eThekwini Sewage Crisis: ActionSA Will Seek Judgment Against Defaulting Government Departments if they Fail to File Condonation Applications

ActionSA is disappointed but unsurprised that most of the respondents in the eThekwini sewage debacle have missed and simply disregarded the deadline to file answering affidavits for the court application enrolled for 27 February 2023, in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court.

If the respondents in question fail to bring their condonation applications, explaining why they failed to meet the deadline and why they need more time, by the date scheduled for 27 February 2023, we will bring their default to the attention of the Court and ask for judgment to be granted against them, notwithstanding that they have filed notice to oppose the application.

The parties who have failed to file answering affidavits are required by law to bring condonation applications before their answering affidavits will be permitted to be placed before the Court. ActionSA will vigorously oppose any condonation applications that are brought, and have advised the defaulting parties of our position.

This disregard to file papers is on the part of the Minister of Tourism, Lindiwe Sisulu, the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, the Minister of Water and Sanitation, Senzo Mchunu, the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the KwaZulu-Natal MEC for CoGTA, Bongi Sithole Moloi and the eThekwini Municipality and its Executive Mayor, Mxolisi Kaunda. Kaunda himself has intimated to the press that he is unphased by the application. The attitude of these respondents demonstrates the lack of commitment to finally address the eThekwini sewage crisis that has a stranglehold on the tourism industry, the environment and quality of life of the residents of eThekwini.

ActionSA expresses its dismay on behalf of the residents of eThekwini, in circumstances where only the MEC of Economic Development has bothered to file an answering affidavit by the deadline. The MEC’s affidavit in itself is damning of the eThekwini Municipality and Mayor Kaunda.

The MEC makes a startling concession under oath, that the floods of 2022, do not solely account for the sewage crisis in eThekwini. The MEC’s affidavit makes reference to March 2021, where a joint site inspection was conducted which involved the municipality as well as the Department of Water and Sanitation, and which refers to the municipality’s lack of compliance with environmental legislation, and pollution of residential homes. The MEC’s affidavit refers to the conduct of the municipality as a “blatant disregard” (as well as a criminal offence) in terms of the National Environment Management Act (NEMA).

The papers of the MEC for Economic Development are a litany of attacks on the municipality, containing blame shifting and a seemingly endless barrage of tales about how many criminal charges they have laid against the municipality. One would scarcely believe that both the MEC for Economic Development and the eThekwini Mayor belong to the same political party. The MEC has washed their hands clean of the crisis and has left the Mayor out to dry.

If the residents of eThekwini needed any clearer indication of the government’s lack of interest in addressing this matter, this is it. Neither the implicated Ministers, the CoGTA MEC or the municipality itself consider this dire situation as one of critical importance, despite it affecting the health and safety of the people they supposedly claim to serve.

ActionSA’s court application is an essential step to holding the eThekwini Metro to account, as well as forcing the municipality to solve the sewage crisis that has seen many communities impacted due to the collapse of local tourism over the festive season. We will not back down until such time as the Constitutional rights of the residents of eThekwini have been protected against a municipality that has proven incapable, uncaring and blasé.

We will fix eThekwini and we will fix South Africa.