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The civil rights organisation AfriForum was in the North West High Court in Mahikeng today to join the Koster court case to ensure that justice be done to the people of this town. AfriForum approached the court on Tuesday for a declaration that the municipal manager had disregarded a court order and also to be allowed as a friend of the court (amicus curiae).

AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit, headed by Adv. Gerrie Nel, is acting on behalf of the Kgetlengrivier Besorgde Inwoners (KBI) in the case for a declaration that Joseph Mogale, municipal manager of the Kgetlengrivier Local Municipality, had disregarded a court order by making no effort to get the water and sewage works at Koster in order. Nel argued that Mogale’s excuses and assumption that “historical challenges” had hampered him, were no defence for the intentional neglect of his duties. Nel contended that the disregard of court orders was extremely dangerous because court orders are binding on all citizens. AfriForum therefore requested that Mogale be sentenced to 90 days of imprisonment for contempt of court. Judgement is reserved in this application.

Kallie Kriel, CEO of AfriForum, hopes the court would send a strong message to other municipal managers and public servants who neglect the public by delivering poor or no service. “We are asking that the municipal manager be locked up for disregarding the order of court. Public officials are accountable to the citizenry and AfriForum will continue watching cases such as this.”

Carel van Heerden of the KBI says Mogale is still neglecting his responsibility to ensure that sewerage does not run into the Koster and Elands Rivers. “The KBI is managing only the plants and not the bigger water and sewage systems. Our hands are clean, but the municipality and the municipal manager are not complying with their statutory duties.”

The services company Pionier, which currently is running the plants on behalf of the KBI, has lodged a counterapplication after it had joined the case. According to Johan Kruger, Executive Chairman of Pionier, this company is asking the court for an order for Pionier to be allowed to manage the plants until the matter has been finally tried before the court. “We simply cannot allow the community to be let down again by poor service delivery and no or dirty water.”

Finally, AfriForum’s application to be allowed as a friend of the (amicus curiae) was accepted on Tuesday. This is to look after the interests of other communities who are in the same circumstances as Koster and Swartruggens, for them to get services. “The vast majority of AfriForum’s 155 branches across the country are in the same situation as the communities of Koster and Swartruggens. We want to make the court aware of the need for a sustainable solution in these communities, which could also serve as a model for other communities who are forced to manage services themselves because of the implosion of municipal service delivery,” says Corné Cronjé, AfriForum’s Manager for Community Structures.

The case continues.

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