IOPSA has noted the media statement from the South African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF) dated 20 November 2023. In the statement which is below, SAAFF has detailed the challenges facing the ports and logistics industries in South Africa. The ports are owned and managed by Transnet. According to SAAFF the current situation is far worse than that experienced during the strike in October 2022. Due to poor maintenance, equipment breakdowns, material shortages and poor weather conditions the ports are currently unable to operate at their required capacity. This has led to significant delays and currently there are 96 vessels currently at anchor awaiting their turn to enter the ports. This situation has led to daily losses of more than R26 million per day. You may wonder what this has to do with plumbers?
In October last year we saw huge plumbing material shortages and delays in the market. If SAAFF is correct that this situation is worse than last year we should expect the same. At this time of year many plumbers are trying to finish off jobs and delays can be disastrous, especially on large contracts. We urge all plumbers to order their material as soon as possible to try to avoid delays. We also recommend that plumbers increase their stockholding of important daily items to avoid running out. Furthermore, SAAFF has indicated that the extreme costs of these delays could increase the cost of goods by between 4% to 24.5%. These increases will almost certainly be passed on to the industry in one way or another, so it is quite possible that prices will increase more than expected in the near future. IOPSA recommends that plumbers contact their suppliers as soon as possible to check on the status of critical materials.
If the past few years have taught us anything it is that South Africa’s extreme reliance on imported goods leaves us open and vulnerable to forces completely out of our control. IOPSA has long advocated for the use of locally produced products. The current situation once again illustrates how important local manufacturing is for the country. Not only does it create vital jobs, it stimulates and grows our economy (which is great for everyone) and it allows us, as a country, to be masters of our own destiny. Make no mistake, impots will always play an important role, but without local manufacturing capacity we are at the mercy of the vagaries of the world. So please choose local, the power is in your hands.
We would like to take this opportunity to once again thank all members for their continued support during the year. We hope that you and your families have a peaceful break in December. For those who are travelling please return safely. We look forward to an action packed 2024.
Click here to download the media statement
Mervyn Jordan is a name synonymous with dedication, commitment, and passion within the plumbing industry. With many years of invaluable service under his belt, Mervyn's tireless efforts have played an instrumental role in shaping the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA) into the influential and cohesive organization it is today.
Throughout his journey, Mervyn's commitment to the plumbing industry has been nothing short of remarkable. His dedication was not limited to regular working hours; countless late nights were spent tirelessly working to further the cause of IOPSA. He was a true visionary, someone who understood the potential of unity in a fragmented landscape.
One of Mervyn's most significant accomplishments was his role in uniting the various independent IOPSA regions into a single, cohesive national body. This consolidation not only streamlined the organization's operations but also amplified its voice and influence within the industry.
Mervyn's contributions to IOPSA extended beyond his volunteer work. He dedicated a substantial part of his career as an employee of the organization, ensuring that his impact was sustained and meaningful. His involvement in numerous SABS (South African Bureau of Standards) technical committees showcased his commitment to maintaining industry standards and safety.
Education has always been at the core of Mervyn's efforts. He provided training to hundreds of plumbers, passing on his knowledge and expertise to the next generation. This commitment to education not only improved the skill set of plumbers but also elevated the industry's overall standards.
One cannot speak of Mervyn without acknowledging his genuine love for the plumbing industry. His enthusiasm and passion were infectious, inspiring many within the industry to follow in his footsteps. Mervyn's presence was not just impactful; it was also characterized by a great sense of humor that endeared him to all who had the privilege of knowing him.
In the plumbing industry, Mervyn was more than just a professional; he was a well-known and beloved figure. His reputation as a true gentleman and his ability to bring laughter into even the most challenging situations made him a cherished member of the community.
As we reflect on Mervyn Jordan's remarkable journey, it is abundantly clear that the plumbing industry and IOPSA are immeasurably richer for his unwavering dedication and contributions. It is with the utmost honor and gratitude that we present Mervyn Jordan with a Lifetime Achievement award. This award is a testament to his enduring impact on our industry and organization, a legacy that will continue to inspire and guide us in the years to come.
In celebrating Mervyn's achievements, we also celebrate the values of dedication, unity, education, and passion that he exemplified throughout his career. His story serves as a reminder of the profound difference one person can make when they commit themselves wholeheartedly to a cause they love.
At a glittering gala event held in Mahikeng, North West, IOPSA and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) signed a pledge to construct efficient Local Governments through significant public-private partnerships. IOPSA was represented at this event by Faith Ratshilengo from Plumblink Mahikeng.
These partnerships aim to strengthen, empower, and build the capacity of the sector to effectively address the many challenges faced by local governments. In this regard IOPSA will continue with its efforts to improve the technical knowledge and skills of local Building Control Officers (BCO’s), Water Inspectors (WI) and other relevant municipal officials. Nearly 500 municipal officials have already been trained and the effects can already be seen. It is hoped that by improving the knowledge and skills of BCO’s they will be able to implement their by-laws more effectively especially in regard to unqualified people conducting plumbing works and non-compliant materials.
Further to these activities, SALGA has also identified the urgent need for professionalisation of the plumbers employed in local governments. Not only will this give long overdue recognition to the trade, which is so often neglected, but it will go a long way in ensuring that plumbers in the various municipalities keep up to date with the latest industry trends and ensure compliance with the various laws, regulations and standards.
The official handover of the pledge took place in Kempton Park on 28 September 2023 when Mrs Ledile Sebati, Director of Operations for SALGA handed over the signed pledge to Brendan Reynolds, Executive Director IOPSA. IOPSA would like to applaud SALGA for this bold step, and we look forward to a successful partnership.
The night of September 21st, 2023, was a night covered in elegance and celebration as the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA) hosted its prestigious Annual Plumbing Industry Awards at the magnificent Indaba Hotel. This evening was dedicated to honoring excellence, innovation, and outstanding achievements within the plumbing industry, paying tribute to those who have propelled the industry to new heights.
Kethiwe and Xolani: The Masters of Ceremonies
The evening began with a spirited welcome from our two charismatic MC’s, Kethiwe and Xolani. These young compliance auditors and qualified plumbers for IOPSA set the stage for an evening filled with excitement, camaraderie, and the recognition of exceptional contributions to the plumbing industry.
Ubuntu: The Unity of the Industry
Sello Mokawane, Vice President of IOPSA, delivered an inspiring address on the true essence of unity within the industry, embodying the spirit of Ubuntu. He reminded us that when we stand together as one, in all our diversity, the plumbing industry becomes an unbreakable force for good.
Resilience in the Face of Adversity
Brendan Reynolds took the stage to highlight the indomitable spirit of South Africans and the plumbing industry. In recent years, our nation has faced numerous challenges, from floods and droughts to the COVID-19 pandemic and riots. Despite these trials, both our nation and industry have emerged stronger and more resilient. Brendan's words of encouragement paved the way for the exciting awards ceremony that followed.
Recognition Awards: Honoring Lifelong Dedication
The evening's first set of awards, the Recognition Awards, were presented to individuals and organizations that have demonstrated unwavering dedication to the plumbing industry. Berlesell and Kreishandwerkerschaft were recognized for their steadfast commitment to the plumbing profession. Additionally, Michelle van Rensburg, Nick Joubert, and Kurt Vermaak were honored for their decades of service.
Kwa-Zulu Natal: Region of the Year
A moment of pride and celebration occurred as Kwa-Zulu Natal was named the Region of the Year for the second consecutive year. This achievement underscores the region's dedication, hard work and continuous commitment to their members and the industry.
Auditor of Excellence: Ushen Parsuram
The Auditor of the Year award was bestowed upon Ushen Parsuram, whose diligence and expertise have contributed significantly to maintaining the industry's integrity and compliance standards.
Feast for the Senses
During a delightful interlude, attendees were treated to a sumptuous buffet dinner, offering a delectable array of culinary delights. This break provided a perfect opportunity for networking and connecting with fellow industry professionals.
Champions of Education and Skill Development
The awards continued with categories that recognize the champions of education and skill development within the plumbing industry:
Industry Excellence Across Sectors
The awards ceremony continued to spotlight excellence across various sectors within the plumbing industry:
Gratitude and Acknowledgment
The IOPSA Annual Plumbing Industry Awards 2023 would not have been possible without the steadfast support of the plumbing industry and our generous sponsors. We extend heartfelt gratitude to all those who contributed to making this event a resounding success.
The IOPSA Annual Plumbing Industry Awards 2023 was an evening to cherish, where the plumbing community came together to celebrate its finest and set new standards for excellence. As we reflect on this remarkable event, we eagerly anticipate another year of growth, innovation, and unity within the plumbing industry. Congratulations to all the winners and nominees who continue to inspire us with their unwavering dedication and passion
“… the majority of “plumbers” are not qualified, the majority of materials being used are non-compliant, the majority of plumbing installations are non-compliant, the municipalities are not able to control the situation on their own and the informal, non-compliant, industry is slowly killing the formal trained and qualified plumbers. To say that the situation is dire would be a gross understatement. It is small wonder that South Africa finds itself in the midst of a growing water, sanitation and health crisis.”
With the recent outbreak of cholera in several regions of South Africa the public has, possibly for the 1st time, become aware that water borne diseases are not just a phenomenon in far flung rural areas. It is extremely sad that it has taken the deaths of so many people to raise the subject with the public and to galvanise authorities into action. The media and most authorities have raised the important issues of the treatment of both wastewater and potable water as being key in protecting public health. These are certainly important and cannot be ignored, but there is another key factor which has largely been ignored in most of the discussions and debates: the state of the plumbing industry.
Whilst building dams, bulk water supply lines, water treatment plants and wastewater treatment works are critical infrastructure which any country needs to function. People often forget that plumbing forms a crucial part of these systems. Potable water needs to get from these big infrastructure projects into homes and businesses, wastewater needs to be disposed of safely and directed to treatment plants and rainwater needs to be disposed of correctly. If this is not done properly the whole system becomes effectively useless. A potable water treatment plant becomes useless if the water is contaminated or lost through leaks before it even gets to homes, a wastewater treatment plant is useless if the sewerage never even gets to it, if large volumes of rainwater enter sewer systems it damages treatment plants and causes huge spillages of raw sewage, not to mention flooding. Getting these systems installed correctly is the role of the plumber.
When most people think of plumbers, they think of someone who repairs a tap or geyser or unblocks a drain but there is much more going on behind the scenes. For these systems to work properly they must be installed, connected, and repaired in particular ways, using the correct material to function properly. If not, they end up causing damages and putting the health of the public at risk. So, what is the state of this important industry? To understand what is happening one needs to look at the research. Sadly, there isn’t a huge amount available but below are the highlights from some of the available research.
So, to summarise, the majority of “plumbers” are not qualified, the majority of materials being used are non-compliant, the majority of plumbing installations are non-compliant, the municipalities are not able to control the situation on their own and the informal, non-compliant, industry is slowly killing the formal trained and qualified plumbers. To say that the situation is dire would be a gross understatement. It is small wonder that South Africa finds itself in the midst of a growing water, sanitation and health crisis.
The obvious next question would be “what is being done about it?” Unfortunately, the answer is not straight forward. On the legislative side there are various regulations and standards which are being worked on. Sadly, most of these have been stuck in bureaucratic limbo for years, it seems that there is little political will to get them finalised and implemented. The power to enforce the current and future legislation lies firmly in the hands of local government. As most South Africans know, the majority of municipalities are facing very serious challenges. With the exception of a handful of metros, it is highly doubtful that municipalities will have the funds, technical capacity or political will to reverse the current state of affairs.
In the face of this dire situation, IOPSA, the Plumbing Industry Registration Board (PIRB), SA Women in Plumbing (SAWIP), Plumbers Business Forum (PBF) and the Building Construction and Allied Workers Union (BCAWU) have come together to present a plan which would assist greatly. Collectively, these organisations represent the vast majority of formal businesses and workers in the plumbing industry. The idea would require qualified plumbers to register with PIRB, the registered professional body for plumbers, and require the issuing of a certificate of compliance for all plumbing work. Regular proactive auditing is conducted on the plumbers’ work, ensuring compliance, safety, ethics and recourse for the public. Far from impinging on local authorities’ powers, this system will go a long way in assisting them to enforce regulations and protect vital infrastructure and public health. The system has been in operation on a voluntary basis for more than a decade and is working extremely well. Thousands of qualified plumbers are already registered and are subjecting themselves to oversight in the best interests of the industry and public health and safety. What is needed now is the support of government and the broader public.
The situation is indeed dire and if urgent action is not taken very soon, we could see the collapse of a critical trade in South Africa. We do not have the luxury of time and endless debate, for the sake of our nation we need to take action now.
South African body corporates and property owners are not doing proper due diligence when appointing service providers and are, therefore, increasingly exposing themselves to potential criminal and civil action. In many instances of late, insurance companies have rejected claims and even endorsed policies due to non-compliant installations.
Service providers are predominantly being appointed based on the price of their services, with scant regard given to their qualifications, skills and experience to perform the work that they are appointed to do. This potentially places the health and safety of occupants of buildings and entire communities at risk. These risks are especially high when dealing with trades such as electrical wiring and plumbing where sub-standard workmanship can lead to injury and even death.
Many body corporates and property owners do not know that they are responsible for injuries and fatalities caused by defective workmanship that has been performed by appointed service providers on their properties.
“For example, if an incorrectly installed plumbing system on your premises causes harm to others, criminal and civil action can be taken against you. This is because you created the hazard by appointing the unqualified service provider who performed the sub-standard work in the first place. There seems to be a lot of confusion around the difference between public and professional liability among body corporates. Public liability refers to claims by members of public for injury, illness, or damage. This is opposed to claims by property owners or tenants for professional mistakes made or negligence by their service providers. There is a significant difference between professional and public indemnity. Professional indemnity does not mitigate your criminal and civil liability in the event of an incident on your premises that causes injury, death or damage to property,” Chris Coetzee, Owner of OHSS Consulting, says.
Coetzee is an occupational health and safety (OH&S) expert. He is a Lead Auditor who holds qualifications in ISO 9000, ISO 14 000 and ISO 45 001 and is currently completing his International Diploma in International Occupational Health & Safety Management.
The OHSS Consulting team has been working closely with the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA) since 2017 to significantly raise OH&S protocol across its large membership.
Moreover, the company is working with IOPSA to educate body corporates and property owners as to the importance of always using qualified plumbers and the significant risk associated with non-compliant plumbing workmanship.
This is especially important in these challenging economic conditions in which body corporates are tempted to cut costs.
Another concern is that there is very seldom a clear budget set aside for the appointment of service providers. This is especially in cases where there is uncertainty among body corporates, homeowners, lessees or sub-lessees as to who is responsible for installing, repairing, replacing or maintaining plumbing. Therefore, service providers are appointed haphazardly and mainly based on who is able to provide their services at the most affordable rate when emergency plumbing work is required. In many instances, service providers who are not qualified to install, repair, replace or maintain plumbing installations are appointed. With very little in way of qualification, skills and experience, they can offer their services at very low rates. The fees of licensed plumbers include their qualifications, as well as the training that they invest in their staff to upgrade, hone or refine their skills and the equipment and materials that they use to ensure compliant plumbing workmanship. Not to mention the use of compliant products. This is in addition to the investment that they make into their own OH&S protocols, which is very rarely taken into consideration by body corporates. It is treated as something separate – something that is simply done for just the sake of it as opposed to an important part of business.
All of these efforts are important to ensure the sustainability of the South African plumbing industry. The use of unlicensed service providers, thus, also threatens the wellbeing of the local plumbing industry.
Coetzee believes that body corporates and property owners would be more mindful when appointing plumbers if they were aware of the risks associated with substandard plumbing workmanship and the extent of their liability should something go wrong.
Herman Strauss, Director of SA Watermark, concurs. SA Watermark is a register of plumbing components that comply with the relevant South African National Standard (SANS) standards. It provides IOPSA’s members with a quick means of ensuring that the products or materials that they use are compliant and, therefore, fit-for-purpose.
According to Strauss, the majority of property owners do not understand plumbing. Many are under the impression that it is a simple trade with very little that can go wrong, other than water losses due to a leak and consequent increase in water bills, although an important consideration in a water-stressed country such as South Africa.
“The question that is frequently asked by owners of property is: if incorrect plumbing is so dangerous, why have we not had more incidents that have resulted in a loss of life or serious injury? I have a fairly straightforward answer: we have good plumbing standards in place and
an industry that is among the best in the world. This has helped to safeguard occupants of buildings and the general public. Therefore, there have only been isolated incidents involving plumbing installations thus far. However, with the increase in the number of unqualified plumbers operating in the country, we are starting to see more incidences. In fact, recently we have become aware of several instances where insurance companies have rejected claims and even endorsed policies. This is a clear indication that insurers have recognised the significant risks of non-compliant plumbing installations and are taking very strong steps to mitigate against it,” Strauss says.
The risks associated with non-compliant plumbing can be severe. For example, a hot water system that has been installed incorrectly, can explode. Incorrect water temperatures can promote the growth of bacteria in plumbing installations that cause illness. It can also scald, with vulnerable individuals most at risk. Another hazard of substandard workmanship that is often overlooked by body corporates is the potential of sewer gases to leak from a faulty plumbing system into a building, potentially poisoning occupants. Meanwhile, fire hydrants and hoses that have been incorrectly located and with insufficient water pressure cannot be used effectively to quell a fire on a property. Poor plumbing workmanship is seldom practical or efficient.
Like Coetzee, he reminds that the onus lies with property owners to ensure that their plumbing is fit-for-purpose. If they knowingly use the services of un-qualified plumbers, they could very well be held liable for loss of life or injury, or damage to property that occurs on their premises due to non-compliant plumbing workmanship, irrespective of whether they are aware of relevant laws or not. In order to mitigate such risks, property owners must ensure that they only use the services of suitably qualified professionals.
However, it is the responsibility of all plumbers to ensure that they perform their duties according to clients’ expectations. This is also in line with the requirements of the Consumer Protection Act, which qualified plumbers take very seriously, in addition to the standards, regulations and protocols that regulate this trade.
A qualified plumber has both the hand skills and knowledge of the applicable SANS standards, protocols and plumbing legislation to install, maintain, replace or repair plumbing systems correctly as required by their clients.
Dealing with a plumber that is registered with the professional body for plumbers, the Plumbing Industry Registration Board (PIRB) is a quick and efficient way for body corporates to ensure that they have appointed a competent service provider. All IOPSA members are registered with PIRB and are, therefore, able to deliver services according to the many standards, regulations and protocols that govern this industry to safeguard building occupants, communities and public and private property.
In keeping with IOPSA’s objective of engaging with local authorities, they recently met with Ekurhuleni.
The Building Control Officers (BCO) of Ekurhuleni had a training session with IOPSA in the Council Chambers at Edenvale.
Approx. 51 BCOs attended and Gerrie Botha presented the standards and by-laws for discussion. He reinforced that the BCO was vested with great power through these to enforce both compliance and competent people doing the work. In this case it was the qualified plumber. In the case of unqualified people doing plumbing work, the BCO has the power to have him/her removed from site, or preferably not even get as far as the site. The latter would be in discussion with the property owner at the planning stage.
Gerrie emphasised that every BCO must have a set of the compulsory standards. Failure to have this set leaves the BCO open to criticism and besides, it is part of the tools of the BCO profession. He warned of the dangers of using the internet as a point of reference as these are opinions and not the actual standards available only from SABS.
To answer the question of how one knows whether the plumber is qualified or not, Gerrie showed the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) certificate, which is the only certified proof of qualification for a plumber. He did confirm that there are still those holding the original qualification (Red Seal) which was acceptable. More to the point was the ‘plumber’ that had been doing plumbing for several years, without a qualification. While this was wrong and against the law, the aim should be to encourage such people to upgrade to a fully qualified plumber through several options available to them, including funding in some cases.
It was noted that IOPSA could offer to municipalities, at no charge for the first year, verification that the plumber is indeed qualified. A fast and efficient service for BCOs.
IOPSA also confirmed that as an organisation it does not issue a qualification certificate such as is required in the Skills Act. It will provide a certificate for courses/webinars they run which will clearly identify the name of the course and dates.
Executive director, Brendan Reynolds, reinforced that IOPSA was available to support and engage with the BCOs should they require assistance.
Reference was made to the PIRB, a voluntary registration and inspection/audit body, whereby a plumber can register and issue a Certificate of Compliance (COC) for a variety of plumbing jobs, which is left in the hands of the property owner. More details on PIRB can be found on www.pirb.co.za. Regarding the audit part of the PIRB mandate, this has been placed in the hands of IOPSA. Such an auditor will clearly identify themselves with an identity card as 5% of submitted COCs are audited.
Plumbing Africa had a brief chat with Thapelo Mogatusi, Interim Chief Building Control Officer for Ekurhuleni, who is a qualified architect.
He has 47 Building Control Officers for the area that covers some 1 975 square kilometres.
Mogatusi is very keen to encourage skills development and compliance. Such a focus he added was to the benefit of all parties including the Metro itself which would benefit financially as well as providing excellent service delivery – which benefits the public at large.
Stakeholder engagement was critical and he would work to build this up in the Metro.
In other words, “The BCO offers value in all aspects.”
Sadly, time was against us and Plumbing Africa and Mogatusi would meet for a more detailed interview.
Time was up for Plumbing Africa as well so we could not enjoy training manager Steve Van Zyl’s talk, but by the look of all the plumbing fittings around him the BCOs were about to enjoy examples of compliance and non-compliance.
It is just a matter of time before South Africa experiences a very serious outbreak of cholera and other waterborne pathogens, such as salmonella, typhoid and hepatitis.
This is considering the critical state of the country’s waterborne sanitation system, which is being exacerbated by widespread illegal plumbing practices.
“When assessing the risk of waterborne disease in the country, the focus is usually on the lack of sanitation and water infrastructure in the rural areas, townships and informal settlements. While this may have been the cause of previous and the more recent outbreaks of cholera, illegal plumbing practices in the urban areas have also become a significant contributor to the onset of an imminent crisis. Over the years, there has been a marked increase in the number of illegal interconnections of sewer and rainwater systems across the country. This practice is a major contributor to the rapid deterioration of our waterborne sanitation system and urban water cycle, placing whole communities at risk of exposure to waterborne pathogens,” Steve van Zyl, National Technical Manager of the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA), says.
IOPSA members are qualified plumbers. They will, therefore, never connect rainwater gutters and gullies to stormwater drainage systems and will advise property owners against this practice when asked to assist them to do so or when they see these types of installations on premises. Many property owners of all sizes do not know that it is illegal to discharge stormwater into the sewer system, although this is not an excuse for breaking the law. In other instances, property owners deliberately choose to ignore warnings against the release of stormwater into the sewer system. They are aided by unqualified plumbers who do not know better or unscrupulous operators.
Illegal house downpipe collection to municipal sewers is among the lead causes of stormwater inflows and groundwater infiltration into sewers in South Africa. It overwhelms entire waterborne sanitation systems, spanning collection and conveyance of sewage through to the actual wastewater treatment component. These were never designed to handle stormwater – and certainly not at the quantities that are currently being dispensed in sewers from the many roofs of houses in South African suburbs. They are already buckling under the strain of a significant growth in demand for sanitation services as cities continue to grow at an unprecedented rate. Certainly, lack of maintenance; inadequate planning and underinvestment in services delivery infrastructure; and poorly constructed systems are compounding the problem.
During heavy rainfall, there are overflows and sewage spills from sewer pipes that are filled beyond capacity and from overwhelmed sewage pumpstations. WWTPs are also flooded, and the effectiveness of the biological process used to treat wastewater vastly reduced. This, ultimately, leads to higher pollution loads being discharged into adjacent river ecosystems.
Eradicating illegal house downpipe connections to municipal sewers will help to alleviate pressure on the country’s waterborne sewage system.
Poor enforcement of plumbing standards and regulations by authorities has provided an ideal environment in which inexperienced plumbers can operate without fear of repercussion, or for property owners to flout the rule of law.
Notably, regulating the industry is also one of the quickest and most cost-effective ways of making an impact. This is compared to upgrading the capacity of existing systems and constructing new infrastructure which involves long lead times and is costly, bearing in mind stretched municipal resources.
The recent Green Drop report, the latest since 2013, reveals the true extent of the sanitation challenge that the country is facing. It has gone from bad to worse, with the need to intervene having never been more urgent.
The report shows that sewage treatment capacity has declined even further since 2013. This has resulted in the release of larger volumes of wastewater of a significantly poorer quality into the environment over the past 10 years.
Of South Africa’s more than 800 municipal WWTPs, almost half obtained a score of 30% or less for their performance. This means that they are in a critical state, while the average Green Drop score across all provinces was 50%. Therefore, half of the country’s raw sewage and industrial waste is not being treated to the required standards. To obtain a Green Drop Certification, WWTPs need to obtain a score of at least 90%.
Meanwhile, aged, as well as poorly maintained and constructed sewer systems are barely coping with the increased demand for sanitation services. This is evidenced by vastly diminished sewer collection and conveyance levels, with large volumes of sewage being discharged into the environment before it even reaches the WWTPs.
“Certainly, the lack appropriate sanitation and drinking water in the rural areas, informal settlements and townships are pressing issues that must receive urgent attention. This is considering the large role that these have already played in cholera outbreaks in the country, including the recent cases from Gauteng. However, in South Africa, waterborne disease is no longer only a ‘infectious disease of poverty’ as it is described in developed countries of the world. It potentially impacts South Africans of all income levels. This real risk of a widespread outbreak of waterborne diseases is also being heightened by the decisions that are being made by suburban dwellers who are far removed from the townships, informal settlements and rural areas,” Van Zyl concludes.
Since 2015, South Africa has witnessed the emergence of a new kind of criminality in the form of organized groups targeting the construction sector under the banner of ‘radical economic transformation’. Dubbed the ‘construction mafia’ in the media,1 these people have organized themselves into groups known as ‘local business forums’ and invaded construction sites across the country, demanding money or a stake in development projects in what can arguably be described as systemic extortion.
While no country is immune to systemic extortion from criminal groups, the extent and impact of the activity depend on the abilities of state governance to address extortion economies as they arise.3 In South Africa, the activities of the so-called construction mafia have been fuelled by the weak response from the state, allowing them to expand their activities. In 2019, at least 183 infrastructure and construction projects worth more that R63 billion had been affected by these disruptions across the country.4 Since then, invasions have continued at construction sites across South Africa.
In this context, this report by the GI-TOC focuses on understanding how these groups, widely referred to as the construction mafia, operate, their involvement in systemic extortion, and the long-term implications for the construction industry in South Africa and the country as a whole.
Non-sewered sanitation (NSS) technologies are not only a feasible solution for poor areas of the country that lack basic services. It is illogical that South African homes in the urban areas use up to 12l of potable water just to flush their toilets. This is considering South Africa’s severe water crisis, with many areas of the country already experiencing shortages due to severe droughts. The challenge is being compounded by dilapidated infrastructure, mismanagement and load-shedding.
Conventional toilets are extremely water intensive contributing to about 30% of a household’s total water consumption. Certainly, water-saving toilets play an important role in reducing the water footprint of homes and buildings. Some of these technologies consume up to 20% less water than traditional flush toilets. However, with about 63% of the population using flushing toilets, Sello Mokawane, Vice-President of the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA), says that these technologies are insufficient intervention.
“More will need to be done considering the sheer extent of the water and sanitation challenges with which we grapple. While water shortages are becoming a common occurrence in the urban nodes, many South African citizens who live in the rural areas and informal settlements have had to do without this basic human right for many years. It has long been their norm, while quality drinking water is being flushed down the toilet in the middle- and high-income areas. At the same time, our existing sanitation infrastructure is buckling under the strain of rapid urbanisation and development, compounded by mismanagement of this infrastructure. It is a concern that more than 330 of our 852 wastewater-treatment works (WWTWs) are in a critical state. This is happening while many of the rural areas and informal settlements have never had access to sanitation infrastructure that distances people from harmful pathogens and bacteria. Both situations also compromise the quality of our clean water resources. Only 54% of the population can access clean drinking water and about 33% of South Africans do not have sanitation services for the safe handling and management of waste. Considering this growing backlog, it is questionable whether we will meet Sustainable Development Goal 6, which aims to provide access to quality water and sanitation to all South Africans by 2030. SDG 6 is also in line with
Vision 2030 of the National Development Plan and Medium-Term Strategic Framework Outcome Targets, as well as a driver of the National Water & Sanitation Master Plan. NSS technologies can be implemented quicker and more cost-effectively than large, centralised systems and are, therefore, a way of achieving our water and sanitation goals,” Mokawane says.
IOPSA members are increasingly expanding their skills to service the growing “green” plumbing market. A case in point is the role that they are playing in helping property owners to safely use greywater for applications such as flushing toilets. They are also equipped with the skills that are needed to install, maintain and repair rainwater harvesting systems. These significantly reduce water footprints of houses and buildings, especially when rainwater is used for water-intensive toilet flushing purposes.
Certainly, IOPSA members are also knowledgeable in the installation, repair and maintenance of non-waterborne sanitation systems. Their skills and experience encompass all the technologies that are currently being used in the country, such as pit latrines, as well as Ventilated Improved Pit and Ventilated Improved Double Pit Toilets. This is in addition to short-cycle alternating double-pit toilets; pour flush latrines; and urine diverting dry toilets. If properly installed, these technologies provide an affordable and practical solution for rural and peri-rural areas where conventional water-borne sanitation systems are not feasible. Certainly, there has also been a growing interest in the technology in urban areas where municipal services are deteriorating at an alarming rate. Property owners are, thus, increasingly exploring ways of reducing their reliance on municipal supplies.
IOPSA members are trained to install, maintain and repair these technologies according to SANS 10400-Part Q. This national standard ensures the healthy handling and treatment of effluent for non-waterborne sewage systems.
However, new and more efficient NSS systems are being introduced to the country that bridge the huge divide that currently exists between conventional pit latrines and waterborne sewage solutions. They are also more socially acceptable alternatives to existing non-waterborne sewage systems. This should help to drive their uptake in the urban areas.
Enterprising plumbers have, therefore, already familiarised themselves with the new SANS 30500 standard which enables the testing and validation of these next-generation NSS technologies.
Notably, IOPSA recently participated in two field studies involving NSS systems. Plumbing students were also invited to participate to expose them to these exciting new “green” plumbing technologies.
The stellar work in mainstreaming these technologies is being driven by the Water Research Commission’s Sanitation Transformational Initiative.
It is being supported by government through impressive legal and policy frameworks. A case in point is the national sanitation policy which focuses on the entire sanitation value chain. In doing so, it recognises the economic value of sanitation and emphasis is given to both urban and rural sanitation, as well as on- and off-site systems.
The previous Minister of Water and Sanitation, Nomvula Mokonyane, was very outspoken about the applicability of this technology in the urban areas. She said that government needed to “begin challenging the property development sector through regulation and licensing to invest in developing properties less reliant on water for sanitation”. This would “ensure that we introduce alternative solutions to low-, middle- and high-income areas”.
These NSS systems are prefabricated integrated treatment units. They comprise a toilet at the front end and a treatment facility at the backend. They collect, convey and fully treat the waste that is introduced to the system. Therefore, they are not connected to any sewer or drainage network that sends sewerage to a wastewater-treatment works.
An example of such technology is a toilet that uses a full water cycling process to treat sewage. A rainwater collecting system can also replenish the water to the processor for treatment before it is recycled to the storage tank for flushing. Blackwater from the toilet is pumped up to the sewage processor for treatment and then recycled to the storage tank for flushing. The core of the technology is a sophisticated biofilm membrane reactor treatment process. It produces a stable and clean effluent that is further disinfected to ensure that it is safe for reuse.
“I do believe that these systems will gradually become the norm as opposed to the alternative. This is considering the ease at which they can be implemented and their cost-efficiency versus large, centralised sanitation infrastructure. Between 2015 and 2030, it is estimated that 18,3-million South Africans will require basic sanitation services to end open defecation. This calls for a US$370-million annual investment into sanitation infrastructure. Add to this the need to safely manage faecal sludge from all sources, including WWTWs, which requires a further annual US$970-million investment. In 2019/2020, South Africa only invested R17,5-billion into sanitation, which was nowhere near enough to address existing backlogs and new services. It is a significant challenge that requires ‘out of box’ thinking with the diverse skills and experience of the plumbing fraternity harnessed as part of the solution,” Mokawane concludes.
* Please note that all articles are dated and content was valid at the time of publication.
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