ActionSA Puts eThekwini Metro on Notice- Fix Sewer System or Face Court Action

Yesterday, Wednesday 19 October 2022, and on my request as the new ActionSA Provincial Chairperson of KwaZulu-Natal, ActionSA’s legal teams issued a letter of demand to the eThekwini Metro Municipality.

The letter requires the cessation of the flow of sewerage into the river systems in the city that has resulted in the closure of beaches, health concerns for residents and the long-term damage to sensitive ecosystems. The situation has been allowed to continue for over 6 months and it must be stopped and of great concern is the apparent lack of a coherent plan and timeline to resolve the problem.

The infrastructure renewal and maintenance of our sewer system is a fundamental function of a metro municipality, and the historic failure of this function is directly to blame for the malfunction of sewerage pump stations in various locations in the city since the floods in April. This is not merely a tragedy for the people of eThekwini or KwaZulu-Natal but for the whole of South Africa with our Durban coastline being a national treasure to be enjoyed by all South Africans.

Section 152 of the Constitution of our Republic of South Africa is unequivocal on the responsibility of local governments to promote social and economic development and to provide a safe and healthy environment. In of these respects, and for many months, eThekwini is objectively failing to live up to this prescript of our Constitution.

Our city faces a festive season where its hospitality industry and broader economy will be severely damaged by our beaches remaining closed over the festive season – traditionally a vital source of job-sustaining economic activity for eThekwini. This, alongside the inability of eThekwini residents to use their natural environment for economic, recreational, social and religious purposes necessitates our intervention.

As such, ActionSA will, later today, launch an online public participation process so we can hear first-hand the human impact of the eThekwini Municipality’s inaction from affected residents and businesses. These submissions, solicited from the public, will form the basis of the action we will take on behalf of South Africans adversely affected by the closure and damage to our coastline.

ActionSA’s legal approach is to provide eThekwini Metro 2 weeks to address the issue sufficiently that the water quality at all eThekwini beaches falls to acceptable levels. Should this demand not be met, ActionSA’s legal team will approach the courts for a mandamus to compel the municipality to act and, if necessary, be held in contempt criminally for their failure to do so.

It is a tragedy that it is necessary for governments to be taken to court to compel them to attend to the fundamentals of service delivery. It is a demonstration of the role required from ActionSA to win support away from the ANC to ensure that new governing coalitions can take office and deliver the services that are needed by the residents of eThekwini and KwaZulu-Natal.