Rand Water CEO appointed to National Planning Commission

Pretoria: President Jacob Zuma has appointed the Chief Executive Officer of Rand Water, Percy Sechemane, as a member of the National Planning Commission (NPC).

Sechemane’s appointment is for a period of five years, said the Presidency on Thursday.

Sechemane is the CEO of the largest water utility in the country, providing bulk potable water to approximately twelve million people in Gauteng and surrounding communities.

“President Zuma wishes Mr Sechemane all the best in his new responsibilities. Mr Sechemane joins 25 commissioners appointed by the President on 17 November 2015,” said the Presidency.

Established in May 2010 to develop a long term vision and strategic plan for South Africa, the main objective of the commission is to rally the nation around a common set of objectives and priorities to drive development over the longer term.

The commissioners are drawn from nominations made by the public throughout South Africa and are largely from outside government.

The commission is chaired by Minister of Planning‚ Monitoring and Evaluation, Jeff Radebe.


New Home Affairs office for Somerset West

Cape Town: Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba says the newly opened Home Affairs office in Somerset West in the Western Cape will go a long way to improve frontline services for customers.

The Minister on Thursday officially opened the new office which forms part of the department’s Moetapele Initiative aimed at creating a fully digitised, paperless Home Affairs environment, among other things.

The office has been branded with colour-coding which will assist clients in finding which queue they need to join, ensuring no one wastes time standing in the wrong queue.

“The importance of this office is that it is bigger, there is a colour coding in terms of the services.

“There are floor walkers here who are dedicated to direct people accordingly as you enter the office. The signage is very clear. The services and the cost of the services are listed at the door so you know as you come in how much the service will cost you.

“The Home Affairs officials who are here are clearly identifiable with their uniform, which is orange ties or orange scarfs for ladies and darks suits for all of them … that makes the office much more pleasant, much more professional with name tags on their chairs so that you know who is … providing you with the service.

“The most important thing for me about the Home Affairs office is the culture of Batho Pele, the culture of professionalism because for us the client must come first,” said the Minister.

He said the new office was also the third pilot site which has a card swiping system installed – a point of sale system where you can pay for the services using your credit or debit card.

“[This] makes it efficient for many of the clients who come here who prefer not to bring cash or those with no cash on them,” said Minister Gigaba.

The card payment system has already been piloted in Johannesburg and Pretoria and the system will go a long way in improving front line services.

The Minister said the system will be rolled out to all Smart ID Card offices by March 2016.

The system has been aligned with all the other agencies, such as the banks, the South African Reserve Bank, the South African Revenue Service and other systems.

“[The system] can be audited by the Auditor General easily and so this is one of the things that we are doing at this office that makes the office quite a convenient and pleasant place for any client to come into,” he said.

Minister Gigaba said the Moetapele Initiative seeks to develop frontline office expertise in each of the products that are offered to clients and to provide a professional environment so clients to feel confident with the services they are receiving.

Meanwhile, over 2 000 Smart ID Cards have been issued to citizens since the department partnered with various banks to pilot the application of the cards at bank branches.

The department will soon pilot a system where citizens can apply for Smart ID Cards using their mobile devices. They will then only need to go into a bank to have their photographs and fingerprints captured.


Government working to secure water supply in W Cape

Pretoria: The Department of Water and Sanitation has reassured the Western Cape that it is working closely with provincial government, municipalities and other specialists to ensure sustainable water security across the province.

Since the beginning of the year, there has been a prolonged lower-than-normal rainfall, which has caused water stressed conditions in some areas across the Western Cape.

The South African Weather Bureau says the dry weather will most likely persist through the remainder of this year until the next rainy season.

The West Coast and the western parts of the Breede River System are moderately to extremely dry. The remainder of the province has received normal to above normal rainfall over the same period.

However, most towns and the City of Cape Town have water security as rainfall was captured in the dams. Some municipalities have also developed other sources of water supply to augment their limited supply.

The department said it is continually monitoring the prevailing situation.

“At present, the Western Cape Water Supply System (WCWSS) shows a weighted storage and supply of 72% of full supply, which is considered sufficient to cater for the envisaged short term water demand.

“Despite the much lower than normal rainfall, the groundwater levels in the West Coast and Cape Flats are relatively stable. As a precautionary measure, the department recommends that all municipalities using groundwater appoint a specialist to provide groundwater management,” the department said.

It said they are implementing short, medium and long term measures to address and mitigate the potential negative impacts of this restricted bulk water supply.

These measures include diversifying the water mix to include groundwater utilisation, rainwater harvesting, re-use of return flows and packaged desalination plants; reducing operational risks through proper infrastructure use and maintenance, and implementing water conservation and demand management programmes which includes the War on Leaks and ‘Drop the Block’.

“Residents within urban areas … are encouraged to rather use groundwater for garden irrigation. Caution, however, needs to be exercised not to use groundwater for drinking purposes within an uncontrolled urban setting,” the department said.

The department called on all users to make lifestyle changes to reduce water consumption and stretch the water drop.

It also encouraged localised water conservation and demand management within local government.


SA, Hungary commit to strengthen bilateral trade

Pretoria: South Africa and Hungary have committed to strengthening bilateral trade.

This follows a meeting between the Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Mzwandile Masina, and his Hungarian counterpart, László Szabó, in Pretoria.

The two Deputy Ministers exchanged views on how to improve economic relations between South Africa and Hungary.

Deputy Minister Masina said they undertook to make efforts to improve the trade imbalance that exist between the two countries. South African exports to Hungary were valued at R743 million, while imports from Hungary were valued at R3.22 billion in 2014.

The two Deputy Ministers acknowledged the importance of the South Africa – Hungary Joint Economic Commission (JEC) and agreed to use it to facilitate trade and investment between the two countries. The JEC is co-chaired by the Deputy Ministers.

“As the co-chairs of the JEC, we have agreed to promote cooperation between our countries in the following areas: education and training (exchange of students for skills development), manufacturing (joint ventures on car components and bus manufacturing), pharmaceuticals, water management and water technology, agriculture, tourism and banking.

“To show our commitment of promoting cooperation, we will have our second session of the JEC by April 2016,” said Deputy Minister Masina.

The Deputy Ministers agreed to explore the possibility of the Hungarian Investment Promotion Agency and Trade and Investment South Africa (TISA) signing an agreement to collaborate to facilitate trade and investment promotion between the two countries.

They also agreed to use their countries’ economic relations to access both European and African markets.

Total trade between South Africa and Hungary had been inconsistent over the years 2010 – 2014, valued at R22.8 billion.

Total trade has decreased from R4.3 billion in 2010 to R3.9 billion in 2014, however, 2013 saw total trade between the two countries dropping significantly to R3.7 billion (from R4.9 billion in 2012).

The decline in total trade in 2013 can be attributed to the ongoing economic slowdown in the EU region and also South Africa’s slow economic growth as the country is still recovering from the impact of the global economic crisis.