Minister Senzo Mchunu: Annual general meeting of Rand Water Board

Speaking notes for Mr Senzo Mchunu, Minister of Water and Sanitation, at the annual general meeting of the Rand Water Board at the Rand Water Head Office Glenvista, Johannesburg, 17 November 2022
1. Salutations & introduction

Programme Director, Chief Shared Services Officer, Mr Teboho Joala,
Deputy Minister/s of Water and Sanitation,
Newly appointed and elected Chairperson, Mr Ramateu Monyokolo, Deputy Chairperson, Ms Malande Tonjeni, and Members of the Rand Water Board,
Director-General of the Department of Water and Sanitation, Dr Sean Phillips, and the Executive Team Members of the Department,
CEO of Rand Water, Mr Sipho Mosai and Executive Management of Rand Water,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is indeed a great honour to have received an invite to attend and address you all on this day, that the Board and Executive have set aside as the new Board’s first Annual General Meeting, as it launches its Annual Results ending June 2022.

Allow me to remark on and extend my appreciation for the smooth transition from the previous Board to this new one – thank you for the commitment and professionalism.

A stable Board is important to ensure that the entity does what is expected as per the mandate, but also, that there is requisite guidance and advice shared on an on-going basis.

2. Sector impact and benefit for the country and economy

In working towards a democratic South Africa, we made promises to the citizens of South Africa, via the Constitution: we promised to, amongst others, improve the quality of life of all citizens and this would be done through the delivery of basic services such as sufficient water and a safe environment.

As Government, we have further vowed to eradicate poverty and strengthen the economy as we continue to develop the country.

The water and sanitation sector has been identified as one of the key drivers towards the attainment of the country’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, as directed by President Ramaphosa.

As a sector, we are responsible to deliver some of the most basic needs of South Africans, at any level. The mandate we have been assigned to carry out is a monumental one – it holds the lives of people and the country at the centre!

The critical importance of the sector therefore, cannot and should not be undermined by any of us underperforming; that will not be acceptable!

The importance of water, good quality water at that, is such that even the competitive advantage of South Africa can be eroded if we do not perform accordingly, and I do say ‘’we’’, because this performance can only be achieved by the sector as a collective.

I trust that what I have just outlined imprints in your minds the tremendous yet fulfilling task which lays ahead of you as a Board and entity.

3. Rand water’s performance

Rand Water as an entity has a long and admittedly proud history stemming from way back in 1903 when it was formed.

Chairperson and the Board, you are now a big part of the biggest and most sustainable Water Board in the country.

The raw water abstraction point for the operations of the entity, the Vaal Dam, is one of 14 dams within the biggest water supply system in the country, the Integrated Vaal River System, called IVRS in brief.

You therefore have an interest in anything that happens that might disturb the performance of that System, impacting on the performance of the entity.

This implies a keen interest in all the catchments that feed the IVRS, including in Lesotho from where the Lesotho Highlands Water Project emanates.

I must say that as a new Board, the baton has been handed over to you at a very interesting time!

Let me congratulate Rand Water on achieving an Unqualified Audit Opinion for the financial year ending 30 June 2022 – this is an accomplishment to be proud of and we can only ever ask that you maintain it!

Let me also commend you on meeting your target on 29 out of the 39 indicators – this is despite the challenges which you’ve had to soldier on through.

We recently had to deal with water shortages in the Gauteng metros, district and local municipalities – a challenge which I would like to believe was well handled by us jointly. This served as evidence of the critical role played by Rand Water in assisting ailing municipalities.

Overall, as a Shareholder, I must commend Rand Water for their consistent performance – be it in relation to the provision of quality bulk potable water, maintenance of infrastructure or its role as an Implementing Agent in assigned projects. As a Ministry, we take pride in having Rand Water as part of its portfolio.

To the Chief Executive and Members of the Executive, thank you for your hard work and dedication.

To the newly appointed Board, the entity’s 2021/2022 Annual Report has been shared with us; you must take full responsibility for it – the good and the bad! All the failures in the report will be your responsibility to correct and never repeat any time within your term of office – that is the nature of succession.

We, as the Ministry, are also keen to engage with Rand Water, chart a way forward for the Executive to follow and we look forward to working together with you all.

4. Way forward and conclusion

We have seen throughout the country, a serious lack of service delivery underlined by a lack of capacity and based on that, you know that we have taken the decision to review Water Boards.

We believe that Water Boards can be of more benefit to the country by being part of the Department’s envisaged intervention in municipalities that have an obvious lack of capacity.

I believe the Executive may still need to apprise the Board about the huge burden of municipal debt that is not in any way helpful to the operations of the entity – the debt is crippling!

We must work very hard and smart to ensure recovery of most – if not all – of the debt. In this regard, we do need cooperation with both COGTA and National Treasury.

To the CE and Executive, I wish to say that you have a track record that shows a brilliant management of relations between the Board and Executive over the years. You need to strengthen that even more in this new period that is unfolding – matters are not just about the new Board.

It is also about ensuring you do not drop the ball in relation to matters of your mandate, as well as those that might stem from the reconfiguration.

As I said before, this sector is of critical importance. Nothing happens without water, as we all know.

I therefore urge you to ensure all the necessary checks and balances are in place to ensure the continued smooth-running of your organisation.

The skills, upgrade of skills, new technology, and partnerships where necessary and possible must be to the advantage of Rand Water and South African citizens.

The Director-General of the Department is available for any matters that require the attention of the Ministry and the Department.

To the Board, as you begin your term, I wish you all the very best in this very important venture.

Let us keep ourselves reminded of the common enemy that is facing us: lack of service delivery and hunger for services within communities.

The outcomes of the Water and Sanitation Summit of 18 – 19 February 2022 are not a “nice to have”; they must become a reality!

South Africa depends on you, the Mother Continent depends on all of us – we dare not fail! The real hard work starts now.

I thank you.

Source: Government of South Africa