Briefing note for the South Africa/Uganda Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) and the Joint Commission for Cooperation (JCC)

1. Purpose

Uganda-SA signing ceremony, November 2012.

1.1 To provide a briefing note with respect to environment and water resource management in preparation for the South Africa/ Uganda Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) and the Joint Commission for Cooperation (JCC) taking place in Pretoria, 8 – 9 November 2012.

2. Background and Discussion

2.1 Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) proposed to her Ugandan counterpart to host the inaugural session of the SA-Uganda JCC. She proposed that the JCC be held in South Africa, Pretoria on 21 August 2012. Subsequent to that, DIRCO, through the Uganda Desk, requested the Ugandan senior officials that the JCC should be preceded by the SOM on 20 August 2012. However, the JCC was subsequently postponed to 8 – 9 November 2012.

2.2 In an effort to formalize and strengthen the existing relations between South Africa and Uganda, Minister, you met with your Ugandan counterpart, Minister Maria Mutagamba on 21 January 2011. The Ministerial Bilateral meeting was held at Sedibeng, Pretoria. The discussions focused on general areas of cooperation in the field of water and environmental resources between the two countries.

2.3 Some potential environmental issues/problems relevant to Uganda are the following:

  • Draining of wetlands for agricultural purposes;
  • Deforestation;
  • Overgrazing;
  • Soil Erosion;

2.4 Areas of Cooperation related to Environment with South Africa:

  • Water hyacinth infestation of Lake Victoria;
  • Environmental pollution - particularly urban pollution;
  • Environmental Impact Assessment;
  • Environmental Policy & Legislation e.g. EMFs and SEAs;
  • Environmental Compliance and Enforcement;   
  • Environmental Advocacy and Awareness;
  • Meteorology Monitoring;
  • Atmospheric Air Pollution Monitoring (global stations and national stations);
  • Climate Change – adaptation planning and Disaster Risk Management;
  • Biodiversity management;
  • Wetland rehabilitation and management under the Ramsar Convention.
Deaprtment of Water and Environmental Affairs, Minister Edna Molewa and Department of International Relations and cooperations, Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane during the signing ceremony.

2.5 Furthermore, Uganda has expressed interest in collaborating on climate change with South Africa, particularly in the context of post-COP15 and COP16 developments as well as the African climate change processes. In addition, both Uganda and South Africa are represented on the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC), which is spearheading climate change programmes on the continent under the auspices of the African Union. 

2.6 The Ugandan Ministry has a   Climate Change Unit that has been in existence for about one year; and it is proposed vulnerability from a climate change perspective as an area of possible cooperation, with specific focus on adaptation issues relating to water management.

2.7 Areas of Cooperation related to water with South Africa:

  • Learning and sharing of success stories on SA’s Water for Growth and Development;
  • Water for production;  
  • Transfer / pumping of water from large river systems;
  • Construction of large dams;
  • Rainwater Harvesting - collapsing of Ugandan rainwater tanks necessitates the exploration of new technologies in this regard;
  • Ugandan Ministry has a vision to ensure that all Ugandan schools have standard sanitation systems, which will require a coordinated effort from key water sector role-players in Uganda with respect to new technologies;
  • Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) has not yet taken off in Uganda, and needs to better understood in terms of water quantity and water resource quality;
  • Uganda and SA to synergize IWRM initiatives, particularly on matters relating to water pricing and water pollution control measures; especially given the activities taking place upstream and downstream of the Nile basin;
  • SADC Protocol on Shared Watercourses has also been identified as a tool to be considered through cooperation;
  • From an institutional perspective, catchments management approaches in SA context would also be an area of possible cooperation.

2.8 The objective of the proposed visit was to engage with counterparts in Uganda as there has been limited interaction since the Ugandan State Visit in January 2011. A technical workshop to be attended by SA Water and Environment technical experts and senior officials was planned for some time during 2011 to be held in Uganda to:

  • Share knowledge and experience as well as exchange information on the  proposed areas;
  • Draw up a clear Plan of Action that provides a breakdown of short, medium and long-term areas of cooperation.

2.9 The two departments (DEA and DWA) saw this visit as an important opportunity to meet with their Uganda counterparts to realize the objectives of the intended collaboration between the two countries, which include:  

  • Exchange information on the proposed areas of collaboration;
  • Finalize the draft agreement on areas of Water and Environment;
  • Draw up a clear Plan of Action that provides a breakdown of short, medium and long-term areas of cooperation.

However, the workshop that finally took place on 23 – 25 November 2012 was only attended by Department of Environmental Affairs. The following issues were discussed:

  • Strengthening water resource management - Uganda is interested in development of tools for water allocation and support for catchment management and trans-boundary water resources. Uganda also has skills which South Africa can learn from, on trans-boundary negotiations. They are leading the basin commission for the Nile River as well as the Lake Victoria Initiative. The challenges they are faced with are capacity, analytical tools for assessing water volumes and benefit-sharing approaches for both basins.
  • Water Quality Management – this includes pollution control/mitigation measures to address degraded water resources. Uganda also raised a concern of shortage of laboratories to obtain quality data from reliable systems. They have an urgent need to monitor pollution trends using quality systems such as ISO 17025 accreditation of laboratories. In addition, Uganda requested training and capacity building, as well as exchange and placement of staff as well as a request for assistance with water quality monitoring i.e. biological monitoring using environmental indicators.
  • Rehabilitation of degraded ecosystems - Uganda is rich in biodiversity, 30% of the land has been gazetted as reserves and protected areas. However, the country suffers a high rate of deforestation and land degradation. They have now been engaged in a massive tree planting campaign but the challenge is that the bulk of the land is private. Also due to the high population rate, there are high energy demands.
  • Economic benefits of environmental management - The Parties raised the concern of resource and environment accounting. Uganda was more interested in developing their State of the Environment Report. Their challenge is the assessment process and regular data capturing, which are still weak. There is a challenge of collecting data at district level, as well as assessment and reporting systems. They also need assistance with environmental education, taxes and other instruments of enforcement.
South Africa and Uganda exchange of agreements.

2.10 Subsequent to this Ministerial bilateral meeting, the Dept of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and the Dept of Water Affairs (DWA) jointly worked together to finalise the draft agreement between the Government of the Republic of South Africa and the Government of Republic of Uganda on Co-Operation in the Field of the Environment and Water Resources. This agreement is intended to formalize and strengthen the existing relations between the two countries in the joint implementation of key environmental programmes and integrated water resource management projects.

Therefore, the agreement covers the following key areas of biodiversity (wetlands, alien invasive species management, anti-poaching); land degradation and desertification; environmental legislation, policies, environmentally sound technologies and their applications; as well as harnessing water for production; water pricing and water pollution control measures; catchment management; transfer / pumping of water from large river systems; construction of large dams and rainwater harvesting. 

The agreement is intended to promote the exchange of information, expertise and experiences both in environment and water resources, joint workshops and symposiums, technical research and training.

2.11 The areas identified within the draft Agreement are broadly in-line with the areas identified in terms of the respective Department of Water and Environmental Affairs’ international engagement strategy, although further engagement is required between the line function officials of both sides to draft the plan of implementation on water and environmental issues of the Agreement after signing.

2.12 The draft has received legal comments from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and the same has been forwarded to the Ugandan counterparts for comments. It is envisaged that the agreement, under the facilitation of the Department of Water Affairs will be signed during the inaugural session of the JCC by both Ministers of Water and Environmental Affairs of the two respective countries on 9 November 2012.

3. Implications

3.1 Personnel: Officials from the international cooperation sections of both DWA and DEA will attend the SOM and provide support for Minister during the JCC.

3.2 Financial: None

3.3 Legal: The Draft Agreement has gone through the legal process of the Dept of Water Affairs, Dept of Justice and Constitutional Development as well as DIRCO been forwarded to the Office of Chief State Law Advisor for comments and later to the Ugandan counterparts. A President’s Minute has been obtained authorizing Minister Molewa to sign the agreement.

3.4 Communications: None.

4.  Other Components Consulted

4.1 The DDG: International Water Cooperation was consulted.

4.2 The DEA consultation included the following sections:

  • EIA and Environmental Authorisations
  • Biodiversity and Conservation
  • Environmental Compliance and Enforcement

5. Recommendations

It is recommended that you:

5.1 You note the key issues with respect to environment and water resource management in preparation for the South Africa/ Uganda Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) and the Joint Commission for Cooperation (JCC) 8 – 9 November 2012, Pretoria


Briefing note for the South Africa/ Uganda Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) and the Joint Commission for Cooperation (JCC) 8 – 9 November 2012, Pretoria

Recommendation in par. 5.1: Noted

Mrs BEE Molewa, MP
Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs