development”, and a comparison to Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels has been thrown in for good measure. As ludicrous as it sounds, it’s no laughing matter, and suggests that a Bell Pottinger-style social media harassment strategy may be under way against opponents of the mine project. Particularly worrying was a thinly veiled death threat made on Facebook last month, aimed at local farmer Oubaas Malan who also opposes the Yzermyn mine but is not involved in the comprehensive legal challenges currently under way by the coalition. The threat was posted by Thabiso Nene, who heads The Voice Community Representative Council, a registered NPO billed as “a community-based organisation that stands for radical economic transformation” in the Dr Pixley Ka Isaka Seme local municipality where the would-be mine is located. What particularly incenses Nene, Tripathi and other supporters of Atha Africa is that an open coal mine, Loskop, has been operating on Malan’s family farm on the same area. However, Malan has countered by pointing out that this is an old mine started in the 1980s – three decades before the Mabola Protected Area was proclaimed – and that he doesn’t own the mining right to it. Although he concedes negotiating a fee from the mining company that most recently owned the mining right and attempted to work the mine, now effectively abandoned, he says it reneged on payments to him and has caused severe environmental damage. Last month, Malan boasted to the Saturday Star newspaper about his tenacity in tackling Atha Africa. “I’m like a Jack Russell terrier fighting a boerbul. I won’t let go,” he was quoted as saying. Nene’s lengthy Facebook response included what can be interpreted as a death threat: “As Oubaas say ‘I’m like Jack Russell terrier fighting boerboel. I just won’t let go’ he should watch our community lays Jack Russell terrier to permanent sleep. We r masters in resting dogs with rabies. Obaas can take dat to de bank.” A formal complaint about the death threat – that now appears to have been removed from Facebook was made to the South African Human Rights Commission. The commission described the threat as “naked criminality” but declined to investigate, suggesting instead that the police should handle the matter because of the violence implicit in it. Many of the offending tweets in the social media campaign against the coalition have been made by Praveer Tripathi, senior vice-president of the Atha Africa Ventures mining company that plans to develop Yzermyn. It acquired a mining right in 2015 but the granting of this right and various environmental approvals are now being challenged by the coalition. Tripathi also retweeted, without comment, a tweet by @Madlokovu15 that had in turn repeated the Facebook death threat word-for-word. Tripathi’s Twitter profile distances him from his employer, suggesting his comments should not be read as signifying his professional position as a senior executive of Atha Africa, a subsidiary of the India-based international mining company Atha Group. The company has also attempted to distance itself from his highly controversial remarks. “Mr Tripathi’s posts on his personal account, are his own personal views and do not mirror the views and opinions of Atha Africa. Accordingly, Atha Africa is not responsible for these comments.” However, the company has not publicly condemned any of Tripathi’s comments, but asked that questions on the matter be directed to the executive himself.   Screen capture from Praveer Tripathi’s Twitter account. A formal complaint about Tripathi’s earlier social media comments has been lodged with Minerals Council South Africa (formerly the Chamber of Mines) by the Centre for Environmental Rights, a public interest group of attorneys that represents the coalition. Atha Africa Ventures is a Council member and as such is bound by the Council’s mandatory code of ethical business conduct and guiding principles. The Council has yet to respond to the Centre’s complaint. Tripathi, who has just 70 Twitter followers, last week failed to respond to emailed questions asking him to explain the accusations in his tweets and to comment on their possible consequences. Instead, he posted correspondence from this writer on his Twitter timeline, accompanied by derogatory comments. His posts prompted some of his followers to post their own abusive tweets. The proposed Yzermyn coal mine lies within the water-rich, protected grasslands of the Ekangala/Drakensberg strategic water source area – one of 22 such areas that collectively comprise just 8% of South Africa’s land yet provide half of all surface run-off water in the form of wetlands, streams and rivers. Environmentalists argue that coal mining is highly destructive and poisonous to the environment, and is not compatible with biodiversity conservation of pristine areas like Mabola that provide invaluable “ecosystem services” like water. If the project is allowed to continue, the proposed coal mine in Mabola will set a dangerous precedent that will expose all of South Africa’s protected environments to encroachment from mining and other destructive and non-sustainable land uses, they say. But Mabola is also within an area marked by extreme poverty and unemployment where many local residents are desperate for jobs. So it’s understandable that the possibility of some 500 work opportunities – albeit unskilled – at the proposed mine is highly attractive to some of them. Residents of Mabola get water from a spring. Photo supplied The social media invective against coalition members and its lawyers has increased significantly over the past two months as several of the legal challenges to the coal project approach adjudication. The first, an appeal to the Water Tribunal to overturn the water licence granted to Yzermyn, is set down for hearing from Tuesday to Thursday this week. On 29 June, Nene’s The Voice organised a public meeting in Volksrust that was billed as an open forum debate “to clear misconceptions about the proposed mining project near Wakkerstroom”. Nene posted on Facebook that an invitation had been extended to the management of Atha Africa and that it had confirmed its attendance. “That very progressive Atha management,” he said approvingly. An invitation was also extended to members of the coalition and the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) but it was declined. The Centre told Mining Weekly it would not be appropriate for it to take part in a public debate because of the extensive pending litigation in the matter. Its refusal prompted a string of Twitter insults from Tripathi, including: “Is the Cenre (sic) for Environmental Rights afraid that it’s lies would be nailed in the #communitywantstoknow initiative by the community? They said the mine will threaten Gauteng and have national and intntnl (sic) impacts. Why don’t they explain the ‘how’ to the community?” After the meeting, attended by some 1,400 people, Tripathi congratulated Nene for “exposing” the “foreign-funded” and “treasonous” organisations “who have no sympathies and respect for the community”. This allegation of treason was picked up and repeated several times. However, the only “evidence” they produced to back the allegation was publicly available documents from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) detailing some funding for two of the organisations in the coalition. SIDA is an official Swedish government agency of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, responsible for the bulk of Sweden’s official development assistance to developing countries and civil society groups – including South Africa’s democratic government. The tactic of social media harassment is becoming increasingly common in South Africa and elsewhere in the world, where vulnerable communities and civil society organisations have been working to protect and promote environmental and social justice in the face of strong-arm and bullying tactics by some governments and big business – notably mining interests. Threats and intimidation create an emotionally charged atmosphere that makes it harder for communities to achieve resolution, and in some scenarios can result in physical violence, injury, destruction of property and even murder. A case in point is the tragic death in March 2016 of Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Radebe at Mbizana in Pondoland, who was leading opposition to the attempt by Australian mining company Mineral Commodities Ltd to mine mineral sands at Xolobeni. Although the Hawks have not made any progress in their investigation into Radebe’s murder – this was confirmed by spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi last week – it’s widely believed that he was assassinated because of his opposition to the mining proposal. And as recently as this month, two activists opposing the relocation of a community in KwaDube in KwaZulu-Natal, supposedly to accommodate onshore mining operations between Mthunzini and Richards Bay, were also shot dead execution-style within days of each other. Murray Hunter of the Right2Know Campaign says threats and attacks from mining companies are part of a bigger trend of corporations trying to bully their critics into silence. “We know from bitter experience that those who go up against big-money mining projects often face worse than threats in the end.” And Melissa Fourie of the Cape Town-based Centre for Environmental Rights – one of the main targets of the Yzermyn invective – says it’s a common pattern in South Africa. “Within our network of environmental rights activists and defenders, we see threats and intimidation of activists every day, most of these not reported or recorded.” Neither Tripathi nor Nene responded to a question by this writer when asked whether they considered their respective tweets and/or Facebook posts to be inflammatory or possibly fuelling tensions with potentially dangerous consequences. However, Tripathi responded on social media to a letter that was sent to Atha Africa’s attorney by the Centre for Environmental Rights, drawing attention to Tripathi’s “inaccurate and defamatory” statements about the Centre. The Centre’s letter noted: “Particularly concerning is that some statements are threatening, and have the potential to incite violence.” On Twitter, Tripathi accused the CER of being defamatory and of “costing South Africa tens of thousands of jobs and development opportunities” – “The responsibility sits on you,” he charged. On 5 July, Nene posted a statement on Facebook: “If it’s war they want, it (sic) war they will get”, and added a response to several replies to this statement: “They are busy blocking development that’s suppose to change the life’s. They should just return the damn land once, & they should refrain from threatening us with civil war or economic meltdown.” Jen Gleason of the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide says attacks on people who stand up for vulnerable communities and the environment are on the rise around the world, and that her organisation works with public interest lawyers around the world who are putting themselves at risk daily. “Powerful interests, inside and outside government, use violence, threats, prosecution, slander, regulatory burdens and more to cut off those defending human rights,” she says. This exposes grass roots advocates “to great personal risk”. Hunter of Right2Know says it rejects the “corporate bullyism” of Atha-Africa. “We need to protect… critical voices, not just for the sake of environmental governance, but to ensure that corporations working in South Africa respect free speech and freedom of association.”

Right2Know Joint Statement on attacks on activists in SA

The R2K statement is now available – attached, and see here online:  Here it is on Twitter:  19 July 2018   JOINT STATEMENT: We strongly condemn attacks on civil society organisations and activists! The undersigned organisations condemn the recent vicious attacks on environmental justice activists in South Africa. In one case, we are outraged at the reported murder on 11 July 2018 of Mr D Mpanza, an activist who had opposed a relocation of the community in KwaDube in KwaZulu Natal. KZN violence monitor Mary de Haas has reported that people living on this land have been informed by various authorities that they must be relocated to accommodate onshore mining operations between Mthunzini and Richards Bay. According to De Haas, Mr Mpanza was shot dead, execution-style, on 11 July when travelling home from Esikhawini. Of the companions he was travelling with he alone was targeted. In another case, we note an escalating campaign of social media attacks by those associated with an Mpumalanga mining project, on a number of South African environmental rights organisations.[1] The campaign is led by the senior vice president of Indian-owned mining company Atha-Africa Ventures Pty Ltd, which is facing multiple legal challenges from these organisations to its applications to mine coal in a strategic water source area and protected environment in Mpumalanga[2]. This campaign is made up of various accusations and threats on social media which are designed to intimidate, silence and discourage activists who are lawfully opposing a coal mine in a strategic water source area and protected environment. He has publicly accused these organisations of “treason” and an “anti-national agenda”. These unfounded attacks are intolerable in our Constitutional democracy. The South African Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression, freedom of the press, the right to access to justice, and the right to just administrative action. South Africa also has a long tradition of activism and civil society mobilisation to uphold our Constitution and defend Constitutional values. More than two years have passed since cde Bazooka Rhadebe, an anti-mining activist in Xolobeni, was assassinated on the Wild Coast in 2016. To date nobody has been brought to book for his murder. Across the world, corporations have employed intimidation and violence when their commercial interests are challenged by activists, especially activists defending natural resources and environmental rights. The murder and assault of environmental activists are already common occurrences in many parts of the world.[3] We strongly condemn both physical and verbal attacks on civil society organisations and activists. In the case of Mr Mpanza, we call for the speedy arrest and successful prosecution of his killers, and immediate protection for other residents who oppose the relocation in KwaDube. Furthermore we call for the authorities to give full information and participation to the community on this proposed relocation, and respect the voices of those who oppose it. In the case of Atha-Africa, we call on the Minerals Council of South Africa (formerly the Chamber of Mines) to state publicly that it will revoke the membership of any company whose employees engage in this type of conduct. The mining authorities cannot remain silent when companies operating in South Africa unlawfully intimidate and threaten activists exercising their Constitutional rights. #Ends Endorsed by: Abahlali Basemjondolo African Centre for Biodiversity AIDS Foundation of South Africa Amnesty International SA (Durban Chapter) Asonet Association for Progressive Communications (International) Bench Marks Foundation Biowatch SA BirdLife South Africa Body Corporate of King Shaka Estate Centre for Applied Legal Studies Centre for Constitutional Rights Centre for Environmental Rights Children's Radio Foundation       (International) Corruption Watch Door To Door foundation Earthjustice       (International) Earthlife Africa Durban Earthlife Africa Joburg EarthLore Foundation EDO NSW (International) Ekogaia Foundation Ekurhuleni Environmental Organisation Endangered Wildlife Trust Environmental Justice Australia       (International) Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (International) Environmental Monitoring Group Federation for a Sustainable Environment Fireflies Memorial (International) GenderCC Southern Africa - Women for Climate Justice Global Environmental Trust Greenpeace Durban Local Group groundWork Heinrich Boell Stiftung Southern Africa (International) Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (International) International Labour Research and Information Group (ILRIG) Izingwenya Youth Development Just Share KRC KZN Monitor Land and Accountability Research Centre, University of Cape Town Lawyers for Human Rights Lihlithemba Community Organisation Market Users Committee Mayine Community Movement MCEJO Media Monitoring Africa Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation Mining and Environmental Justice Communities Network of South Africa (MEJCON-SA) MSF (KZN) MUC My Vote Counts No Nukes Asia Forum Japan (International) Noordhoek Environmental Action Group Open Democracy Advice Centre Parliamentary Monitoring Group PHA Food & Farming Campaign Popular Education Programme Reid Incorporated Attorneys Right2Know Campaign SAVE UNIZULU Schoeman and Associates Schubart Park community SCLC Sekhukhune Environmental Justice Network SHINE Simunye Workers Forum Sisonke Environmental Justice Network Social and Environmental Justice in Action Social Justice Coalition South African Youth Climate Change Coalition South Durban Community Environmental Alliance Sustaining the Wild Coast TAC (KZN) Teens And Youth Health C.N The Gaia Foundation (International) ToadNUTs Ubukhosi bezandla NPC Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance Vaaloewer Ratepayers Association Voices of the Poor Concerned Residents (VPCR) Vukani Environmental Movement (VEM) Waterberg Environmental Justice Forum (WEJF) Waterberg Women Advocacy Organization Well Worn Theatre Company Western Cape Water Caucus Wilderness Foundation Africa Women and Democracy Initiative, Dullah Omar Institute Women Revolution WoMin African Alliance (International) WPCN Youens Attorneys For media comments contact: Biko Mutsaurwa, R2K NWG Member: 079 915 5220 Ngazini Ngidi, R2K NWG Member: 071 105 2507 ONLINE VERSION:   Note to media: Please attribute contents of this statement to the mentioned organisations not to any individuals unless you contact a spokesperson for specific comments.     [1] These organisations include Centre for Environmental Rights, the Mining and Environmental Justice Community Network of South Africa, groundWork, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, BirdLife South Africa, the Endangered Wildlife Trust, the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, the Association for Water and Rural Development (AWARD), the Bench Marks Foundation and WWF South Africa. [2] [3]    


Water Crisis

More than two decades ago, science advocate IsmailMore than two decades ago, science advocate IsmailSerageldin forewarned that “the wars of the next centurywill be fought over water, unless we change our approachto managing this precious and vital resource”. Thissentiment is perilously close for comfort for South Africa,whose water crisis is manifesting with dire consequences.Given that the country has done little in the recent past to rectifyits water challenges, it will soon pay the price, financially, socially andeconomically, says Mariette Liefferink, CEO of the Federation for aSustainable Environment (FSE). The rest of the Document may be opened as a PDF document.



Appeal against Water Use License

UPDATE: Appeal against Water Use License issued to Atha-Africa Ventures (Pty) Lt...