ActionSA today filed court papers (attached) at the KwaZulu-Natal High Court to compel the Cooperative Governance Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Water and Sanitation Minister, Senzo Mchunu, the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government, eThekwini Municipality and others to fix the sewage crisis across Durban beaches.
President Cyril Rampahosa’s promise in April of R1 billion to repair critical infrastructure in KwaZulu-Natal following flooding never materialised even with a disaster declaration, resulting in sewerage running unabated through people’s homes, and contaminating the previously pristine beaches.
Despite a letter of demand by ActionSA and continued public outcry, the ministers and the ANC-led governments have, in the proceeding seven months, failed to address sewage running into rivers and the ocean, threatening the health of people using the water sources.
ActionSA has also found the eTthekwini Municipality’s decision to reopen beaches to be flawed as independent water testing has shown that E.coli levels, caused by sewage, are up to a thousand times higher than what is safe for use.
ActionSA, therefore, approached the courts to ensure that the relevant authorities adhere to their constitutionally mandated responsibilities to provide environments that are not harmful to people’s health and well-being.
ActionSA is confident that judicial oversight will force the executive to act to remedy the cesspit they have allowed to persist.
In our court papers, ActionSA also asked that the courts mandate authorities to appoint an independent water sanitation expert to attain daily E. coli readings which should be publicly displayed to keep the public updated and ensure improvement in water readings can be trusted. This is certainly in the public interest.
ActionSA’s papers ask the court to declare the conduct of government at municipal, provincial and national levels unconstitutional in failing to maintain, repair and replace the necessary infrastructure to prevent the flow of sewage and untreated effluent into the environment in the eThekwini Municipality’s waterways, as well as in contravention national water legislation and municipal by-laws.
ActionSA is further asking that within 30 days of the court order being granted, a list of all the Wastewater Pumping Stations, Wastewater Treatment Plants and other water reticulation systems that are currently non-operational or vandalised or in a state of disrepair in the eThekwini Municipality must be supplied.
All the parties being cited must be directed to implement interim measures to ensure that the Wastewater Pumping Stations, Wastewater Treatment Plants, and other water reticulation systems, be rendered operational in the eThekwini region and that within 30 days of the court order being granted, that all untreated effluent, solid waste or sewerage which is entering the oceans at the beaches falling within the eThekwini region, be redirected to the appropriate Wastewater Pumping Stations, Wastewater Treatment Plants, closest in proximity to the said beaches.
Within 60 days of this order being granted, all the parties cited in the application must be directed to appoint an independent sanitation specialist or similar expert, to prepare a report to the High Court, detailing all the structures that are in a state of disrepair and which affects all environmental areas in the eThekwini region, as well as the remedial steps required, time frames and cost required to make them fully operational.
KwaZulu-Natal communities are already exceptionally vulnerable, and this continued failure of governance threatens, not only their health but also the livelihoods of those dependent on tourists visiting the beaches.
It is shocking that the government could not have simply implemented the above measures themselves, and instead have to be forced by an order of the court to keep the people of eThekwini safe.
ActionSA will do everything in its power to protect communities in KwaZulu-Natal and to ensure that governments deliver on their constitutionally mandated responsibilities to protect the most vulnerable.