In the upcoming municipal elections South African citizens will elect representatives for district, metropolitan and local municipal councils across the country’s nine provinces.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) is the largest opposition party in South Africa. It won a majority in 19 municipalities in the 2016 municipal elections and governs South Africa’s legislative capital of Cape Town.
The DA’s election manifesto is titled: “A record of action, and a promise of more.” In this report we fact-check key claims the party made about clean audits, load-shedding, water loss and sewage systems.
Claim: “For the 2019/20 financial year, 18 of the Western Cape’s 30 municipalities were awarded clean audits and they were all governed by the DA.”
Verdict: Mostly Correct
In support of this claim DA head of policy Gwen Ngwenya sent us a Facebook video shared by Western Cape provincial government premier Alan Winde on 29 July 2021.
The Western Cape is one of nine provinces in South Africa and the only one governed by the DA.
Text in the video reads: “27/30 (90%) of municipalities in the Western Cape have received clean or unqualified audits. 18 of the municipalities received clean audits.”
The caption to the video said the statistics were from the Auditor-General of South Africa (AGSA) for the 2019/20 financial year, which ran from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020.
But AGSA senior manager of media relations and communications, Africa Boso, told us that during this period “the Western Cape had 19 municipalities with clean audits”.
An institution gets a clean audit when its “financial statements are unqualified with no material audit findings in its reporting on predetermined objectives” and when it complies with legislation, said Boso.
Of the 19 Western Cape municipalities with clean audits, the DA’s website states that 17 are currently governed by the DA. However, the party was ousted from control in Central Karoo District and Prince Albert shortly after the 2019/20 financial year ended.
Claim: “If you live in DA-run Cape Town, you already experience fewer blackouts. The Steenbras Hydro-electrical Power Scheme has reduced load shedding times compared to municipalities not run by the DA.”
Cape Town is a city and port in the Western Cape province. Upper Steenbras dam in Cape Town has a 160 megawatt hydro-pump station with four turbines that is used to generate electricity.
Ngwenya sent us a link to the City of Cape Town’s website which says that the Steenbras pump station “has successfully offset load-shedding in Cape Town during the lower stages, e.g. stages 1 and 2, for most City-supplied residents”.
“Most City customers will likely continue to be protected from stage 1 and 2 of Eskom’s load-shedding.”
The city’s director of energy generation and distribution and energy and climate change directorate, Dr Les Rencontré, confirmed this: “Where possible the city uses its own generation to generate in lieu of load-shedding for the benefit of customers in the city’s area of supply.”
Cape Town avoided one stage of load shedding for four hours in July 2021 and 97 hours in June 2021 because of the Steenbras power station, said Rencontré.
But Chris Yelland, an energy analyst at electricity and energy consultancy firm EE Business Intelligence, has criticised the DA for making this claim.
“I really resent the electioneering and party politicization of electricity through the false and misleading messaging,” Yelland tweeted in response to a video shared on Twitter of DA national leader John Steenhuisen making a similar statement.
“Steenbras pumped storage scheme has been operating since 1979. Its conception, design, construction & operation has nothing to do with the DA,” Yelland said in a second tweet.
Prof Anton Eberhard, director of the power futures lab at University of Cape Town's Graduate School of Business, agreed with Yelland but added that “the City of Cape Town, under the DA, has recently refurbished the turbines and undertaken necessary maintenance to keep this plant going”.
Claim: South Africa’s national average water loss is 37%.
The DA compared this statistic to water loss in the Drakenstein municipality which it said was “one of the lowest in South Africa” at 16.92%.
Drakenstein municipality is DA-run and within the Cape Winelands district municipality, northeast of Cape Town.
DA head of policy Gwen Ngwenya referred us to the Drakenstein municipality 2019/2020 annual report which does record that 16.92% of water was lost during this period.
But we could not find any data to verify that this is one of the lowest municipal averages of water loss. Although a parliamentary response gave the volume of loss per municipality, it did not give the percentage of loss.
Most recent data puts the average at 41%
But does South Africa’s average water loss stand at 37%? Ngwenya said the figure came from a “widely cited 2012 report”.
This report studied water loss at 132 out of 237 municipalities in South Africa, and was submitted to the Water Research Commission by water engineering firm WRP.
It found that the municipal “non-revenue water” average was 36.8%, or 37%. “Non-revenue water” is water that is lost. Municipalities don’t generate revenue from it.
But in 2017 Africa Check found that there was no conclusive data on how much water South African municipalities lost.
According to more recent information presented in parliament in 2019 by the ministry of human settlements, water and sanitation, the national average for non-revenue water was 41% in 2017. This was the equivalent of R9.9 billion. The information presented in parliament came from 213 municipalities.
The department of water and sanitation did not respond to our request for information.
Claim: “South Africa’s municipal sewerage system is collapsing. Of the 824 treatment plants, approximately 60 release clean water.”
Verdict: Mostly Correct
The DA’s Ngwenya told Africa Check that the figures have been “cited by a variety of sources” including in articles by media outlets Business Day and Mail & Guardian, and a legal brief.
The statistic comes from a department of water and sanitation 2014 green drop process report. This report measured the performance of waste water service organisations.
But these figures are for 2013. Since then, the department has not released a green drop report to the public, although the 2016/17 results were released to municipalities. We asked the department for this report but have had no response.
The department was reprimanded in October 2018 by parliament’s portfolio committee on water and sanitation for its “laxity” in publishing reports.
“It is unacceptable that the 2016 reports are still in draft stage in 2018. We are of the view that department officials are getting paid for doing nothing,” said committee chairperson Mlungisi Johnson.
In July 2021 the department announced the reinstatement of the green drop programmes. It plans to conduct a full audit in 2021.
Researched by Tarryn Jane Roy, Africa Check