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Protector slams Sol over sewage

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Sewage problems are reported daily across the city and each time the excuse given by the municipality is different

REPULSIVE: Raw sewage has been overflowing from a drain in the backyard of a resident in Jerry Mahloma Avenue for more than six months. Picture: Soraya Crowie

NO PERSON deserves to live for even a minute in these conditions – this is the message from the Public Protector to the Sol Plaatje Municipality as desperate residents continue to beg the local authority to solve the increasing number of incidents of overflowing sewage.

Mlungisi Khanya, the Northern Cape Provincial Public Protector, confirmed yesterday that his office had received an official complaint from a resident in Jerry Mahloma Street, in Stock and Stock, regarding raw sewage in her yard.

“I conducted an inspection on April 17 and I was shocked by the conditions I found – in fact I was hurt by what I saw. I don’t think a person deserves to live in those conditions for even a minute,” said Khanya.

“The sewage is not only affecting one house but other houses as well since it flows to other houses and into the streets. This matter requires urgent attention and has health hazard effects. When you go there you will see raw human excrement.”

Khanya said he immediately arranged a meeting with an official from the municipality and alerted him to the situation. “I also sent a letter to the municipal manager and a message to Sello Matsie (municipal spokesperson).”

Khanya added that it was agreed that the municipality would send someone out immediately to attend to the blocked sewage drain.

“I was surprised when I heard from the complainant again that the situation had not improved. In fact, she sent me photographs yesterday which indicated that the situation has, in fact, become worse.”

He added that he had also alerted the office of the Human Rights Commission and would be engaging with them on this matter.

“I was totally dismayed by what I saw – there are young children involved and they are being affected.”

The incident in Stock and Stock is not isolated and almost daily the DFA is inundated with calls from residents reporting cases of raw sewage flowing in their yards and roads, incidents which they state were reported to the municipality up to six months ago.

On average around 1 000 complaints regarding overflowing sewage is reported to the municipality on a monthly basis.

“We are desperate, we don’t know who to turn to anymore,” has become the mantra of residents.

“We have reported this over and over again to the municipality. The officials say that they will come and sort it out but weeks go by and nothing happens. We don’t even hear from them about what the cause of the delay is or when they are likely to respond.”

The resident in Jerry Mahloma Street, who reported the matter to the Public Protector, is among those who have become totally despondent.

“The raw sewage has been sitting in my yard for five months already. I have been to the municipality on numerous occasions – they know me there. They tell me, ‘go, we will attend to it,’ but they have never, ever arrived with the truck to sort it out.”

According to the resident, her young children cannot ever play outside in the yard. “Every week, I have to take them to the hospital because they are getting sick from all this stuff in my yard.”

The official excuse from the municipality yesterday was: “Because of all the water from the sewage the ground is too soft for our trucks and they will get stuck in the mud, so we are now bringing in soil to cover the ground so that our trucks can get access.”

Matsie attributed the numerous sewage complaints in the Stock and Stock area to the fact that the Gogga Pump Station was now working again after undergoing refurbishment. “As a result there are lots of bottlenecks in the system which we are trying to open up.”

Sewage problems are reported daily across the city and each time the excuse given by the municipality is different – in some areas it is blamed on sand which has fallen into the system, in other areas it is a design problems. Most times, residents themselves are blamed for throwing foreign objects into the system.

For the residents, however, the daily reality is that they are forced to live with foul-smelling overflowing sewage drains and raw sewage at their back doors.

“We have reported it to our ward councillor. Our entire street is stinking and wet as a result of the sewage water running down the road. This is not yesterday’s or last month’s thing. Please intervene immediately – I am begging you for service. As a cardiac patient this is extreme. I hope and trust for speedy service delivery,” one elderly resident said in a message sent to the municipality.

“What makes it even worse is that if the municipality does come out, it literally takes them a minute or two to unblock the drain but next week you are sitting with exactly the same problem,” another stated.

Matsie acknowledged that it was a recurring problem. “Townships are developed by private contractors and this could be a design problem or due to a lack of oversight.”

The Public Protector yesterday advised residents who experienced non-service with the municipality to report incidents to his office.

“In situations where misconduct on the side of the municipality is suspected our office will investigate, while those relating to the provision of services will be referred to the Human Rights Commission in Upington to investigate.”