Looming court battle over water outages in North West
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Pretoria - The business organisation Sakeliga has vowed to urgently turn to court in a bid to ensure water supply in the North West and prevent what they call a local economic catastrophe.
This comes after Sedibeng Water last week instructed that water services in large parts of the North West be suspended from tomorrow. The looming disruption affects the entire Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality, as well as the Mahikeng, Ditsobotla and Ratlou Local Municipalities. It involves towns such as Mahikeng, Lichtenburg, Delareyville, Ottosdal and Zeerust.
“The state must stop shifting the burden of its internal problems to business people and the local community. Sedibeng Water is an organ of state and does not have the right to suspend services to businesses and the public at large owing to its failure to obtain proper payment from another organ of state,” Piet le Roux, Sakeliga chief executive, said.
As has already been confirmed in a recent judgment in this regard, an organ of state such as Sedibeng Water may not interrupt its services to paying businesses and the community at large until it has at least complied with the legal prescriptions on intergovernmental disputes, he added. “In this case, Sedibeng Water did not even properly inform or consult local businesses and communities.”
Le Roux emphasised the damaging humanitarian and economic consequences of a sudden, unilateral disruption of water services.
“All towns in the North West are already suffering from severe state decay and corruption. In many cases, the cutting off of water can be the final straw, forcing businesses to leave these areas, with a spiral of deterioration certain to follow the exodus.”
Sakeliga has placed Sedibeng Water on terms to withdraw its instructions to its employees, and to ensure continuing services. In the meantime, Sakeliga’s legal team has prepared papers in an urgent application to ask the court for an appropriate interdict.
“We anticipate that the outcome of this urgent litigation will be to secure water supply at least on a temporary basis. It will be similar to the role we played in electricity-related litigation, as with the Resilient ruling in December. Pending the development of a lasting solution we want to prevent organs of state from suspending services illegally,” Le Roux said.
Sakeliga said in a bid to obtain a lasting solution, it had in recent months crafted a comprehensive litigation strategy to address municipal decay and initiate local economic recovery.
Le Roux said it will not be a quick fix, but it will lay the foundation for long-term recovery.