VANDERBIJLPARK. – Pollution into the Vaal River via various spruits and lakes was the subject of talks at Stonehaven in Vanderbijlpark by various important water bodies last week.
A three-day inquiry hearing of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) was engaged by various water bodies that called for intervention and rescue plans by Emfuleni Local Municipality (ELM).
The bodies included, among others, representatives of provincial government and Rand Water. The call was for ELM to be held accountable for the pollution by water sewage going into spruits and into the Vaal River. The bodies wanted this to be classed as a violation of human rights.
New Horizons, Save the Vaal Environmental, Vaal Environmental Justice, the Water Research Commission, the Emfuleni Ratepayers Association, OUTA and other bodies want the commission to order the Gauteng government to intervene in ELM.
Verbal and written submissions were made to the commission complaining about the collapse of ELM finance and services.
The human rights commission demanded an explanation for how R900 million was fraudulently spent by local government with no record.
The key point was the pollution from a broken-down sewerage system that affects the community and raw sewage that ends up going into the river.
In grilling the ELM’s Department of Water and Sanitation and the Gauteng Department, the Chairperson of the Commission, Osmond Mngomezulu said the community has a right to a clean, healthy environment and other related rights.
SAHRC Manager Buang Jones said these issues of ELM are not new as they date back to 2014 before the intervention of the provincial government.
Jones pointed out to the Director General from the Premier’s office Phindile Baleni that she had failed residents because she was supposed to have been at the forefront of their obligation. HRC said the sewage spillage that lasted for so many years has brought on this violation of rights.
SAHRC said it is clear that the Department waited for the ‘watchdog’ body to speak out that there had been a violation.
Councillor Edward von Bodenstein, chairperson of DA Caucus Management in ELM, was upset at not being invited over an issue the DA had called to attention. Von Bodenstein asked, “Why were we not called on to speak at the two-day session?“ He said he would take the matter up with the SAHRC