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Tshwane MMC Phillip Nel questions timing of water report citing ’unacceptable levels of pollution’

A fishermen (who asked not to be named) makes his way through rubbish and hyacinth plants that are a big problem at parts of Roodeplaat dam. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

A fishermen (who asked not to be named) makes his way through rubbish and hyacinth plants that are a big problem at parts of Roodeplaat dam. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Oct 27, 2021


Pretoria - Tshwane MMC for Utility Services Phillip Nel has questioned the timing of the release of the SA Human Rights Commission’s report into the quality of water in the metro – shortly before the municipal elections.

The commission released the report with the adverse finding that the metro violated its constitutional obligation to provide clean water to residents.

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The report into sewage pollution in the City's rivers and Roodeplaat Dam, following an inquiry into the waste water treatment works in February, was released at Temba, Hammanskraal.

The inquiry was conducted after the commission received repeated complaints regarding malfunctioning waste water treatment works that were releasing untreated or partially treated sewage into the Apies and Pienaars rivers, as well as the Roodeplaat and Leeukraal dams. Part of the report blamed the municipality “for the unacceptable levels of pollution”, which were attributed to “the failure to manage and maintain existing waste water treatment works over a prolonged period of time”.

MMC for Utility Services in Tshwane Philllip Nel has torn into the water report. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

However, Nel tore into the report after he was afforded an opportunity by the commission’s Gauteng manager, Buang Jones, to react to the damning findings. “I find it very strange that this commission decided for Tshwane to be at the pinnacle of government intervention. Also, the date of the report is suspect – five days before the elections," he said.

However, before he could finish his tirade against the commission, Jones stopped him short, saying he would have time to register his grievances in line with the report’s recommendations.

Speaking to the Pretoria News, Nel said: “My personal conclusion is that it (the report) is in a way set up in terms of discrediting the current administration ahead of the election.”

Regarding the City's failure to maintain water resources, Nel said it was due to lack of funds, saying at least R6.4 billion was needed to fix the problems in the next five years.

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He said the problem of dirty water in Hammanskraal started back in 2004, when the first report was released about the Rooiwal wastewater treatment plant, identified as the source of contaminated water discharged into the Apies River, which in turn supplied water to the Temba water treatment plant.

The Temba plant is used for purifying water for Hammanskraal residents.

Gauteng provincial manager of the SA Human Rights Commission Buang Jones releases the report into the sewage pollution in Tshwane rivers and the Roodeplaat Dam. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

In an unprecedented move, the commission recommended that the Cabinet consider establishing a central water care entity to take over municipalities’ responsibilities to provide water services.

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Justifying its proposal, the commission said the neglecting of responsibility to maintain water resources was not confined to Tshwane or Gauteng.

According to commissioner Jonas Sibanyoni, who presented the report, the intervention by the national government should be in place to assist municipalities, and not be permanent.

The commission also recommended that the Cabinet declare the prevalent systemic water-related problems a national disaster.

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Tshwane municipal managers who were in charge during the deterioration of the wastewater treatment plants, “must be held accountable in terms permissible by legislation, including through criminal prosecution”, it said.

The implicated managers, according to the report, were expected to respond to the commission "jointly or separately, within 60 days of receiving the final report”.

Parties aggrieved by the findings and directives of the commission were entitled to challenge them in court through the process of judicial review.

“An application for judicial review must be made within 180 days of the date on which all internal remedies were exhausted.

“Where there are no internal remedies available, the application must be made within 180 days of the date on which the applicant became aware of the decision,” said the report.

Pretoria News