The Water and Wastewater Minister Senzo Mchunu has apologized to the Vaal River dependent communities for the government’s inability to solve the pollution problems of the important waterway.
“This time it really is” was that Message behind Mchunu’s words on Tuesday after a one-week briefing on topics in Gauteng and the visit to the Vaal sewage treatment plant on Tuesday.
For years, millions of liters of raw sewage have been flushed unchecked into the river Vaal. Critical infrastructure vandalism and a dysfunctional community in the area made the problem worse.
Since 2018, efforts to solve the wastewater problem have fallen to Rand Water, the military and the Ekurhuleni Water Care Company. Earlier this year, the Human Rights Commission reported that the Vaal Dam was polluted beyond acceptable levels.
Mchunu, Gauteng’s Prime Minister David Makhura, Deputy Ministers David Mahlobo and Dikeledi Magadzi, MEC Lebogang Maile, officials from Sedibeng District Administration and Emfuleni Municipality, Emfuleni administrators Silas Zimu and Gilberto Martins and officials from Rand Water and the Water and Wastewater Department met on Tuesday at Loch Vaal assess the effects of the sewage.
The Loch section runs downstream from Rietspruit and Sebokeng, some of the most polluted parts of the river. The latest Ecoli measurement in this area, taken weekly on a Friday, was 866 counts per 100 ml.Ecoli counts over 400 and can take you to the hospital as there is a high risk of gastrointestinal disease.
Mchunu described how he saw dead fish and animals swimming on the stinking river that flows as far as the North Cape, a valuable source of water for more than 19 million people.
The delegates visited the Rietspruit sewage treatment plant and the Pumping stations 9 and 10 in Sharpeville, where progress is being made in clarifying the sludge that is preventing its work invested. Makhura said the Gauteng government invested R200 million in the project.
“The focus needs to be on the source, which means that the infrastructure is being repaired in the There are four areas that require intervention, including the pumping stations, “said Mchunu.
” These all have an impact on wastewater entering homes, rivers and dams.
“Water is a fundamental right and we have the political will to live up to people’s expectations. This project will not stop until it is completed. It will not stop because of the weather, it will not stop because of the money . “
The delegation then gathered in a hotel, where local interested parties made their requests to the officials. Local organizations had similar questions and requests: the infrastructure needs to be repaired; the sewage treatment area should become a national one Schl become a key point to prevent theft; and the government needs to use local people to fix the issues.
Mchunu said Gauteng’s water and sanitation ministry must meet and report their ideas within two weeks to create a benchmark document over the Vaal.
Regarding the work of the army on the Vaal, he said: “It is not an easy task that the country’s army is defeated by sewage. We have to feel very small. The main job of the army is to shoot the enemy and not worry about the sewage. ”
Regarding the theft of infrastructure, Mchunu said that the community must also take responsibility as the infrastructure belonged to them.
“Those Nyope guys – the nation has 59 million people and we can’t deal with people using Nyope – we can’t make progress because of the Nyope people. What kind of community is that? Even if they come armed, it doesn’t matter. We have to demonstrate once, but it has to come from you [the community]. If anything else happens to the project and you have been there, you will be held accountable. “
He said there were two reasons for visiting on Tuesday, and the first was to” confess our sins “:
- The greatest sin was to turn this huge blessing, the Vaal, into a curse;
- In a day like this we want to lead and admit that we did it before a long time should have done better when the problem started;
- It is a major concern that sewage enters residential areas [and homes];
- Vandalism is considerable in some of the plants and was seen by the community in the area. We should jointly confess the sin of vandalism .;
- Destroying the environment. The animals and dead fish I saw all died from pollution;
- We have ruined the prospect of economic growth and jobs. No economy can grow from wastewater. Farmers as far as the North Cape complain of the pollution of the river upstream and the reduced export opportunities due to the use of polluted water for harvest;
- We have destroyed the opportunity for pleasure along the banks; and
- Reduce our vigilance to government, including the local government of Emfuleni.
Mchunu said, “I don’t appreciate the failure that we didn’t attend all of the meetings have and travel back in time. We need to do something about it.
“This has weakened accountability, and this department in particular has been given low accountability, particularly on constitutional matters.
” We need to feel small we are We apologize for not living up to our accountability. We have to look you in the eye and say we shouldn’t have done things the way we did in the past. We could have done better.
“We are here to show that we are committed to repairing and reversing what is broken. We need to repent and get new. ”
He said the project required ethical, quality leadership that was not selfish or would deteriorate.
He called for a steering committee for stakeholders, who included all concerned parties to report to the ministry and monitor progress.
The appointed organization, Rand Water, would fix the problems in the Emfuleni processing plants, Mchunu said. < / p>
“Rand Wasser will fix it. Ready and clear. But we’re also making sure we develop a mechanism to ensure we don’t have to come back here. If that means we have to look beyond Emfuleni we do that. ”
He said the job needed money and that would come from the Prime Minister, the Mayor, Emfuleni, and the National Treasury.
Mchunu said the work was on the sewerage system has been started It would be to clean up the river.
Makhura said reinvesting in infrastructure and clearing the spill is central to regenerating the Vaal’s economy.
” If we can’t do it right, then we can’t do anything right.
“Vaal is the starting point for the industry in Gauteng. The cost of pollution to business is higher than eliminating it.
“Stakeholders, you think we’re just talking and making little progress. But we have plans to make the Vaal a special economic zone. But we cannot do this unless we fix the water and plumbing. This time I’m confident. ”
He said 21 main streets in Vaal had been repaired and 30 garbage trucks had been delivered to the community. In addition to water and sanitation, the issue of electricity and energy was a serious problem.
“Crimes related to the infrastructure are high treason, but that can only be punished by the police.”
He said his department was repairing the economic infrastructure and DWS had to solve the water and sewage problems.
“You are the number one citizen,” Mchunu told Makhura, “and that comes with a responsibility.
“Water is your problem and we invite you to come on board because you have a political mandate for the people of this region.”
The minister will be with us on Wednesday begin its inspection in KwaZulu-Natal.
What stakeholders had to say:
Bophelong Water and Sanitation Forum asked for a Grant of R3,500 to volunteers to receive payment for their hard work, yo-yo tanks donated to the forum, which they gave to schools and taxi associations because “these places are safe”
Mchunu said he would ask the Treasury Department for the money.
The Golden Triangle Chamber of Commerce said that the area around Sedibeng has an unemployment rate of 70%, with the inhabitants living in “inhuman conditions”, surrounded by running sewage.
“It’s a ticking time bomb because the community is tired.”
They were concerned that there was no communication from DWS and R11 million was spent securing the sites, but the infrastructure was still stolen.
AfriForum called the Vaal a disaster area and said it was concerned that it was gave no responsibility for the failure to repair the infrastructure.
“There is a lack of accountability and a” don’t care “attitude. The government must partner with the private sector to maximize its efforts. National and provincial governments need to help from the ground up. “
Federation for Sustainable Environment highlighted the problems of reducing pollutants in the region.
” The The challenge is that the current framework allows mines to bypass closure obligations [rehabilitation of the area if the mine closes]. “
The SA National Civic Organizations said the pollution des Vaal threatens the identity of the community and its heritage. They said the river feeds 40% of South Africa’s industry.
“It’s a national crisis, not just a crisis for Emfuleni. There has never been a stakeholder mapping and nothing has changed for the people in Everton, Bophelong, Sharpeville, Palm Springs, Vereeniging and Vanderbijlpark.
“We were promised the networks declared as national key points. If there is no security, we cannot upgrade the system any further. ”
You said that the Prime Ministers of the Free State, Mpumalanga and the Northwest would also have to come to the party because the Vaal on the other side of Emfuleni is polluted .
The Vaal Intervention Project Steering Community said that cadres, “selfish and greedy leaders” and incompetent officials are allowed to work on the Vaal. They asked the government to use the staff trained in the War on Leaks project to help as 80% of the water in Emfuleni was lost to leaks.
The Community Interest Representative Committee said the problem was exacerbated by the fact that the infrastructure built during apartheid only served 15% of the country, but now the same infrastructure for 100% of the country.
< strong> The military of Umkhonto we Sizwe Veterans Association said it was concerned about abuse of its members as about 100 security guards were not paid for their work in the past year.
“Action is urgently needed to find out what you are entitled to.”
The DWS team assured them: “Nobody is left behind.”