SAHRC to investigate Fish River sewage crisis

Issued by Retief Odendaal, MPL – EC Midlands Constituency Leader
03 Sep 2019 in Press Statements

Note to Editors: Please find attached soundbites in English and Afrikaans by Retief Odendaal MPL.

The inability of the Chris Hani District Municipality (CHDM) to curb the flow of raw sewage into the Great Fish River will now be investigated by the South African Human Rights Commission.

The Cradock Waste Water Treatment Works, which falls under auspices of the CHDM, is still not fully operational and raw sewage is still flowing unabated into the Great Fish River.

Access to clean drinking water and sanitation are basic human rights and therefore, on the 10th of July 2019, I wrote to the SAHRC and requested that it immediately intervenes in this matter. (letter attached)

On the 26th of August 2019 I received feedback from the SAHRC’s Eastern Cape Provincial Manager, Mr Abongile Sipondo, who confirmed that my complaint will be investigated on the grounds that it contains a prima facia violation of a human right. (letter attached)

The discharge of raw sewage into the river, an issue that has been ongoing for years, could result in the water becoming so contaminated that it will no longer be fit for use as an irrigation source for farmers. This also poses a massive health and environmental risk to local communities.

A month has passed since the Acting City Manager of the CHDM, Dr Bhekisisa Mthembu, confirmed that reparations have begun at the Cradock Waste Water Treatment Works.  Very little work has taken place and the treatment works are still not operational.

On the 10th of July 2019 I also laid criminal charges against the Municipality and Mr Mthembu at the Cradock Police Station.  The charges relate to Section 151 (1) of the National Water Act 36 of 1998, following their continued intentional and wilful contamination and pollution of the Great Fish River. If those implicated are found guilty, they can face either up to 10 years imprisonment, a substantial fine or both.

I have also previously written to the Green Scorpions to investigate this matter.

Both these investigations are ongoing.

The Democratic Alliance is committed to fight for a clean and healthy environment to ensure people are not poisoned by failing infrastructure. This collapsing ANC council, along with the officials, must be held fully accountable.