Pretoria - The water in the Mpumalanga town of Carolina still presents a health risk, a High Court Judge said in Pretoria on Thursday.
Judge Moses Mavundla said the contention of the Gert Sibanda district municipality that his court order about Carolina's water supply was “un-enforceable” was unacceptable.
He ordered it to immediately comply with his July 10 order, despite granting leave to appeal his ruling to a full bench of the high court.
He also granted a cost order against the district and local municipalities.
Earlier this month, Mavundla gave the district municipality 72 hours to provide temporary drinkable water, in line with compulsory national standards, to residents of Silobela, Caropark and Carolina town.
He also ordered it to speak to the national government to ensure drinkable water could once again be supplied through the town's water system.
The water was declared unsafe earlier this year because of pollution caused by local coal mines.
Granting leave to appeal would ordinarily have suspended the court's ruling, but Mavundla said residents stood to suffer more harm, in the form of a health risk, than the municipality.
“I must incline towards protection of the rights of the community and uplift the suspension of the operation of the order, pending finalisation of an appeal and exhaustion of any possible appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal or the Constitutional Court,” he said.
The judge said it was unlikely another court would come to a different conclusion, but granted leave to appeal to avoid a lengthy and costly petition and appeal process.
The district municipality insisted it was not accredited as a water service provider and could therefore not comply with the order. Mavundla said this attitude was tantamount to dereliction on technical grounds of the statutory duties placed on local and district municipalities.
He said both municipalities were organs of state, established in terms of the Constitution. They were tasked with co-operative governance, within the broad mandate of providing basic necessities such as water. They needed to be innovative if necessary to provide basic services.
Mavundla said it was common cause that the water in the area still presented a health risk.
It was also clear that the district municipality was not complying with the court order and that the water supply was still not adequate.
“The quality of water provided must be hygienic. In my view, there is no room for half-measures in providing water.
“The respondents contended that there are no people dying and that the situation is exaggerated for political gain by the applicants, but the water is (not) fit for human consumption.” - Sapa