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Delegates attending the National Council of Provinces’ (NCOP’s) Local Government Week in Parliament have resolved that the discriminatory situation of communities living next to big dams and other water sources but being unable to get water, should not be allowed to continue to exist, and they are calling for improved integrated spatial planning in the future.

In one of three breakaway commissions which focused on Municipal Infrastructure: Integrated Spatial Planning and the Provision of Services (human settlements, energy, water and sanitation), a Member of the Limpopo Provincial Legislature, Mr Soviet Lekganyane, said there was no clear reasoning on why were people denied water even when they have water dams near their homes.

“We need to know who decides where to build a dam and why, before we look at the feasibility of building new dams in the country because clearly those that were built in the past were not built to service the whole population,” Mr Lekganyane said.

The commission has recommended that the NCOP’s Select Committee on Social Services should follow up on this matter by engaging with the Department of Water and Sanitation and the affected communities to come up with a solution to the situation. This should be done within three months after the adoption of the Local Government Week report.

The session also heard how the shortage of water was failing the government’s plan to eradicate the bucket toilet system and improve sanitation in many communities.

“Many provinces are struggling to eradicate the bucket system because of the lack of water services in some municipalities,” said the Chairperson of the Select Committee on Social Services, Ms Cathy Dlamini.

As part of the effort to address the water challenges, delegates recommended the repeal of the Water Act of 1956, saying it was an impediment to the provision of water in municipalities.

The session also discussed that local municipalities in rural areas must plan together with traditional leaders and local municipalities should plan together when allocating land for human settlement.

This proposal was made by the Chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders, Inkosi Sipho Mahlangu, who said: “Currently there is no protocol between chiefs and municipalities on plots allocation, our plans are clashing because we plan separately.”

A proposal was made for a collaboration between traditional leadership and municipalities in rural areas to develop revenue collection strategies.

This idea was echoed my NCOP Delegate, Dr Hunadi Mateme, who said there must be proper planning in every land identified for human settlement before occupation. “Even when the land belongs to traditional leaders, there must be proper planning when people are going to settle there.”

The Local Government Week is an annual event in the calendar of Parliament, jointly hosted by the NCOP and the South African Local Government Association (Salga), to discuss issues affecting the functioning of the local sphere of government.

Another resolution was that Salga must identify all laws impeding service delivery in local municipality and submit them to the NCOP, which will initiate amendments to such legislation. When deliberating on the Section 139 interventions to struggling municipalities, delegates reiterated what was resolved last year, that such interventions should be the last resort after everything has been tried to assist municipalities. They said government and the NCOP must not rush to invoke Section 139 and that there was no evidence where these interventions have produced good results; some arguing that most municipalities continued to be dysfunctional even after Section 139 intervention.

It was resolved that the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, in consultation with Salga, should provide a report to the Chairperson of the NCOP regarding the feasibility of developing a comprehensive Local Government Municipal Support and Intervention Framework to guide support, monitoring and intervention implementation, as well as post-intervention support.

The NCOP is to advocate for the amendment of the Municipal Finance Management Act’s (MFMA’s) Sections 71 and 72 reports, to make it mandatory for municipalities to submit these reports to provincial and national Departments of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, and Salga, in order to enhance the ability of the departments and Salga to operationalise the early warning system.

The Local Government Week is attended by mayors, councillors, Members of Parliament, Members of the Provincial Legislatures and other stakeholders in the local government sphere. It ends tomorrow (10 May) with an official sitting of the NCOP to debate the report.

By Sakhile Mokoena

9 May 2018