The civil rights organisation AfriForum formally served court documents this week to become party to the ongoing Koster court case as friend of the court (amicus curiae). This follows the urgent court application brought by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) on behalf of the Kgetlengrivier Local Municipality in the North West High Court in Mahikeng to take the management of the Koster and Swartruggens sewage and waterworks out of the hands of Kgetlengrivier Concerned Residents (KCR). The KCR has been managing it since December 2020 in terms of a court order.
According to Corné Cronjé, Manager of AfriForum’s community structures, the case will be heard on 11 May 2021 in the High Court in Mahikeng. Cronjé says that the events in the Kgetlengrivier Municipality comprise a microcosmos of the country-wide municipal deterioration and the subsequent desperation of communities who do not receive basic services.
“AfriForum argues in its court documents that Koster should not be seen in isolation. However, the solution that was implemented here is very important for other communities in the country to manage these service themselves in a structured manner in cases where the municipalities have failed,” Cronjé says.
AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit is already a party to the case. The Unit will act on behalf of KCR residents in the court application that will be heard in the same court this coming Tuesday to rule that the Municipal Manager committed contempt of court. Wico Swanepoel, lawyer at AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit, explains that the Municipal Manager, Joseph Mogale, was ordered by the High Court to among others report to the court on the steps taken to clear up the flow of sewage and to prevent it in future. Failing this, he could be given a 90 days’ prison sentence.
“Contempt of a court order means that the court’s authority is being undermined, and it should subsequently be protected. The purpose of a ruling of contempt is indeed to protect the authority of the courts and prevent further acts of contempt. We argue that, in terms of the court order, Mogale had neglected his duties and that he should be held accountable. The application for contempt serves to ensure that justice prevails and that the authority of the courts is not violated,” Swanepoel adds.
The services company Pionier – that was appointed by the KCR to manage the plants – has also been added to the court case but it is also defending the court application. “The plants are now functioning better than ever and the water quality is high. Cogta and the municipality are anxious and wants to return the plants to Magalies Water without any further ado. Both are responsible for the deterioration of the plants, however. It boggles the mind,” says Johan Kruger, Executive Chairperson of Pionier Dienstemaatskappy.