Vaal River pollution getting worse, says the SANDF

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The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) says water pollution and the state of infrastructure in Emfuleni municipality and the Vaal River are getting worse.

The SANDF was brought in to deal with contaminated water in the Vaal River. Brigadier General Andries Mahapa says his team has done what it was deployed to do.

Mahapa says following their withdrawal, the situation has again been deteriorating. He says this will cost government billions of rand if it is not attended to as a matter of urgency.

“It’s sad to note that the situation is deteriorating, because I was hoping, surely hoping that when we leave the Vaal, where we left it will continue and become better. Its common sense but unfortunately it got worse. Why? I don’t know. I wasn’t there. I can’t answer that question. I was in the Vaal couple of weeks back. The situation is worse than what it was in 2019 and the situation is still getting worse because nothing is happening.”

The Ekurhuleni Water Care Company (ERWAT) says it was removed from the site where it was working to decontaminate the Vaal River system and unblock water channels in the Emfuleni Local Municipality.

ERWAT managing director, Tumelo Gopane, says water plants also need to be properly managed.

“From our point of view I think COGTA will know. Zimu, National Treasury and Brigadier Mahapa know and I have repeatedly said this. I used to say it in our meetings when I was present that throwing billions of CAPEX in infrastructure, if you not operating and maintaining it properly is a waste of tax payers’ money because we will be back here again in six months or twelve months,” says Gopane.

Gopane and Mahapa were briefing the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in Gauteng on the intervention concerning the upgrade of sanitation infrastructure in Emfuleni Local Municipality and the rehabilitation of the Vaal River integrated system in Pretoria.

One of the key stakeholders, the Water and Sanitation Department did not attend the session.

Emfuleni mayor, Reverend Gift Moerane, has welcomed the Human Rights Commission’s intervention.

Moerane says this will help the municipality to deal with the challenges.

The SAHRC says information gathered from the parties will be useful in monitoring progress and identifying challenges.

Gauteng Human Rights Commission head, Buang Jones says: “The information gathered and gleaned from this exercise today will be used for purpose of preparing and developing our own monitoring and implementation plan. We wanted to have this reflective exercise with the key entities and key actors who were involved in the remediation and rehabilitation of the Vaal river system in order to understand what were some of the challenges.”

Vaal River situation has deteriorated since withdrawal of SANDF:

Last month, the SAHRC released a report into the pollution of the Vaal River, which found its state “distasteful and unpalatable.”

Analysis of the SAHRC’s report in the video below: