The South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) is appalled at the current levels of pollution in the following three water sources, the Grootbrak River, in Evander/Embalenhle, the Waterval River, in Leandra/Lebogang, and the Blesbokspruit in Bethal/Emzinoni. It is a shocking state of affairs if an opposition party deems it necessary to act on behalf of communities to ensure action in order to get a municipal manager to provide a basic constitutional right, i.e. a clean and safe environment for the citizens in these areas. This situation, where sewage leaks/spills are so severe that they have affected these water sources, has a history dating back to 2006, and is untenable. SAICE applauds the fact that both the municipal manager and director of technical services are being taken to court.

The claims that point a finger at Mmela Mahlangu, municipal manager and director of technical services, Bongani Mtshali, at Govan Mbeki municipality, allege that they have contravened the National Water Act by failing to address longstanding sewage complications. DA councillor, Tim Denny stated that apart from the above pollution of rivers and a spruit, “water samples taken from these sources have shown catastrophic levels of faecal coliform bacteria, which is dangerous for both human and animal consumption”.

Aside from the tardiness in addressing the primary problem, the alleged failure to inform residents of the increased threat of cholera and other waterborne diseases to downstream users posed by the sewage spills is viewed in the most serious light. SAICE therefore calls on the municipality to take immediate remedial action and for the Department of Water Affairs to investigate the causes and to take severe disciplinary action against any parties found to have been negligent, to ensure that this unacceptable state of affairs does not recur.

Willie Venter, DA Communications Manager in Mpumalanga stated that they have been struggling with this matter for a long while now. “We have records dating back from 2006, which includes questions, motions and many media articles about the specific pollution. To date this situation has been left unresolved”. He went on to say that “ the municipality simply does not have the necessary skills and capacity to deliver services, and while the sewerage issue may be the most glaring, it is the case in almost all other aspects. Its financial management systems are in a shambles, its community services is left wanting and technical services are virtually non-existent”.

SAICE hopes that this would spur the national Department of Water Affairs to be stricter with its water licence compliance monitoring and oversight of municipalities, and of course, to ensure that municipalities get their sewerage reticulation systems up to standard. By this we hope they would appoint suitably qualified personnel to do so.

SAICE’s President, Peter Kleynhans commented that “SAICE stands ready to assist municipalities to advise them on the suitability or unsuitability of potential candidates”.  SAICE could offer to advise the municipality on the appointment of relevant, qualified and experienced persons in strategic positions such as chief engineer and other technically skilled practitioners, assistance with reviewing and structuring their department, referring them to specialists in wastewater and/or infrastructure maintenance management systems. Municipalities stand to benefit with employees that are SAICE members, as these members are exposed to an array of relevant and meticulous courses that are regularly conducted.

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