Sewage pollution of Vaal Dam and the Vaal River by the Metsimaholo and Emfuleni
Municipalities’ waste water treatment systems remain the biggest threat to the Vaal area
and beyond. Impact on this precious water resource extends beyond the environmental
issue to throttling economic development and job creation.
Other issues of environmental concern to SAVE include water lettuce in the Vaal River which
is yet another symptom of the underlying problem of pollution, expansion of mining
activities and the difficulties of raising funds for our work.


    In 2022 SAVE welcomed Rand Water’s communication strategy. Environmental
    stakeholders were given an insight into the plans for repairs/refurbishment to stop
    pollution of the Vaal River. These presentations revealed several major stumbling
    blocks such the non-alignment of funding with project plans which resulted in no
    timelines being targeted. Treasury’s moratorium on advertising tenders from
    February to June 2023 resulted in a further stoppage. Th moratorium related to court
    proceedings against Treasury with regards to wording in tender documents.
    Rand Water’s communication programme ceased in October 2022. Thereafter there
    was no communication as to progress.
    Major floods in March 2023 scoured the Vaal River and for the first time in over ten
    years, the Vaal River was clean. Unfortunately, after the rains, E.Coli counts in all
    hotspots escalated which is a clear indication that whatever work may have been
    done did no impact on sewage pollution from Emfuleni waste water system.
    It seemed that focus was being placed on plans and design work for the long term (5-
    10 year) Sedibeng Regional Sewage Scheme but there was little enthusiasm or
    funding for repair and refurbishment of the existing and broken system.

        1.1   Litigation
    SAVE proceeded with its litigation process. Attempts to get the respondents
    around the table to discuss a draft an agreement failed. This necessitated an
    application to the Deputy Judge President for case management. The
    application was approved and the process moved swiftly from December
    2022 culminating in an interchange of affidavits, three legal meetings and a
    court order by agreement in June 2023.

    This court order directed the Minister of Water and Sanitation to provide an
    affidavit on what has been achieved in the Section 63 intervention with an
    attached action plan, funding and timelines. The Minister of the Environment
    is to provide an affidavit on criminal action taken against the Emfuleni
    Municipality. These affidavits are required in 45 court days from the date of
    the order.
    All respondents agreed to a continuance of the case management process
    and quarterly updates to SAVE at participative meetings with technical people
    present. There is every possibility of more court orders in the near future.
    I would like to congratulate our amazing legal team on the excellent work that
    achieved this positive result. Documentation exceeded 1000 pages of
    evidence and affidavits. We are most fortunate to have top calibre legal
    experts working with us. Sincere thanks to Advocate Paul Carstensen C,
    Advocates Donovan Smith and Peggy Schoeman and Professor Jeremy Ridl, an
    environmental specialist attorney, and Nakka de Klerk of Couzyns Attorneys.

         1.2   Water Quality Reports
    The Department of Water and Sanitation, Rand Water nor Johannesburg

    Water were able to conduct E.Coli analysis for various catchment
    management forums from February to June/July 2023. This was due to
    contracts with laboratories not being renewed timeously and the further
    impact by the Treasury moratorium on advertising tenders. This issue was
    only resolved in mid-2023.

    The proliferation of water lettuce during the summer months, aggravated by the

    floods, spread this alien, invasive species downstream beyond Parys. SAVE is
    following up this project with Rand Water’s Water Wise team who are working with a
    scientific group at Rhodes University. Unfortunately, communication from Rand
    Water is also proving to be a challenge.
    The Refengkotso treatment plant has been upgraded with increased capacity but is
    not yet operational. The community is very concerned about the discharge point of
    the new plant into Ratepayers Bay, an area where there is little movement of water
    and runs through the centre of Deneysville. SAVE, Vaal Dam and the Deneysville
    Ratepayers Association have had several discussions with Metsimaholo officials
    voicing their concerns not only about the discharge point but about the quality of
    the effluent pipe.

    After stakeholder consultation, Metsimaholo Municipality has submitted a Water
    Use Licence application for the treatment works and conveyances to the Department
    of Water and Sanitation. The municipal officials have stated at various meetings that
    they are aware of the public outcry and intend looking at alternatives but funding would be a problem. Furthermore, they have admitted that the technical quality
    and integrity of the pipeline is unacceptable and would need to be re-laid.

    Raw sewage spills continue to be directed into the Vaal Dam via purposefully dug
    channels. This poses a health risk to the environment, fauna and flora and to the
    many millions of people who rely on a clean and safe water source.

    SAVE Vaal Dam remains concerned about toxic blue-Green Algae. This problem has
    been discussed with authorities without any positive steps being taken to deal with
    the problem, Algal levels are lower during the winter months but will escalate in
    warmer temperatures.

    In addition to this, La Nina is set to kick in and the chances of drought loom ahead of
    us, ultimately meaning that there will be less available water to dilute harmful
    substances in our waterways.

    Sincere appreciation to our committee members for their enthusiasm and willingness

    to volunteer so much of their time to various aspects such as fund-raising,
    communication and liaison with our legal team.

    We would like to pay tribute to the late Thabo Seholobe who passed away in 2023.
    He will be sadly missed by the SAVE Committee and by the Bophelong community
    that he served with such passion as Chairman of the community’s water and
    sanitation committee. Our deepest sympathy to his family and his colleagues and
    the Bophelomg committee.

    We plan to retain our links with Bophelong and to continue our support of water
    awareness and education days.

    We are working towards having an active representation of both Parys and
    Bophelong in the near future.

    A sincere ‘thank you’ to our regular supporters that include Bishops Bay, Shores of

    Loch Vaal, Milos and Luciana Country Estate. We also appreciate the support of
    Rotary Riverside that has partnered with SAVE in the Potjiekos competition and in the
    awareness days at Bophelong. The first SAVE Golf Day held in October 2022 was well
    supported and contributed to our funds. We plan to repeat both these events in
    As we move forward with our litigation, we need to accelerate our fund-raising
    efforts with a particular focus on river property owners and the business community,
    both of which have a vested interest in the river.
    We have established a firm foundation with the 2023 court order and have utmost

    confidence that the case management process will ensure sustained progress.

    There is a long road ahead in our quest to stop sewage pollution of the Vaal River and
    its tributaries and are dependent on the moral and financial support of the

    Malcolm Plant

    23 July 2023