The Kgentlkengrivier Concerned Citizens (KCC), which won a landmark decision in December last year when the North West High Court handed it control of the local municipality’s water and sewage works, heads back to court in September to appeal another decision by the same court handing back services to the Kgetlengrivier Local Municipality.
The original high court decision in December 2020 had municipalities across the country lining up to challenge dysfunctional municipalities and wrest control of services back into the hands of residents. Others opted for more direct action by way of ratepayers’ boycotts.
The North West High Court handed down a 90-day jail sentence to the municipal manager, suspended on condition that raw sewage spilling into the Elands and Koster rivers be cleared up within 10 days.
That condition was averted by residents, rather than the municipal manager, who was spared the jail time ordered by Justice Samkelo Gura.
The court handed over control of water and sewage services to the KCC, which raised more than R18 million from residents and local businesses to repair broken infrastructure.
Carel van Heerden, head of the KCC, says the area’s water supply was fully functional within weeks of the takeover, and the sewage system – with the aid of local engineers and volunteers – was likewise restored to working capacity.
On May 13, Acting Judge Mahlangu of the North West High Court ordered that the water treatment works be returned to the control of the municipality or its appointed contractor, Magalies Water.
Van Heerden says this judgment has too many errors to be allowed to stand, and will be appealed all the way to the Constitutional Court if necessary.
Back to being without water within days
“Since this latest judgment, we have been forced to hand over control of the water and sewage works to the municipality and its appointed contractor, Magalies Water, and within three or four days we were back to where we were a year ago – with no water in the nearby town of Koster,” he points out.
“The court ignored evidence we provided showing that Magalies Water had abandoned the water works at [nearby] Swartruggens, that it had not ordered the chemicals needed to purify the water, and that raw sewage again flowed from the Koster sewage works into the Koster River after it took over control of the site from 18 March this year,” he adds.
An affidavit by Van Heerden in support of the appeal says Magalies Water and the municipality “did not disclose the records of decision substantiating the lawful, due and proper appointment of Magalies Water”.
He goes on to state that the Kgetlengrivier Local Municipality is in a hopeless state of mismanagement, with the North West provincial administration failing to intervene and remedy the situation with the tools provided it by the Constitution.
The court also erred in assuming that the Kgetlengrivier Local Municipality was in compliance with the order previously issued by Justice Gura, when the evidence suggests this was not the case.
Eight respondents are cited in the case, including Kgetlengrivier municipal manager, the executive mayor of Bojanala Platinum, under which Kgetlengrivier Local Municipality falls, Magalies Water Board, the responsible provincial MECs, and the minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation.
The applicants are KCC and Carel van Heerden.
Moneyweb reached out to Magalies Water for comment on the claims made in the appeal papers, but had not received a response by the time of going to press. The article will be updated if and when a response is received.
Van Heerden says the court also erred in failing to order the KCC and its appointed contractor Pioneer to be compensated for expenses incurred in rehabilitating the area’s water and sewage works.
There is also clear evidence that employees of Magalies Water and the municipality had abandoned the (water and sewage) sites from March 18.
Furthermore there is evidence that neither Magalies Water nor the other respondents had placed suitably qualified employees on site from March 18.
The state respondents have yet to file their replies to the KCC appeal.