26 August 2020
c.c Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements, Water
c.c. Sibusiso Mthembu (Gauteng Head: DWS)
ARTICLE: “PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE WELCOMES WATER POLLUTION
INTERVENTIONS IN TWO MUNICIPALITIES” (24 AUGUST 2020)
The Water and Sanitation Portfolio Committee’s statement in this article: “…Portfolio
Committee has welcomed the progress by the Department of Water and Sanitation in the
municipality of Emfuleni” indicates that the committee had received incorrect information
on the Vaal Intervention Project or they are confusing Emfuleni with another municipality.
We do hope that the Portfolio Committee will visit the Vaal soon to see just how little
progress has been made in resolving the sewage pollution crisis since their last visit
earlier this year.
Emfuleni’s waste water treatment system is an ongoing serious health risk and is causing
severe pollution of the Vaal River and its tributaries between Vereeniging and the Vaal
Barrage. This is evidenced in the excessive E.Coli counts in the Vaal. It is not only an
environmental issue but also a major contributing factor to the pre-Covid economic
recession and unemployment in the area.
This sewage crisis has been escalating over the past 12 years and reached crisis
proportions in 2018. Today, sewage pollution is remains at the same level with running
streams of raw sewage in the streets of Emfuleni from Vereeniging to Sebokeng, including
Bophelong and Vanderbijl Park. This sewage finds its way into the Vaal River impacting
communities below the Barrage that draw water for domestic use from the river.
Following the deployment of the SANDF Engineering Corps, ERWAT was contracted to
effect repairs to the system. This contract ended on 28th June 2020 and was not renewed.
Apart from unblocking some 25 km of the 1 600 km network system, removing tons of pump stations and treatment plants.
The Sebokeng treatment plant has not treated waste water since it was vandalised in May
2018. Work on a new module to treat 50 ML of sewage has been constantly interrupted
by community protests. The Rietspruit treatment plant is working at 30% of its capacity to
treat 40 Ml of waste water daily. The third plant, Leeukuil, is operating under capacity
because it is dependent on a working pump station system to receive waste water. This
situation is ongoing with no end in sight. There are no dates for starting the repairs, let
alone completion dates.
It appears that the Department of Water and Sanitation decided to take over the tender
process to appoint contractors for these refurbishments. These tenders, which amount to
some R750 million, have not yet been advertised.
SAVE obtained a high court order against the Emfuleni Local Municipality in February
2018. However, the municipality is technically bankrupt and under partial administration.
The municipality’s water and sanitation department does not have the resources to
undertake its normal operations, maintenance and emergency repairs. The latter occur
virtually on a daily basis.
In May 2019, SAVE returned to the high court and obtained a ‘joinder’ to join the
Ministers of Water and Sanitation and of Environmental Affairs, the Premier of Gauteng
and responsible Gauteng MEC’s to the Emfuleni order.
In October 2019 SAVE agreed to the request of the Gauteng team to suspend the order
for six months to give ERWAT time to demonstrate progress. SAVE now has no other
alternative but to proceed with this litigation.
The worst affected communities are the poorest of the poor..
SAVE the VAAL