Vaal de­ba­cle: Choked up in sewage

Au­thor­i­ties at­tempt to wash their hands of stink caused by con­tam­i­nated wa­ter and raw sewage prob­lems

The Sunday Independent - - FRONT PAGE - MANYANE MANYANE

A SE­NIOR gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial has poured cold wa­ter on ac­cu­sa­tions against Wa­ter and San­i­ta­tion Min­is­ter Gugile Nk­winti over the Vaal River con­tam­i­nated wa­ter cri­sis.

The depart­ment’s deputy di­rec­tor-gen­eral, Anil Singh, last week ap­peared be­fore the SA Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion (SAHRC). Singh shifted the blame from Nk­winti to the Co-op­er­a­tive Gov­er­nance and Tra­di­tional Af­fairs (Cogta) min­istry.

“If you are to un­der­stand the com­plex­ity of the wa­ter value chain, the one way of look­ing at it is that the min­is­ter is the cus­to­dian of the na­tion’s wa­ter re­sources,” said Singh.

“But the min­is­ter doesn’t have au­thor­ity across the value chain. The ser­vices part of the value chain is dealt with by the min­is­ter of Co-op­er­a­tive Gov­er­nance (Cogta).”

The depart­ment spent more than R3 bil­lion on waste­water treat­ment schemes for the Em­fu­leni area in the 2011/12 fi­nan­cial year, but the treat­ment plants are still fail­ing.

“I want to stress that the min­is­ter (Nk­winti) is in­deed ex­er­cis­ing his pow­ers as a trustee and cus­to­dian to the depart­ment and our pol­icy legislation and reg­u­la­tion. But there is com­plex­ity when we deal with lo­cal gov­ern­ment.

“As much as we can is­sue di­rec­tives against the mu­nic­i­pal­ity that is pol­luted, we also have to be care­ful of the in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal re­la­tions frame­work. But we don’t see the legislation as con­tra­dic­tory. The Con­sti­tu­tion has three spheres of gov­ern­ment, and they must work to­gether,” added Singh.

How­ever, Singh said lack of lead­er­ship could lead to the dire sit­u­a­tion re­main­ing un­re­solved.

“A pos­si­ble so­lu­tion around the lack of au­thor­ity which the min­is­ter has could be a trans­fer of func­tions from Cogta to Wa­ter and San­i­ta­tion in terms of wa­ter ser­vices au­thor­i­ties. But that’s a dif­fi­cult is­sue for us to nav­i­gate and is a po­lit­i­cal is­sue,” said Singh.

Mean­while, Metsi-a-Lekoa act­ing man­ager Sampie Shivambu ad­mit­ted to the com­mis­sion that age­ing in­fra­struc­ture could have led to the de­te­ri­o­rated sit­u­a­tion. He re­vealed that the mat­ter re­mained un­re­solved due to lack of ca­pac­ity.

The sit­u­a­tion is un­changed in Boipa­tong, with res­i­dents forced to live with pools of stink­ing wa­ter that flow through their streets. The Sun­day In­de­pen­dent re­ported in April that the sit­u­a­tion was not only a health haz­ard, but caused suf­fer­ing to schools and res­i­den­tial ar­eas where the pol­luted wa­ter flows into the yards.

Boipa­tong res­i­dent Ma­ditaba Mosia said she was forced to scoop wa­ter from her yard every day.

“I have been call­ing the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to fix the sewage drain. They came last week to fix it, but it burst again the mo­ment they left. Now it’s flow­ing in my yard. Now it’s my ev­ery­day work to push this wa­ter out of my house,” said the 65-year-old.

Her neigh­bour, Belina Moeketsi, 84, re­ported fall­ing ill as a re­sult of the stink­ing wa­ter, which she, too, was forced to scoop from her house.

“Now I am cough­ing and hav­ing stom­ach aches. I sus­pect it is be­cause of this sewage. I have no choice but to wake up every day and clean it from my yard. This is bad be­cause the mu­nic­i­pal­ity is not help­ing us,” she said.

An­other res­i­dent, Banny Mo­fo­keng, said even tap wa­ter was be­gin­ning to have a nasty taste. “This sit­u­a­tion is now worse. Sewage is run­ning to every yard in this area. And the taste of wa­ter was not nor­mal this morn­ing. We want them to sort out this sit­u­a­tion. We don’t care whether they are broke,” he said.

SAHRC head of ad­vo­cacy in Gaut­eng Phillip Molekoa said they would launch a probe into the com­plaints.

“We have in­vited all stake­hold­ers to come and ac­count as a part of our in­ves­ti­ga­tions. We in­tend to com­pile a re­port and make rec­om­men­da­tions to every depart­ment that is re­spon­si­ble.

“We will en­sure that the rec­om­men­da­tions give them spe­cific tasks or re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and time lines,” he said.

ITUMELENG ENGLISH / African News Agency (ANA)

RES­I­DENTS of the France sec­tion of Boipa­tong in Van­der­bi­jl­park com­plain about sewage that spills on to the un­tarred streets and into their yards.

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