Amid the crisis of sewage being pumped into the Vaal River has been building for at least 10 years under the Emfuleni municipality.
And the job of looking after or trying to repair broken infrastructure became harder with the municipality this week confirming it was not renewing a contract for a fleet of 150 vehicles it allegedly had on rental.
According to Emfuleni spokesperson, Stanley Gaba, “services delivery teams are working as usual” but were still faced with a shortage of vehicles, which would affect turnaround time for complaints including electricity, water, waste management and sanitation.
It’s a spanner in the works for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize, who told parliament he had identified “87 distressed and dysfunctional municipalities” to which he would be sending “102 artisans and process controllers” as well as “81 new engineers and town planners to municipalities that are struggling with infrastructure and maintenance”.
“There are more than 230 apprentices hosted by municipalities for support with operations and maintenance,” Mkhize said this week.
However, the promised help hasn’t come soon enough, said Maureen Stewart, vice-chairperson of Save Our Vaal action group.
“In fact, the situation has to reach a crisis point before any serious action is taken.
“It’s been going on for years. We have been fighting sewage pollution for about 10 years. In that time, the department of water and sanitation (DWS) has completely abrogated its responsibility in terms of raw water resources.”
In August, the DWS referred to a 2010 study it had initiated when it went to investigate reports of dead fish.
“Preliminary investigations indicated the absence of any dead fish at the alleged site and that the incident occurred a week before where there was a drastic drop in temperature.
“To date the department has issued five notices and six directives to the municipality in relation to the sewer spillages along the Sedibeng sewer scheme,” DWS said, showing it knew of the problems.
Save Our Vaal obtained nine court orders against the municipality – the most recent in February – in the form of a “structural interdict”.
It required the municipality to immediately prevent discharges of sewage, to fix infrastructure and to report back to the court on its compliance with the order – which it hasn’t, Save or Vaal said.