Emfuleni municipal manager in hot water over sewage spillage

The large-scale spillage of sewage, amongst other things, into the Vaal River has led to AfriForum laying criminal charges against April Ntuli, the municipal manager of the Emfuleni Local Municipality.

Emfuleni municipal manager in hot water over sewage spillage
Water lettuce proliferating in the Vaal River as a result of the spillage of sewage into the water system may lead to lower crop yields for farmers.
Photo: Supplied
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The spillage created a breeding ground for several invasive plant species, including water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes), the occurrence of which has increased alarmingly since the end of last year.

According to Jaco Grobbelaar, AfriForum’s Regional Head for the Central Region, this was the primary reason that AfriForum had laid charges against Ntuli.

READ Contaminants threatening the health of soil and water

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Grobbelaar said government had been ‘dragging its feet’ with regards to the water lettuce crisis for months. “Although government has already convened numerous meetings with the community, they are taking months to approve specific actions to tackle the problem.

In the end, it always comes down to the community to put their hands in their pockets and get to work to fight this natural disaster.”

Meanwhile, Lambert de Klerk, manager of Environmental Affairs at AfriForum, told Farmer’s Weekly the rapid spread of water lettuce had effectively choked off the flow of water, leading to stagnation in many areas.

This stagnation, compounded by the dense coverage of water lettuce, had severe repercussions for farmers and the agriculture sector.

“The agricultural industry, heavily reliant on the Vaal River system for irrigation, faces significant disruptions.

The presence of water lettuce inhibits the natural oxygenation of the water, depriving crops of vital nutrients. As a result, crop yields may suffer,” he said.

READ Addressing the risk of polluted irrigation water

Minister Senzo Mchunu of the Department of Water and Sanitation and Minister Barbara Creecy of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment announced the establishment of a task team to advise on Rand Water’s clearing of water lettuce in the sewage-polluted Vaal River in March this year.

Despite the announcement, Grobbelaar stated that no official action had been taken in Emfuleni so far.

Statistics provided by AfriForum showed that communities had spent more than R6 million so far to address the water lettuce crisis.

The community had removed more than 168 000m3 of water lettuce, while the state had failed to remove any of the invasive species.

Grobbelaar encouraged the public to submit complaints regarding the dumping of untreated sewage to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) as “citizens have the right to a clean and safe environment”.

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Annelie Coleman represents Farmer’s Weekly in the Free State, North West and Northern Cape. Agriculture is in her blood. She grew up on a maize farm in the Wesselsbron district where her brother is still continuing with the family business. Annelie is passionate about the area she works in and calls it ‘God’s own country’. She’s particularly interested in beef cattle farming, especially with the indigenous African breeds. She’s an avid reader and owns a comprehensive collection of Africana covering hunting in colonial Africa, missionary history of same period, as well as Rhodesian literature.