DA lays criminal charges against CHDM

The DA wants the water and sanitation function to be taken away from the Chris Hani District Municipality (CHDM) for failure to renew its “ageing” water and sanitation infrastructure, and has laid criminal charges.

The criminal case was opened by DA Member of Parliament Retief Odendaal at the Queenstown Police Station, where they met the acting station commander last Wednesday due to the severity of the claims.

Odendaal said he laid the charges against the newly-appointed municipal manager (MM) Gcobani Mashiyi, for failure to write to the national department of water and sanitation, Lindiwe Sisulu, and ask for assistance in the matter, among others things.

I understand the infrastructure situation is not all their fault, but the MM should have been proactive and asked for assistance because their budget would not be sufficient to rectify the problem. Hundreds of residents across all the six municipalities under its jurisdiction suffer with water outages for days on end, and endless sewage spillages in people’s homes cause a health hazard.

CHDM’s water and sanitation crisis is criminal and will now be investigated by the South African Police Service (Saps). The charges relate to Section 151 (1) of the National Water Act 36 of 1998. This water crisis is caused by a lack of sufficient capital budget to replace ageing infrastructure or build new infrastructure, a shortage of sufficient human resources to deal with daily supply interruptions and a lack of capacity to deal with emergency situations.

Odendaal said there were currently no waste water treatment plants that were maintained and all were dysfunctional or dealing with serious malfunctions.

Raw sewage is flowing into large water resources such as the Great Fish River and Great Kei River and this can have a negative impact on the economy and health of the people of the Eastern Cape.

I recently wrote to Sisulu and called on her to establish a water services committee in terms of section 51 of the water services act in order for it to take over the provision of water and sanitation from the CHDM. In spite of the escalating crisis I have not received a reply from the minister.”

He added that if the coronavirus outbreak hit the CHDM area it would spiral out of control due to lack of water because people were advised to wash their hands on a regular basis, but some in the area would not be able to do so.

DA MPL Jane Cowley, who accompanied Odendaal to lay the criminal charges, said the DA had been

conducting water and sanitation oversight inspections across the CHDM and had recorded video footage and taken pictures of how the municipality was failing in its duties.

These recordings and pictures will be added to a dossier, which will include affidavits by me and Odendaal, and sent to Sisulu. The failure of the MM to take suitable action to prevent the pollution and contamination of our natural resources puts him in contravention of Section 151 (1) and (2) of the National Water Act 36 of 1998. If he is found guilty he can face up to 10 years’ imprisonment, a substantial fine or both. It is high time negligent and irresponsible municipal officials are held criminally accountable for the destruction of our natural water resources.

CHDM senior manager for communications, customer care and stakeholder management, Bulelwa Ganyaza, said the district municipality had no knowledge of the criminal charges opened against it and therefore could not comment on the matter.

However, speaking on the water provision issues, she said the municipality recognised the significance of water in curbing the spread of coronavirus and had put measures in place to ensure it was contained and that communities had access to clean water, despite the challenges they faced.

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