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Rights group to hold municipalities liable

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AfriForum has also threatened to lay criminal charges against the Dikgatlong municipal manager due to the ongoing sewage crisis in Barkly West

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AFRIFORUM has offered to criminally charge municipalities for not doing their jobs or alternatively the civil rights organisation will repair broken and malfunctioning infrastructure and hold the local authorities liable for the costs.

City residents have been in uproar after they were slapped with level five water restrictions last week, along with skyrocketing water bills.

The AfriForum co-ordinator in the Karoo district, Lize-Mari Smit, said that local authorities could be held criminally liable for exposing citizens to unhealthy living conditions and polluted environments as well as failing to take remedial steps.

“Local authorities can also be held civilly liable regarding the maintenance, repair and operation of infrastructure relating to the discharge of sewage or water-containing waste, through pipes or other materials,” said Smit.

She urged any person experiencing any service delivery problems to contact AfriForum for assistance.

“Anyone who has fallen ill due to unhygienic living surroundings can contact us at any branch and we will then see what is the best way to deal with the complaints. Our Kimberley branch has a meeting with the acting Sol Plaatje municipal manager on January 28 to discuss issues relating to water and sewerage.”

AfriForum has also threatened to lay criminal charges against the Dikgatlong municipal manager due to the ongoing sewage crisis in Barkly West.

Sewage is constantly leaking at the four-way intersection at the Mataleng and De Beershoogte crossing as well as at two primary schools.

The AfriForum Kimberley branch cleaned and disinfected Barkly West Primary School in October after the Department of Labour issued a prohibition notice because of a pool of raw sewage that had collected in the school yard.

Smit indicated that Dikgatlong Municipality had repeatedly ignored pleas to address the problems since last year. “AfriForum has been in a struggle with Dikgatlong Municipality since October 2018.”

She stated that the municipality’s “noticeable lack of concern” over the health and well-being of the community was “unacceptable and could not be tolerated any further”.

“In follow-up letters, AfriForum insisted that all sewerage blockages and spillages in Barkly West be repaired immediately and that the extent of the sewerage blockages and spillages be investigated.

“The municipality must conduct a full audit on the condition and suitability of the current sewerage pipeline system in Barkly West and outline an action plan to prevent further pollution.”

Smit said that AfriForum had still not received any feedback from the municipality after it had extended its deadline from December 10 to December 13 and once again to January 11.

She pointed out that the Dikgatlong community was expected to pay for rates and taxes while they were being denied access to basic services.

In his response to AfriForum in November 2018, the Dikgatlong municipal manager, Kagisho Modise, indicated that the sewerage line at the Mataleng intersection had been temporarily fixed while Longlands and Barkly West Primary School had been attended to on “several occasions”, although the situation has regressed.

Modise attributed the blockages and overflowing sewage to foreign objects being thrown into the sewerage system by community members.

“Ward councillors were instructed to warn the community against throwing everything into the system, but unfortunately the problem still persists.”

Modise indicated that the municipality was in the process of appointing a contractor and consultant for the refurbishment of the pump stations, which was being funded by the Department of Water Affairs.

“The long-term strategy is the installation of the automatic telemetry system that will block all the foreign objects that are thrown into the sewerage system before they can burn out the pumps.

“The refurbished and upgraded pump stations will accommodate the growing demand of the community of Dikgatlong. As part of and during the project implementation for the installation of the automatic sewerage pumps system, the municipality will also conduct a groundwater pollution assessment in all the affected areas to determine the impact of the sewage spillage problem.”

Modise denied that the municipality was disregarding the well-being and health of the community.

Dikgatlong Municipality did not respond to media enquiries.

The Northern Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nocci) will also arrange a meeting with Sol Plaatje Municipality, along with members of the community, regarding the level five water restrictions that were implemented last week as well as the absence of a contingency plan.

The DA in the Northern Cape has requested the MEC for Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs to urgently conduct an independent investigation into the water crisis, as well as the reluctance of the municipality to repair burst water pipes.

DA provincial leader Andrew Louw said the water restrictions would hugely impact on businesses, the local economy and residents of Kimberley.

“We want to know how funds intended for water infrastructure were spent over the past 10 years. A qualified engineer must be appointed as the municipality does not appear to be capable of managing the crisis,” said Louw.

Smit can be contacted for any service delivery complaints or illness contracted due to sewage problems on WhatsApp on 081 217 6801 or by e-mail at [email protected]