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The Shameful History of Waste Water (Mis)management in Mafube


Mafube Local Municipality (Mafube) have a shameful history of non-compliance with legislation with regards to preventing pollution of our water sources, and despite a long list of High Court Orders and compliance directives from the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), continue to ignore its Constitutional obligation. Even the current investigation by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the pressure brought on by Mafube Business Forum (MBF), have done little to bring about the urgent intervention that is required. Mafube did take action though, to curb the flow of raw sewage from a manhole adjacent to the Namahadi sewage pumping station, but now the flow has simply been diverted to where it is less visible. The resultis still the same - tons upon tons of raw sewage still end up in the Wilge River!

Pertaining to Mafube's long history of non-compliance, the following could be obtained from High Court records: • On 9 June 2004, the Municipality was ordered by the Bloemfontein High Court to repair sewage pumps servicing the Namahadi Township. • A similar order was issued on 2 August 2008. • On 20 February 2014, the High Court found the Municipality to be in contempt of its previous orders. • On 16 October 2015, another High Court order was issued pertaining to sewage spillage by the Municipality, and Mafube was ordered to rectify the problem without delay. • On 1 September 2016, (less than one year later), yet another High Court order was granted, which compelled the Municipality to take action and to rectify the multiplicity of problems relating to its sewage works; that were hazardous to human health and infringed on the rights of its residents. • On 20 January 2017, the High Court again found that the Municipality had not complied with its order relating to sewage spillage and its failure to properly operate and maintain the pumps. • Due to the Municipality having defaulted multiple times on the payment of its electricity bill to Eskom, the latter cut off electricity to the Municipality on various occasions. This resulted in pumps not being able to function properly and caused a plethora of issues at the sewage plant. The applicant in this case was authorised in the 20 January 2017 court order to make direct payments to Eskom. This would prevent a situation whereby the Municipality would default again, which would cause the pumps at the sewage facility to cease operating yet again. Such undesirable situation would obviously exacerbate the already-considerable problems at the Namahadi sewage plant.

During early 2019, a new sewerage pump station was commissioned which was hoped to alleviate the situation and prevent future sewage spills. However, despite the millions spent on this facility, evidence from periodic DWS and Rand Water test reports show little to no improvement (see the Water Quality Reports on MBF's Facebook page) and the sewer spill as witnessed during the last week, clearly illustrates the inability and/or lack of will of Mafube Local Municipality, to operate and maintain its waste water treatment infrastructure.

While every Mafube resident has a basic human right to an environment that is not harmful to their wellbeing and to have an environment that is protected for the benefit of present and future generations—this is simply not the case when it comes to Mafube, which has become predatory in this regard. Whether it is due to finances, corruption, lack of expertise, or poor to non-functional processes, it is quite evident that we cannot rely on our municipality to safely provide sanitation services as it is obliged to.

MBF is currently in talks with DWS, the Department of Environmental Affairs and SAHRC, and is considering approaching the High Court to enforce compliance.

Residents, business owners and ratepayers are requested to report to MBF, any incidences of pollution, sewer leakages and illegal dumping. Visit our offices at 18A Church Street during our business hours, on Mondays to Thursdays from 08h30 to 16h00, Fridays from 08h00 to 12h30 or contact Marina on WhatsApp at 079 145 4295. Or send an email to info@mafubebf.org

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