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High court orders Nkomazi Municipality to stop fouling Komatipoort, Crocodile River with sewage

High court orders Nkomazi Municipality to stop fouling Komatipoort, Crocodile River with sewage
Raw sewage runs down a street in Komatipoort. | Raw sewage spills out near the town's Spar. (Photos: Lené Roux, Komatipoort Despondent Residents Association)

The Mpumalanga High Court ordered the Nkomazi Municipality on Friday to urgently take remedial action to stop the flow of raw sewage that is fouling the tourist town of Komatipoort and the Crocodile River and to clean up the mess within 21 days.

Faced with evidence of extensive sewage pollution throughout Komatipoort, the Mpumalanga High Court on Friday ordered the Nkomazi Municipality to clean up its act and the streets. 

“The waste disposal sites and sewerage works in Komatipoort are not well managed and therefore need urgent attention as these are the causes of the sewage spills encountered,” the judgment reads.

It ordered the first three respondents – the municipality, the municipal manager and the mayor – to “urgently take remedial steps to stop the raw sewage spills by immediately fixing the causes of the spillages and to remedy the effects of the pollution caused, and to rehabilitate the affected areas”.

The respondents were ordered to file a report to the registrar of the court within 21 days on the steps taken on that front. The municipal manager was ordered to ensure that the raw sewage spilling into the Crocodile River is “cleared up within 21 calendar days from the date of the order”.

Chronic water shortages have also bedevilled the town and the municipality was ordered to comply with its constitutional obligation to supply potable water.

The municipality has not yet responded to a request for comment.

The applicant in the case, the Komatipoort Despondent Residents Association, was authorised by the court to employ an expert to monitor the sewerage works for 12 weeks, for which the municipality will have to pay.

Association chairperson Lené Roux told Daily Maverick that the problem had been festering for years.

“We are struggling to cope with sewage spilling everywhere, and the smell. We have a family guesthouse, it overlooks the Kruger Park, and some days you can smell the sewage in the dining room and the bedrooms,” she said.

In 2019, the South African Human Rights Commission found that Nkomazi and two other Mpumalanga municipalities were in violation of the “Constitution as a result of their continued failure to effectively address the challenges of sewage spillages and the inadequate treatment of effluent within their jurisdictions”.

It also found that they had contravened the National Water Act and the National Environmental Management Act owing to their “failure to prevent and remedy the effects of environmental pollution, in the course of providing sanitation services to their residents”.

Five years later, a sewer is still running through Komatipoort, which is an ANC-run municipality.

The spill into the Crocodile River is deeply concerning because it flows into Mozambique, taking “made in South Africa” pollution into a neighbouring country. The river is also home to a wide range of fish and bird life as well as crocodiles and hippos.

This example of state failure is one of many fouling South African waterways and towns, creating a health hazard for humans while damaging ecosystems and threatening wildlife.

Read more in Daily Maverick: A sewer runs through it

It’s also not the first time a South African court has ordered a delinquent municipality to stop a torrent of raw sewage caused by its negligence. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Mpumalanga municipality fined R70m for Vaal River sewage pollution

It remains to be seen whether the Nkomazi Municipality has the capacity or funds to address this issue as the court has ordered. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Mike Newton says:

    Does anyone think that this will change anything?

  • The real Ellon Must says:

    Regretfully the Town budget works this way:
    Total population: 591,928
    Gross Income: R 1 162 000 000 Just under R 2000 per population Kids and pensioners included
    Salaries: R 677 633 000 R 1 145 per population
    New Vehicle Fleet R 15 000 000 The Mayor can’t drive just anything!
    Wasted/Irregular expenditure R 478 702 000!
    Loss R 144 853 000
    It is the money of the thing…. Nothing left to spend on important stuff like basic services

  • Michele Rivarola says:

    Pyrrhic victory. We have a while lot of contempt of court orders against our metro but as usual nothing much happens until the private sector and individuals decide that enough is enough and they take over. Until no one is sent to goal and ordered to pay personal costs nothing much will change.

  • Rod H MacLeod says:

    Another ANC sh!tshow.

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