By James Letuka, DA MPL in the Free State Provincial Legislature:
The DA’s intervention at provincial and local level has resulted in the National Department of Water Affairs ordering the Metsimaholo Local Municipality to halt construction on the illegal and unethical raw sewerage pipeline from Refengkgotso into the Vaal Dam.
Local DA councillor, Johan Geyser, tabled a motion against the project in March earlier this year, but the Speaker of the ANC-led council, Cllr Sello Matena, has refused to bring the matter before council for debate. Cllr Geysler then reported the irregular project to the National Department of Water Affairs.
I then led an oversight visit to the project, and immediately wrote to GOGTA MEC Olly Mlamleli to intervene and put a stop to the project. Her office acknowledged receipt of our request, but as per usual, MEC Mlamleli refused to respond to our request, in much the same manner as she refuses to respond to the plight residents in all Free State municipalities.
The National Department of Water Affairs has now made it clear that the municipality must follow the letter of the law and apply for the relevant authorisation and licenses to bring it under compliance with National Water Act (No 36 of 1998) and the Water Services Act (No 108 of 1997).
It was a close call. The municipality was determined to complete the project in record time. Pumping raw sewerage into the Vaal Dam would have polluted the environment and poisoned a critically important fresh water source, compromising the drinking water quality of millions of South Africans.
I will again visit to the area and inspect whether any improvements have been brought to the local sewerage plant which continuously overflows. We maintain that should MEC Mlamleli fail to intervene, and the municipality fail to comply with the relevant legislation within a reasonable time, we would not hesitate to bring criminal charges to all implicated public officials.