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Victory: Municipality pleads guilty to pollution charges laid by AfriForum

Themba Goba, Municipal Manager of the Rand West City Local Municipality, who is currently suspended, today as the representative of the municipality pleaded guilty in terms of a plea agreement to complaints of pollution in terms of the National Environmental Act. This follows after Matiam van Vuuren, AfriForum’s chairperson of the Randfontein branch, laid criminal charges in 2016 in terms of this legislation for sewage pollution against Goba in its official capacity. Magistrate Vivian Hawkins ratified the plea agreement in the Randfontein Regional Court.

The sentence entails a fine of R10 million of which R7 million has been suspended for five years, provided that the municipality complies with certain conditions in terms of the plea agreement. The Department of Water and Sanitation also stepped in and launched their own investigation where directives were also issued against this municipality.

“AfriForum has been fighting this battle relentlessly since 2016 and today’s ruling is a huge victory for us as the Randfontein branch, as well as for the community. We are confident that this success will open doors for other communities to also hold their municipalities criminally responsible for pollution due to defective sewage works,” says Van Vuuren.

According to Morné Mostert, Manager of Local Government Affairs at AfriForum, this victory must also be seen in the context of Senzo Mchunu, Minister of Water and Sanitation’s (DWS) green drop report that the department recently issued.

“Today’s ruling is only our first success with such complaints and we see it as a good precedent, as both AfriForum and the government’s green drop reports show that only 22 of 850 (2.3%) sewage plants comply with the green drop standards. This ruling and the process that has been followed to make this a reality, is part of our strategy to hold municipalities and more specifically municipal managers accountable to ensure that there are consequences for the mismanagement that currently prevails in many municipalities,” says Mostert.

The terms of this agreement include the following:

  • That the fine of R3 million be spent on repairs;
  • That evidence of the repairs be sent to the DWS;
  • The appointment of qualified and experienced process controllers as prescribed by regulations;
  • That millwrights and electromechanical technicians be appointed to ensure proper maintenance of the works;
  • Proper monitoring of the outflow to ensure compliance;
  • That there is proper reporting to the DWS;
  • That 10% of all municipal infrastructure grants be fenced off for maintenance of the works.

AfriForum will continue to monitor the situation and fulfil the watchdog role to ensure that the constitutional principles of a clean environment are complied with and that the guilty parties are held accountable.

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