Grateful activists give minister Sisulu 'space' to fix polluted Vaal River

11 February 2020 - 12:36 By ERNEST MABUZA
Debris is cleared from a blocked section at the Sebokeng water treatment works. Activists at Save the Vaal Environment (SAVE) say they will suspend litigation against the government as long as good progress is made in fixing the pollution.
Debris is cleared from a blocked section at the Sebokeng water treatment works. Activists at Save the Vaal Environment (SAVE) say they will suspend litigation against the government as long as good progress is made in fixing the pollution.
Image: Alaister Russell

The organisation formed to protect the Vaal river system and its environs has suspended legal action against the government to give human settlements, water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu a chance to clean the polluted system.

Save the Vaal Environment (SAVE) and the Golden Triangle Chamber of Commerce last week hosted a visit by Sisulu and another by parliament's portfolio committee for human settlements, water and sanitation. They sailed on the Vaal River to assess the damage caused by failing sewage infrastructure at the Emfuleni local municipality.

Rosemary Anderson, a member of SAVE and the chamber, said the municipality had, for more than 10 years, allowed sewage to enter the Vaal river system.

This prompted SAVE to take the municipality to court previously to force it to clean up the system.

“Eight judgments were taken against the Emfuleni municipality in the past 10 years,” she said.

Anderson said the visit by Sisulu had prompted SAVE and other organisations to put legal proceedings in abeyance to allow her space to fix the problem.

The litigation was aimed at compelling the government to repair and replace the waste water infrastructure in the Vaal, which was causing pollution.

Anderson said Sisulu wanted her department to be in charge of all efforts to clean up the river system.

The minister was accompanied by the mayors of Sedibeng and Emfuleni, and a representative of ERWAT, the entity contracted to clean up the river.

SAVE committee member Michael Gaade pointed out to Sisulu during her visit on February 4 that the pollution was due, in large part, to the partial or non-operation of the 44 pump stations and three waste water treatment works which were discharging raw or partially treated sewage into the river at numerous points.

Anderson said the organisations were grateful Sisulu had shown an interest in the problem.

She said Sisulu was the first minister to spend many hours on the Vaal River, personally inspecting the quality of the water and the causes which had contributed to its current state.

“This brings us tremendous hope that we now have a minister who will finally put an end to the current trajectory of the Vaal river’s demise and then go on to address the similar problems plaguing many other water sources in our country,” Anderson said.


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