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Malema takes Mangaung sewage fight to SAHRC, threatens legal action

EFF leader slams municipality's 'gross political expediency' after oversight visit

21 January 2022 - 07:00
EFF leader Julius Malema says thousands of Mangaung residents live around large pools of sewage, severely compromising their health and safety. File photo.
EFF leader Julius Malema says thousands of Mangaung residents live around large pools of sewage, severely compromising their health and safety. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Sharon Seretlo

The EFF has lodged an official complaint against the Mangaung municipality in the Free State for allegedly infringing on the human rights of residents.

They say thousands of the metropolitan municipality's residents live around large pools of sewage, severely compromising their health and safety, and in some cases preventing elderly and wheelchair bound people from moving around.

“The municipality has been negligent in its performance, resulting in the rights of people being infringed,” the EFF said.

The compliant to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) was filed by EFF  president Julius Malema in writing after conducting an oversight visit in the metro last week.

“During the oversight visit I was accompanied by some members of the local community. They are deeply disgusted and concerned about the spillages because of the effect on the health and safety of all, especially the elderly and children,” wrote Malema. 

Among the most affected areas, according to Malema, are wards 1, 3, 11 and 16.

“The sewage has practically entrapped some elderly residents, who are wheelchair bound. It runs across the community, flowing into homesteads, schools and early childhood development centres.

“During our oversight we had to navigate around and through large pools of sewage to access residents and go from ward to ward. This resulted in some among our own team getting sick,” he said.

The rights of the Mangaung residents, specifically in black and African areas, have been infringed in line with section 9 of the constitution, which provides for equality, he said.

Indirect discrimination on the grounds of race, living in undignified conditions and the lack of access to healthcare services and sufficient water are some of the ways in which the constitution was breached by the municipality, he said.

Mangaung spokesperson Qondile Khedama admitted to the ongoing sewerage problem.

Our infrastructure is overburdened and this is a problem in a number of areas in the city. The problem revolves around aged infrastructure and thin pipes.
Qondile Khedama, Mangaung spokesperson 

“Our infrastructure is overburdened and this is a problem in a number of areas in the city. The problem revolves around aged infrastructure and thin pipes,” he said.

Malema said the commission had a constitutional duty to protect the human rights of all South Africans.  

“We are not aware that you have taken any steps in fulfilment of the commission’s obligations — and if you have, we would be grateful for such information and what has happened pursuant to your intervention,” he wrote. 

Malema accused the municipality of mobilising resources to attempt to clean up the sewage spillages ahead of his oversight visit to avoid public embarrassment.  

“This is gross political expediency and reveals that the inhumane conditions our people are subjected to are a result of deliberate negligence and disregard for the human rights of the people of Mangaung.”

Khedama, however, said the municipality had short- and long-term solutions in place and was attending to different queries.

“We are responding to enquiries coming from members of the community, though not all of them because of limitations in resources. We have also developed a plan that is two-phased. In the long-term we intend replacing old pipes with durable and right-sized pipes to accommodate the growing population of Mangaung.

“We are galvanising resources to fund some of the infrastructure projects and things are promising,” he said.

The EFF said it reserved its right to take legal action against the Mangaung municipality.

“If such proceedings are instituted, the commission will also be cited as a respondent party,” said Malema.

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