Lack of funds means SA can’t stop sewage polluting dam

SANDF needs about R1.1bn to rehabilitate the Vaal River system.
The South African National Defense Force was deployed to take over the refurbishment of the Vaal River system after municipalities failed to, but lack of funds stalls the project further. Image: Shutterstock

South African troops suspended work to rehabilitate the water system that serves the nation’s richest province because of a lack of funds.

President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the sewage problem in the Vaal River system a national crisis in October last year and authorised the deployment of the South African National Defence Force to intervene because the local municipality failed to fix it, said Colonel Andries Mokoena Mahapa, who led the troops.

Many municipalities in South Africa are mismanaged and struggle to provide basic services such as water. Just 8% of 257 audited municipalities received a clean audit, according to the Auditor-General’s office.

The SANDF stopped its refurbishment and maintenance work in June because it needs about R1.1 billion — money it doesn’t have — to complete the project, Mahapa said in an opinion piece in the Johannesburg-based Star newspaper.

Raw sewage is flowing into the system from pump stations in the Emfuleni municipality on the northern bank of the Vaal River. It’s posing health risks to communities in Vereeniging, Sebokeng, Boipatong and Sharpeville in the southern part of Gauteng — a province that includes the economic hub of Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria.

While troops were able to curb vandalism and the theft of pumping instruments and electrical equipment, the army needs to outsource parts of the project, for which more funding is required, Mahapa said. It’s currently only protecting installations. The national Department of Water and Sanitation in March set up a steering committee to tackle the issue, but it has to follow distinct procurement processes for funding and expertise, he said.

Raw effluent

“Since then, there has been neither maintenance nor refurbishment and the e-coli levels into the Vaal River have spiraled upwards because the raw untreated effluent is being allowed straight into the river system’s various catchments,” Mahapa said.

The Vaal River system comprises 14 dams, one of which is the Vaal, which supplies Gauteng, South Africa’s most-populous province.

“The situation is so bad — this is a national crisis,” Bheki Ntsele, a member of the mayoral committee for basic services, said in an interview on broadcaster eNCA Friday. “In six months’ time, the situation will be different. The supply-chain processes are kicking in. The municipality has not stopped working and we’re trying to unblock whatever we can unblock.”

The situation will get worse before it gets better because of the procurement processes that have to be followed, Mahapa said. The Department of Water and Sanitation will need to outsource functions to the Ekurhuleni Water Care Co. because it has the technical skills to resolve the crisis, he said.

Last year, the Emfuleni municipality, which is part of Gauteng, had all of its vehicles repossessed by Bidvest Group Ltd., civil society group the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse said Wednesday. Emfuleni lost the vehicles for its traffic, water, electricity and fire departments.

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Sort by:
  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Top voted

You must be signed in to comment.


Seems that keeping SAA fleet in the air is more important than keeping sewerage from flowing into citizens’ drinking water. Any MP reading this: please ask Squirrel to confirm if this is the case at the next question time in parliament. I guess the poor need to aspire to fly, even if most will go to their grave never having done so. A bit of raw sewerage might help that process along. Viva Corruptheid State viva!

Dit is nou ‘n drol in die drinkwater.

This is a beautiful example of the Malthusian Trap in action. The free-market capitalist mindset, with its attributes of individualism, accountability, property-rights and law and order allowed civilised nations to escape those factors that naturally constrain population growth.

Famine, and diseases like cholera and typhoid fever, controlled the size of the population to be in equilibrium with the availability of resources and the level of accountability of individuals.
When a society moves away from a capitalist system, towards a socialist or collectivist system, the size of the population has to adapt to the new circumstances and realities. This invokes the natural mechanism that controls population growth. All of a sudden the Malthusian Trap appears once again, in the form of cholera, typhoid fever and famine.

We can rename the Freedom Charter to The Malthusian Trap. We are indeed privileged to be able to experience this well-documented phenomenon in the form of a live socio-economic experiment, first-hand and in realtime.

Let the thieves clean the dam as part of community service

A blooody disgrace and a huge shame on the anc’s incompetence and arrogant knowitall attitude!

How many water treatment plants have been built since 1994?

Zilch, nil, none at all.

End of comments.





Follow us:

Search Articles:Advanced Search
Click a Company: