AfriForum is of the opinion that the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation (DWS) does not know what its role at national, provincial or local level is and they contradict themselves repeatedly. This follows after Sputnik Ratua, spokesperson for DWS, said that DWS cannot intervene at national level in Hibberdene and that it is the responsibility of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA). Less than a month ago Lindiwe Sisulu, Minister of DWS, however announced that her Department under Section 63 of the Water Act will take over the management of the water services from the Emfuleni Local Municipality.
The Department cannot sit with folded hands and look on, they remain the responsible department for water despite what goes on in municipalities. The Department returned the Wastewater Treatment Works at the end of 2020 to Rand West Local Municipality after this municipality let the plant deteriorate in such a way that AfriForum had to file criminal charges against the municipal manager. This case will be heard on 19 March in the Randfontein Magistrate’s Court.
AfriForum already sent a letter to Sisulu last week to put the water issues in Hibberdene under the microscope and are awaiting feedback from the Minister.
“The biggest problem being experienced is that not one of the national departments will take responsibility for the problems being experienced in municipalities and always point the finger at another instead of solving the problem,” says Lambert de Klerk, AfriForum’s Manager for Environmental Affairs.
According to De Klerk municipalities are also not being held accountable for the non-fulfilment of their duties. The Minister frequently sheds light on the large issues and the amount of money they will spend thereon (like for example at the Vaal River), but they do not hold the guilty parties accountable and no mention is made of the consequences for these parties.
“In 2018 AfriForum already filed criminal charges over the pollution in the Vaal River against the responsible parties that did not fulfil their duties, as well as in in 2016 over water matters in Randfontein. AfriForum requested a meeting with the Minister in 2019 as well as 2020, but it fell on deaf ears, “ concludes De Klerk.