Technical teams from the South African National Defence Force will start their work in the Vaal on Monday.

The soldiers have been deployed to help rehabilitate the polluted Vaal River system.

Raw sewage is one of the hazards flowing into the river from pump stations in the Emfuleni local municipality.

Although the cleaning process is underway, two of its four primary sedimentation tanks – known as PST’s – are stuck. It’s been a year since the system would not separate liquid from solid.

Process controller Mavis Jiyane says this is the worst it has been for over half a decade. “The bridge is not moving, it’s supposed to move, to scrap all the scum. When the bridge is moving, it’s because of the wheels, the gear box and the motors… that is the problem.”

The Defence Force goal is not just a mission to fix the system but to preserve life.

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says: “They are not coming in to take over, they’re coming in to provide support to those have the assignment of dealing with this matter.”

“This is an outreach to just communicate with the people of Emfuleni that there are certain things which cannot continue, one of those is allowing ourselves to vandalise the infrastructure, secondly, yes the SANDF as announced by the minister of finance and that commitment having been made, we’re honouring that commitment.”

At least five billion rand has been allocated to 57 affected municipalities but not all require the army’s intervention.

Emfuleni executive mayor Jacob Khawe says: “As we welcome the intervention by national government, the ministry of Defence, we say that we want also a mechanism of skills transfer as they work with our team leave behind skills.”

Soldiers will start working on Monday; they will be in the area until December 2019.

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