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Water Sector Policy Database (WSPD)

Policy Detail Information

Open Policy Document Open Policy Document
This document has been opened: 2 699 times to date.
Date Of Release: 01 Mar 2009
Date Of Expected Review: 01 Mar 2013
Date Last Updated: 20 Apr 2009
Policy Type: Strategies and Guidelines
Policy Level: National
Department: Department of Water Affairs: Water Services Policy and Strategy
Contact Name: Mbentse Bekubuhle / Ndlovu Siboniso
Phone Number: 012 336 7451 / 336 7391
Fax Number: 012 336 6560
Email: /
Directorate: Water Services Policy & Strategy
Contact Name: Ngobeni Selina
Phone Number: (012) 336 8129
Fax Number: (012) 336 6560
Topics covered:
WS/WR Policies and Strategies
Policy Precis:

The right of access to a basic level of sanitation service is enshrined in the Constitution of South Africa (Act 108 of 1996). Municipalities have an obligation to ensure that poor households are not denied access to basic services due to their inability to pay. However, Municipalities are faced with a challenge of balancing financial resource allocation to the eradication of basic sanitation infrastructure backlog by 2010 and provision of free basic sanitation services to the poor. It is with this in mind that DWAF has developed the Free Basic Sanitation Implementation Strategy. DWAF has acknowledged that given the challenges facing WSA’s the household sanitation targets of the Strategic Framework for Water Services may not be met by 2010. In lieu of this, a revised target has been set for 2014 whereby all people in SA must have access to a functioning basic sanitation facility. The 2014 target is inline with the Department of Housing target that all South African’s should have access to a house by 2014. The aim of the Free Basic Sanitation Implementation Strategy is to guide Water Service Authorities in providing all citizens with free basic sanitation by 2014.

The strategy is informed by the vision of sanitation for all. For the purposes of the strategy a basic sanitation service is defined as the provision of a basic sanitation facility which is easily accessible to a household, the sustainable operation of the facility, including the safe removal of human waste and wastewater from the premises where this is appropriate and necessary, and the communication of good sanitation, hygiene and related practices. Although there is a broader policy commitment by government to extend the free basic services to all households the policy is largely aimed at poor households for whom free basic services represent a significant poverty alleviation measure.

The strategy adopts the principles that national guidelines should be implemented with local choice. This is aimed at encouraging municipalities to be flexible in the implementation of the strategy locally, to ensure its long-term success. It is also acknowledged that community participation is a key foundation for the sustainable choice of sanitation facilities.

The concept of `free basic sanitation` is a controversial issue as international experience generally confirms that sanitation is a service, which, more than any other, requires the engagement of the consumer. This engagement, and the associated benefit to health which improved sanitation brings, is best achieved if the consumer makes a contribution to the service. However, free basic sanitation means that consumers get the service without making contributions in cash or in kind with the exclusion of certain `on site` components of the facility.

While it remains national policy to provide basic sanitation free to the poor, this is constrained by the financial viability of the water services authorities that are responsible for implementing this policy. In such cases the authority may place a cap on its free basic sanitation grant and require the beneficiaries to contribute in cash or kind however people should not receive sanitation below the minimum basic level. This should be clearly stipulated in the Free Basic Sanitation Policy of the water services authority.

Following the principles expressed in the Basic Household Sanitation White Paper it is essential for households to be key participants in the decision making process, both to ensure that service level decisions are made properly and to ensure that the broader health benefits associated with the provision of sanitation are realised. Water Service Authorities must ensure that a demand responsive approach in that consumers are given service level choices with the knowledge of what the service levels cost; all tariff structures must take cognisance of free basic services and consumers must be informed of the health related aspects of sanitation which will require intensive communication processes.

The strategy includes comparative costing of the various sanitation facility options. The technology choice must ensure consumer demand, which implies acceptance of the service level and willingness to pay the tariff, associated with that service level; viability from the point of view of the water services authority and provider, understanding of the environmental impacts of the sanitation choice and the technical feasibility of the facility

Establishing a tariff policy, which provides for free basic sanitation, is central to the success of arrangements to provide a free service effectively. It allows income to be raised from those who are not eligible to get the service free which is often the main source of income into the sanitation account. In circumstances where the cost of providing the service free to the poor is greater than the subsidy amount received from the water services authority, part of the income received fro

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