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News & Media

Industry news for the Water and Sanitation Sector in South Africa


 The Mvula Trust latest updates

Learners On The Brink Of Decent Sanitation

The partnership between The Mvula Trust and Limpopo Department of Education (LDoE) continues to deliver decent sanitation to schools in the province. The MEC for Education, Mr. Ishmael Kgetjepe, accompanied by the acting Head of Department, Ms Ndiambani Beauty Mutheiwana, led a sod-turning ceremony on Friday, 11 September 2015 at Klaas Mothapo Secondary School, Ga- Mothapo village.

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How To Use Water For Poverty Alleviation

It is undeniably true that majority of rural households in South Africa continue to live in abject poverty on daily basis. In an effort to tackle this scourge, former President Thabo Mbeki once posed a question to residents in one of the rural villages: “How are you using water to be economically active?”

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Grey Water Re-Use Is Here To Stay

While grey water re-use is common practice in rural South Africa, urban South Africa are still debating the merits of water quality, public health, considering socio-economic factors, community perceptions and hydro- geologic conditions.

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Raising the Citizens’ Voice in the Regulation of Water Services

The Citizens’ Voice Programme’s main objective is to raise the citizens’ voice in the regulation of water services and to provide means for the public to provide meaningful input into the planning for and implementation of service delivery and the regulation thereof. It aims to improve communication on water related issues in municipalities; achieve an increased role of citizens in the regulation of water services; and to establish a working relationship with the communities and CSOs in a structured manner.

The process is an integral part of National Government’s drive to improve the regulation of services. Citizens’ Voice is a tool whereby the aims of public participation in strategic planning for service delivery, as well as in regulation of services can be fulfilled.

Regulation means making sure that rights are met and that service providers provide at least a minimum level of service and deliver on promises in accordance with the rules. Citizens need to know who to go to if problems are not fixed and they need to be able to organise with others to solve problems collectively.

The long term aim of the Citizens’ Voice is to improve in quality service delivery. The short term objective is to educate councilors, citizens, and CSOs about water services and how to engage with council. The medium term objective is to facilitate citizens in playing a monitoring role and the long term objective is for society to engage at the strategic level to influence policy.

The Citizens’ Voice process includes a training programme comprising 12 modules which are delivered to Councilors, Officials, CSOs and communities. This is followed by the setting up of forums to enable ongoing sustainable interaction between citizens and the municipality in order to improve service delivery.

The modules include the following topics:

Module 1 – Introduction and people’s rights (includes legislation and how it can be utilized and the budgeting process).

Module 2 – The different spheres of Government.

Module 3 – The life cycle of water from dams to taps to toilets.

Module 4 – Using water wisely and meter reading.

Module 5 – Sanitation and hygiene.

Module 6 – Pollution abatement and water quality.

Module 7 – Tariffs, billing and meter reading.

Module 8 – Poverty and affordability.

Module 9 – Regulation,monitoring and evaluation.

Module 10 – Identifying gaps and planning the way forward.

Module 11 – Energy and water.

Module 12 – Biodiversity and water.

The Citizens’ Voice programme was piloted in the Ethekwini Municipality in 2010 where The Mvula Trust delivered the initial training to Councilors and Civil Society and established the first user forums where there could be ongoing interaction between the municipality and members of the public. The Ethekwini Municipality went on to establish forums in each of its 17 zones and the process is still ongoing. In 2010/11, the training programme was delivered successfully to Councilors, Civil Society and Communities in the Msunduzi Municipality with support from the Department of Water Affairs. However, other priorities prevented the setting up of platforms for ongoing interaction with the public as planned.

An evaluation of the Citizens’ Voice programme in 2011 outlined its main successes as:

  • The building of greater trust amongst critical stakeholders;

  • a greater willingness to engage at local level;

  • Better service delivery as a result of stakeholders working together at local level. (This was particularly important in Ethekwini as important changes were made to increase the free basic water allocation in response to interaction at the forums);

  • The development of a programme that is replicable for other municipalities;

  • The establishment of a CSO user forum was a success in that it enabled significant relationship building between the municipalities and the city’s CSOs. There was frustration, however, expressed by the municipality at the level of engagement not being thoroughly based on community positions and by the CSOs as they did not have the resources and capacity to establish community positions and do basic community research. The CSO forum has since been integrated into Ethekwini’s area-based forums.

The Embassy of France supported the process by funding a programme training Civil Society Organisations to conduct community research and enable a higher level of interaction with the city. The Embassy of France’s support also enabled the Citizens’ Voice process to be extended to include biodiversity and environmental resources and energy issues in the Citizens’ Voice training manual.

This initiative has utilized a public education method for strengthening public accountability. The building of trust amongst stakeholders that have hitherto been antagonistic is a significant achievement and lays the foundations for good governance in the delivery of water services. Part of the success of this initiative has been that it is only part of a larger thrust of eThekwini Water Services’ commitment to public outreach. The political will from the administration has been the pillar in making these successes possible. The active role of an NGO in facilitating community engagement has also contributed to the trust building that has been a pre-requisite to taking things forward.

The Mvula Trust offers Citizens’ Voice programmes which are specifically tailored to the needs of a particular municipality and can design courses relating to specific aspects of the programme.

For more information, contact: Virginia Molose or Lindy Morrison.

The impact of The Mvula Trust on Water and Sanitation

Water and Sanitation are vital parts of human life. We need water to survive, and it has other numerous uses which are a part of daily living. It is therefore unfortunate that Water and Sanitation are not equally available to all communities throughout the world. For some, it is a daily struggle, while for others, Water and Sanitation are a given resource which one does not even have to think twice about. In this article, we will be looking at the situations throughout the world, on both a global and national scale, regarding access to Water and Sanitation. We will then also discuss how The Mvula Trust is helping to alleviate this situation by increasing access to sustainable water, sanitation and related services.

More than 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation, and hygiene-related causes. Nearly all deaths, 99 percent, occur in the developing world. The global water and sanitation crisis results mainly from poverty and inequality, as poorer communities do not have access to clean water, so this results in deadly diseases.

The Mvula Trust, South Africa’s largest Water and Sanitation NGO, aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people in rural and peri-urban communities in South Africa by increasing the amount of access which these communities have to clean water and reliable sanitation facilities. The Mvula Trust has a number of ways of doing this, including a Community-Based Approach.

This program aims to get communities to become active and involved in managing their own development, and it aims to educate the community, as well as employ them.

The Mvula Trust believes that the best managers of sanitation delivery are people within the community. This Community-Based Approach involves various programs aimed at educating people. For example, the Msunduzi Municipality Household Sanitation Project- Rural Household Infrastructure Programme, sourced all labour directly from the community. This meant that the community was actively involved in improving Water and Sanitation facilities. It also meant that many households received much-needed sanitation facilities.

Another focus of The Mvula Trust’s Community-Based Approach is to empower women with regards to Water and Sanitation, as they are the ones who are actively going out to collect water for their families. Women are also the ones who are using the water for cooking, washing and other activities.

The Mvula Trust also addresses Water and Sanitation challenges in informal settlements, using this same Community-Based Approach. Informal settlements have clearly emerged as a crucial and urgent policy challenge for the water sector, as indeed it is for other sectors.

In South Africa, many rural and peri-urban households do not have access to safe and hygienic toilets. According to the STATS SA General Household Survey 2013, only 12.1% of poor households receive free basic sanitation. It was found that a key issue with access to water is the poor quality of infrastructure, with 22.1% of households using sub-standard toilet facilities and 14.8% of households using water supply infrastructure less than the RDP standard.

Due to The Mvula Trust’s successful sanitation projects, safe, attractive and hygienic toilets are built for these communities who need them. More than 70 000 toilets have been constructed, with the majority being ventilated pit (VIP) toilets, using a range of designs and materials.

The Mvula Trust Sanitation services goes far beyond just building these toilets. It also provides information to households to strengthen links between good sanitation, safe drinking water and sound hygiene. One of the program’s key objectives is to increase the job creation, local economic growth and skills development impact of the MIG rural sanitation delivery programme, to support sustainable livelihoods and shared growth.

In summation, The Mvula Trust plays a vital role in alleviating the situation of poor Water and Sanitation in rural and peri-urban communities of South Africa. Although The Mvula Trust is active in assisting government to provide communities with clean water and building hygienic sanitation facilities, what sets us apart is our people-centered approach which focuses on involving and educating the people of the community with regards to Water and Sanitation improvement. With this approach, community members benefit greatly and ensure on-going delivery.

Thanks to these efforts, a huge difference is being made one step at a time.

Sanitation: Some lessons from The Mvula Trust’s 20 years of experience in household delivery

The aim of a household sanitation project is primarily to address public health. After this comes dignity, convenience, environmental health, sustainability, job creation and local economic development. The aim of a household sanitation project is primarily to address public health. After this comes dignity, convenience, environmental health, sustainability, job creation and local economic development. The primary beneficiaries are the household and the community. They are entitled to safe and sustainable sanitation facilities in accordance with at least the minimum standards. From this comes improved health, an increase in productivity, fewer days absent from school for children, and improved quality of life. It is important to ensure that the household and the community have these needs addressed as the highest goal in the project delivery and that these services are not neglected.

Job creation at community level and the promotion of local economic development are also important components of household sanitation delivery, however should not be prioritized before the health and sustainability components are addressed.

The goal of The Mvula Trust, in a sanitation project, is to meet all of the above – provide households (as the primary beneficiaries) with safe and sustainable sanitation while maximizing the community benefits from delivery, implementation and utilization.

Household Sanitation delivery, compared to delivery of a community hall, or a road, offers a very valuable opportunity to get to know every household in a community. Besides the Water Services Authority as the client, The Mvula Trust’s clients are every single household in the community.

Most of the work in a project involves the co-ordination of the delivery of concrete blocks, cement, sand, toilet components as well as a builders, quality assessors and health and hygiene educators to households all at around the same time. A particularly daunting set of logistic arrangements is required especially when households are scattered and there are two on the top of a hill, one across a river, one at the bottom of a steep hill. While the community benefits from sanitation delivery, sanitation delivery also benefits from the availability of local labour and the intricate knowledge of a community that local workers have.


The Mvula Trust model of implementation depends highly on local level workers and their intricate knowledge of a community. In each community, local involvement includes: a number of builders; builders assistants; a quality assessor; health and hygiene and operation and maintenance trainers; a co-ordinator; a labour controller; a storekeeper; a health and hygiene co-ordinator; local security personnel, local transporters and local suppliers. Up to 60% of a project budget is spent at community level on wages and materials.

All of the above-mentioned workers at community level are paid per task and the programme is designed on an outcomes basis where everybody, including The Mvula Trust is paid against means of verification of work. The means of verification of work are from the extensive quality management system developed by The Mvula Trust to ensure quality and include: acceptance certificates (signed by the householder, the builder and the quality assessor on the satisfactory completion of a toilet); health and hygiene monitoring forms, and forms so that at all times responsibility is taken at community level for materials on site.

Some lessons learned in The Mvula Trust’s 20 years of sanitation delivery experience include:

  • That it is possible to achieve faster project progress utilising community-based structures than utilising technical consultants. This is because of the local knowledge of the community members and their ability to rapidly mobilise resources.
  • Payment per task with verifiable indicators is a very important success factor and this, combined with an outcomes approach, ensures no overspending on project budgets.
  • That the closer the interaction between the implementing agent and the community, and the fewer the “middle men” the more control there is over ensuring direct community benefits.
  • That the use of separate ISD and technical consultants makes the project more expensive, reduces control over aspects of the project and leads to unreliable reporting.
  • That the separating of ISD from technical job descriptions is a very big mistake. Sanitation projects are driven by social needs and interaction in and communication with communities. They should therefore not be driven by a technical approach. Where the responsibility for the social aspects of the projects is separated from the technical, it can result in a lack of overall accountability for all aspects of the project. (Technical teams blame the ISD teams for not educating the householder properly in the utilisation of the technology, and the ISD blame the technical teams for not taking the needs of the community into account and installing unsuitable technology).
  • That it is important to pay everyone per task and to pay them immediately. Mechanisms have to be put in place to pay community level workers as soon as they produce the work. This is essential in order that the community buy-in and enthusiasm for the project is not lost and the trained builders are retained.
  • That including the community in the choice of infrastructure and ensuring that they commit upfront to the sustainability strategy and their role in it is essential for ongoing sustainability of the project and can reduce the burden on a municipality considerably.
  • That follow- up Monitoring and Evaluation, preferably utilising community members that were trained during the project, for a period of three years after a project, pays considerably in terms of on-going proper maintenance of toilets,
  • Similarly, follow up reinforcement of health and hygiene messages has a similar benefit and will extend the public health outputs of the project considerably, particularly if school children are involved.
  • That, by utilising an approach where community participation is maximised, it is possible to deliver sanitation better, faster, with more community benefits, more sustainably and for a lower cost.
  • In view of the high community involvement and high level of opportunity a household sanitation project creates at community level, it is recommended that national guidelines to municipalities on how to contract for sanitation work be developed and rolled out in order to ensure that the policy objectives are met.
  • It is recommended that reviews be conducted regularly to reinforce budget guidelines and to reinforce the “some for all” principle of sanitation delivery as there are currently large regional differences in sanitation budgets and this variance should be reduced.

The future of Sanitation

The above-mentioned sanitation delivery is in the context of a government driven subsidy approach and a high prioritization of sanitation as a development objective at national level. South Africa is a specific case with regard to sanitation delivery. It is time and context specific and the huge investment made in sanitation delivery is largely owing to the co-incidence of the millennium development goals and the removal of apartheid and the need to address the huge inequality and backlog in services created as a result of this horrendous policy and practice. While it will take many more years to address the backlog and South Africa should not consider at this time reducing its investment in sanitation, the best practice in other countries in Africa and the world is very different in the absence of availability of funds.

Community led total sanitation is a concept that is being introduced to the policy debate. This is “a revolutionary approach in which communities are facilitated to conduct their own appraisal and analysis of open- defecation (OD) and take their own action to become open defecation free (ODF)” (Robert Chambers 2010). This approach works very well in certain contexts and puts sustainable sanitation in place at a low cost. South Africa is not ready for this approach, and neither is it directly applicable now, however, we need to be thinking ahead to a time beyond a post-apartheid addressing of backlog and taking the best lessons learned internationally and, without placing the burden of addressing public health on the poorest of the poor, develop a policy which is self- sustaining and incorporates the best lessons from both our capital driven approach and alternative approaches.

The growing number of municipalities which are in debt remind us that a perpetual public works programme requires perpetual funding and perpetual dependence and that this cannot go on forever in South Africa. In a normal development cycle, as the population densifies, the need arises for systems to prevent the spread of diseases as a demand, and this demand is met by entrepreneurs. This in turn leads to local economic development, wealth creation and job creation. We need to consider models which support the development of an economy around meeting sanitation needs- perhaps a model in which the poor are well aware of the benefits of sanitation and may support subsidised local businesses in addressing their sanitation needs at a very low cost. From The Mvula Trust’s experience, above, it is evident that the best managers of sanitation delivery are people within the community. Communities can, with reducing amounts of support, take responsibility for on-going delivery, themselves. Alternative ways of resourcing this activity need to be thought of years ahead of implementation.

The Mvula Trust National Staff Workshop

From getting down on the dance floor to exploring the scenic views, The Mvula Trust National Staff workshop proved to be an unforgettable occasion for many of the staff members in the organisation.

After what seemed to be endless hours of travelling, the first order of the day was putting our culinary skills to the test with the Potjiekos competition which unravelled hidden talent within the organisation. There were spills, cuts and lots of running around, negotiating for ingredients. However, fun was had and tummies were filled.


At The Mvula Trust, we don’t only play hard but we work hard too, as our CEO, Mr. Silas Mbedzi provided an overview of where the organisation is and where it should be heading. As stated by the CEO in his presentation, with planning and hard work, The Mvula Trust is proving to be a force to be reckoned with. After a day of sightseeing and exploring, people scrubbed down and took to the red carpet for the Gala Evening. Dresses and suits of all colours came out to play and I must say TMT staff clean up nicely! Congratulations to all those who received recognition for their hard work and dedication to the organisation. It just goes to show that hard work and dedication goes a long way. The Elephants were announced as being the winners of the Potjiekos competition, so well done to them. After all the formalities, it was time to get down on the dance floor and oh boy, did people get down on the dance floor!


The competitive spirit came out in full force during the survivor challenge where we saw everyone battle to be victorious during various challenges and war cries. The team that proved victorious was the Elephants. A big congratulations to them!


Later that evening, we saw angels gather at the all-white gala evening where there was good food, and the drinks were flowing. We’d like to give a special shout out to Lloyd, our very own knight in shining armour, who came to our rescue and kept everyone on the dance floor.

A special thanks to Warren of Discovery who provided some useful information and the Discovery team for availing themselves for testing that took place, Andrew who came out for the photo-shoot that took place and captured those special moments, and mostly to the entertainment committee whom without them we wouldn’t have been able to bond and make new memories.


Corporate Governance in the NGO Sector

At The Mvula Trust, we pride ourselves in being a leading developmental NGO in South Africa, and we embed Corporate Governance Practice in the organisation. In this article, we discuss the meaning of Corporate Governance, and what it means to us at The Mvula Trust.

Corporate governance is defined as a system of rules, practices and processes by which a company is directed and controlled. Corporate governance guidelines for the Non-Profit sector are outlined in the Department of Social Development’s Code of Good Practice for South African Non-Profit Organisations 2001; the SANGOCO’s Code of Ethics for Non-Profit Organisations of 1997; Independent Code of Governance and Values for Non-Profit Organisations in South Africa and the King III practice note published by IODSA on the guide to the application of King III for the non-profit organisations.

Although it is not mandatory for non-profit organisations registered in the terms of the NPO Act to adhere to the Companies Act 2008, it is important that provisions dealing with annual financial statements, in addition to the requirements of the NPO Act, duties and liabilities of directors, as well as processes to be followed in conflict of interests be incorporated by the NPO in its founding document.

Non-Profit Organisations exist solely to serve the common good, and promote a public benefit, rather than to achieve individual profit or advance self-interest, which is the normal purpose of a for-profit entity. This is precisely the aim of The Mvula Trust.

The three voluntary codes all emphasize the following: The ethical role and effective leadership that the Board, as the governing body of the NPO must display; Compliance with South Africa’s accepted accounting and auditing practices; Conducting annual financial audits; Establishing an effective contracting or tendering system; Directors/Trustee to be remunerated only if the founding documents so permits; Annual Financial statements to disclose such remuneration individually; Conflict of interests to be avoided by Trustees/Directors; Trustees/Directors to disclose the nature and extent of personal/related interests; mandatory disclosure where there is a material interest in a contract or business opportunity to be considered at a Board meeting; and the conflicted Trustee/Director to recuse herself/herself from the meeting; Board to ensure compliance with statutory and regulatory prescripts applicable to the NPO; The Board to conduct annual reviews; and Induction training for newly appointed Trustees/Directors.

In terms of the NPO Act, registered NPO’s must submit audited Annual Financial Statements and an annual narrative report describing the activities of the NPO during the preceding period on an annual basis.

The benefit of a NPO, such as The Mvula Trust, applying King III’s guidelines is that, among other things, sound corporate governance builds reputation and trust so that an organisation is able to source funding and recruit experienced persons to serve on its governance body. Governance is one of the key measures of an organisation’s health and accountability in this regard, and is imperative for the achievement of an organisations long term objectives.

Here at The Mvula Trust, we are a leading developmental NPO in South Africa, and our Board of Trustees is assisted by a Company Secretary who acts as a gatekeeper to ensure that good corporate governance practices are implemented by the Board as well as management. Furthermore adherence by The Mvula Trust to all applicable pieces of legislation such as the Trust Property Control Act, the NPO Act, the non-binding code of the King III report, relevant sections of the Companies Act, and complying to the the Fourth Amending Trust Deed is paramount.

All Trustees of The Mvula Trust are required to declare their financial interests annually as well as to declare any conflict of interests in matters in line with the Trust Deed and the Companies Act.

We believe that corporate governance practices should be embedded in the rules, policies, and procedures of a NPO such as ourselves, in order to ensure effective and efficient delivery of themain purpose of the Trust thus ensuring sustainability.

The community-based approach to infrastructure creation and project management

The Mvula Trust pays more beneficiaries directly, employs more community contractors, trains more people in villages around South Africa and creates more jobs than any other non-profit organization in South Africa. Its success lies in its Community-Based Approach to Infrastructure Creation and Project Management.

Lekwalakwala Primary is located in the Capricorn District under the jurisdiction of Aganang Local Municipality. The village is approximately 50km west of the capital city of Limpopo, Polokwane.

This is a very remote rural area whereby transport to go to the city is only available in the morning and in the afternoon, transporting only few people who are lucky enough to find employment. Since most of the people are not working, few have access to television.

There is water reticulation in the village but the community does not get water every day and they have to travel up to 500m to the nearest tap to fetch water if it happens that the water is available, which sometimes is impossible for elderly to travel that distance. Sanitation facilities are still a challenge for most households.

During the 2012 financial year, the Limpopo Department of Education allocated funding towards sanitation services at schools and Lekwalakwala Primary was among the beneficiary schools.

During phase 1 of the project, The Mvula Trust creates project awareness by contacting the school and informing them about the project. The local councillor with the municipality and the Limpopo Department of Education Circuit Manager are also provided with an explanation of the project and the specifications of the project. All relevant stakeholders sign the site handover certificate once project awareness has been established.

During phase 2, a Project Steering Committee is set up in consultation with all stakeholders, including the school governing body. Community contractors are identified, who will supply the project with building material. Local community members are also identified for the provision of labour and expertise to the project.

During phase 3, widespread training is provided. The project steering committee is provided with management skills while community members are provided with artisan skills. Other community members are trained as village health workers and support the project with health and hygiene education.

During phase 4, monitoring takes place and stakeholder meetings are also conducted. Project plans with detailed specifications, site diaries, attendance registers, minutes of meetings, project progress reports, as well as photos are consistently used during stakeholder meetings. Actual progress evidence is presented to stakeholders and this builds credibility. Corrective action is taken when required and contingency plans are put into place when needed.

During phase 5, stakeholders are invited for the practical completion meeting. The retention period is explained and all parties are invited to inspect the completed project. If satisfied, the practical completion certificate is signed by all parties.

During phase 6, all relevant stakeholders are invited to the final completion meeting. All parties can then participate in the inspection of the project. If satisfied and convinced that everything is still in order, the final completion certificate is signed by all relevant stakeholders.

The Mvula Trust Community-Based Approach to Project Management and Infrastructure Creation ensures labour intensive construction methods. The procurement of local labour and locally manufactured products and materials is also intrinsic to all projects.

This approach focuses on creating capacity with local, small, micro and medium enterprises (SMME’s). The participatory approach also ensures that existing community structures are incorporated into rolling out Infrastructure Creation.

Local Economic Development activities are accordingly enhanced as a result of The Mvula Trust Community-Based Approach to Project Management.