TIMELINE OF BLAME
Killer cholera hits amid decade-long bickering over Hammanskraal water crisis – and tender scandals
The cholera outbreak has killed 15 people so far in Hammanskraal, Tshwane, where water issues have long been used as a campaigning tool by political parties to gain votes and control in the metro. We take you through a timeline of Hammanskraal’s issues, what key political parties and leaders committed to and what they have done.
Thirteen years ago, it was reported that the Department of water affairs had declared the Apies River a disaster area after raw sewage had been pouring into the river located near the Rooiwal sewage treatment plant. That was in 2010.
In response to AfriForum’s petition calling on the Tshwane council to resolve the issue, the then council led by former mayor and now Minister of Electricity ANC’s Kgosientsho ‘Sputla’ Ramokgopa earmarked R11-million for maintenance and upgrading of the treatment plant.
In 2015 and 2016 residents of Hammanskraal and surrounding areas feared that raw sewage sludge, from the malfunctioning Rooiwal water treatment plant, was making its way into the Apies River and contaminating their water.
Meanwhile, Tshwane politics has been turbulent since the 2016 local government elections, with no party holding a majority in the council. After the 2021 local elections, the DA has been in a rocky coalition with ActionSA, the IFP, DA, Freedom Front Plus and ACDP.
After taking office in August 2016 following a coalition with other parties that led to the DA governing in the metro, the then mayor of the City of Tshwane DA’s Solly Msimanga issued a R2-billion tender to clean up contaminated water in Hammanskraal in November of the same year.
Despite Msimanga’s R2-billion tender to clean up contaminated water in Hammanskraal, the issues persisted during and beyond his reign.
In 2018, residents protested against the poor quality of water. They believed that the water was contaminated and could cause cholera and other health complications.
Msimanga’s successor — the DA’s Stevens Mokgalapa — also committed to trying to find a solution to the issues by engaging with the Department of Water and Sanitation, the provincial government and the human rights commission, after South African Human Rights Commission declared Hammanskraal water unfit for consumption in 2019.
When Randal Williams took over office his focus was upgrading the Rooiwal Waste Water Treatment Works in Hammanskraal, as old infrastructure had been blamed for the water crisis that has lasted for close to two decades.
The Rooiwal upgrade, which began in early 2020, cost the city more than R2-billion according to a report by News24. The upgrade remains uncompleted after the City of Tshwane terminated a contract with the service provider as a result of non-performance in August 2022.
Rooiwal is the biggest water treatment plant in Tshwane, treating almost half of the City’s wastewater.
Williams quit in February 2023 amid an investigation into allegations of impropriety against him, relating to a R26-billion unsolicited bid to obtain a service provider, to refurbish, finance, operate and maintain the Pretoria West and Rooiwal power stations.
In his first State of the Capital Address, the incumbent Mayor Cilliers Brink had this to say about Rooiwal:
“The Rooiwal Waste Water Treatment Plant requires special attention. It is an issue that is not only essential to the unity in the multiparty coalition government but also to our reputation as a City that cares for its people, especially the most vulnerable.
“Let me be clear: Rooiwal is a stain on our conscience as a City, including successive administrations of several parties. But Rooiwal is also a warning of what could happen in other communities unless we clean out our supply chain management system, which in this City is, quite frankly, a festering sore infecting the rest of the body. Whether the cause of failure is corruption or inefficiency or a combination of both, we can no longer tolerate a system, including a management team, that produces one irregular tender after another.”
Ahead of the November 2021 local government elections, ActionSA championed the Hammanskraal water issue.
In August 2021 leader Herman Mashaba preempted an inquiry into the Hammanskraal water crisis.
Mashaba’s inquiry found the City of Tshwane “insensitive, irresponsive, non-transparent, unaccountable and marked with delinquent inertia on the water crisis in Hammanskraal.”
He added, “The findings have emphasised, once more, that given the City’s continued inaction, the only way to bring lasting change to the community is to take the City of Tshwane to court for its failures.”
Mashaba vowed if former mayor Williams failed to act on the Hammasnkraal water issues, he would take the matter to court.
Last month the ANC-EFF partnership promised clean governance after several Gauteng metro takeovers and vowed to fix the problem of poor water quality in townships, especially Hammanskraal.
The ANC-EFF partnership has blamed the cholera outbreak on the DA administration.
“The tragedy unfolding in Hammanskraal is a direct outcome of a municipality that has been sleeping on the job and failed dismally to provide clean and safe drinking water to the people of Hammanskraal,” reads the ANC statement.
The EFF said it has taken a proactive approach to creating awareness of cholera in the Hammanskraal area through a door-to-door awareness programme. The party said it was visiting Jubilee district hospital as part of a wards cleanup campaign and to ensure there is no shortage of beds amidst the outbreak. DM