Several areas in the Vaal are still drowning in raw sewage, putting people and animals at risk.

The Emfuleni Municipality – now under administration – has been unable to resolve the decades-old problem.

Residents say the subsequent intervention of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and later a water care company did not make much of a difference.

“I can’t open my doors. I can’t open my windows. I always close them because of the smell. It’s Almost five months with this sewerage,” says Jacob Mathibela.

His passion for gardening killed.

“Here I was having a lot of strawberry. Now it’s dead because of this weed here in my garden. I can’t even have something to eat.”

From the yards – it flows to the streets. Putting people’s health and animals at risk.

“No this is unhealthy, people are staying here, there is people living here, this is rubbish,” says one resident.

“The horse is forced to cross in the sewerage, and that attracts flies to bite it.”

Residents say the crisis has persisted for decades.

“It’s even worse when it’s raining. The stench is overwhelming. Septic tanks were better. Now it’s been a 30-year struggle,” says Sebokeng resident, Mateboh Setai.

Vaal residents unhappy as raw sewage put people and animals’ lives at risk:

‘Losing battle’

The stagnant, smelly water attracts mosquitoes.

Residents say it is a losing battle.

“Firstly kids can’t play outside. There are mosquitoes; there is rain sometimes even the cars. When they pass here they splash the sewerage water on them, so they’re always in doors. It’s very terrible,” says another resident, Daniel Ndaba.

If the sewage dissipates, potholes are laid bare. Adding to the misery – are piles of garbage.

“The municipality is not collecting it; as a result people decide to dump it here,” says one community member.

“We’ve been fighting since 1994, fighting for freedom, but till today, the municipality has been ignoring our calls,” adds another resident.

Fresh protests erupted in Sebokeng a few days ago. The community says poor service delivery is a result of corruption and maladministration at the municipality.

Community leader, Themba Mnisi, says: “We will fight them amid this corona because it’s the scapegoat of corruption that is why they don’t want us to be a metro, it’s because if we were a metro they can’t loot, we want to be a metro, we are fighting to be a metro now, we are claiming Transvaal back.”

Fresh promises

The struggling municipality was placed under administration in June last year.

“I actually joined in August to say the municipality has collapsed and failed on the service delivery and now as per the MFA section 139, the administrators had to come and take over. So the main thing is that is that the main infrastructure that is moving the sewer to the waste water plants most of that has collapsed, it is blocked, some is blocked deliberately by people putting rocks there, there is carcasses of animals,” says Emfuleni Municipality administrator, Silas Zimu.

With investigations into alleged corruption under way, Zimu is making fresh promises.

“We have gone to national water and sanitation, they are now putting a R1 billion just on sewer on Emfuleni, the tender was opened in November-December, it’s closing now in January, and a lot of contractors will be brought in. Remember,it’s the same service that the soldiers were brought in to do, company from the East Rand municipality was brought in to do, now we are doing it through the administrators and Emfuleni has to be involved and they are the ones that need to maintain those sewer pipes, the sewer in some of the pipes has actually become a rock, that’s a sign of non-maintenance over the years.”

Zimu adds that roads will be upgraded and garbage will be collected weekly.