eThekwini Sewer Crisis: ActionSA Will Proceed with Litigation Against the eThekwini Metro After Receiving Action Plan

Pursuant to finally receiving an action plan from the eThekwini Municipality on how they will begin repairing damaged sewerage infrastructure that has been spewing millions of litres of raw sewerage into river bodies, which flows into our ocean, we are not confident that the Municipality will be able to rebuild eThekwini without a Court ordering them to attend to the issues faced.

Our legal team consulted in eThekwini today to investigate claims that the municipality has attended to repair 98% of all the pump stations. Our legal team have ascertained that this is not the case but will investigate the municipality’s claims further in the next week and then decide on the way forward.

It is appalling that City leaders have failed to be transparent and truthful with the public regarding how long the sewer issue has been affecting the City – which appears strongly to pre-date the floods in 2022.

While eThekwini leaders have been misleading the public into believing that the crisis only began affecting the City during the April 2022 floods, nonetheless, through engaging with community members in Kenville, North of Durban, it is appalling that a river of raw sewerage has been spilling into a stream in this area for over two years already. This morning it continued unabated. Raw sewerage was also flowing into the sea at Umdloti this morning, while children bathed in the sea (with the beach open) some yards away from the spill.

However, according to the responding affidavit from the MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA), Sboniso Duma, his department had flagged the sewer crisis with the municipality- well before the floods hit eThekwini – and demanded that they (eThekwini) fix the issue, however, the MEC’s demands fell on deaf ears.

While it is baffling that National Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) dispersed funds into the Municipality’s account without an action plan, we have welcomed the plan from the municipality. What is startling is that the action plan refers to plans to fix the infrastructure as far back as 2013 – and was just never attended to.

Noting that in the action plan, the municipality claims that:

  • “98% of the City’s sewerage pump-stations are operational.”
  • “65% of minor sewer damaged in the flood (sic) have been repaired and the balance will be completed by December 2023.”
  • 75% of the major sewer greater than 300mm in diameter are fully operational.” (-sic)

We believe that the Municipality is being economical with the truth, and has not provided accurate information in their action plan.

With the action plan at hand, our Head of Strategic Litigation, Gillian Benson, is meeting with the legal team today to better understand how much of the plan has been implemented – though it does not appear that any progress has been made. Benson will then, after having inspected the spills first-hand, strategise with our attorneys but it appears we will be forced to continue the fight.

While Provinces such as Gauteng are dealing with the devastating outbreak of Cholera, we are fearful that the continuation of sewerage spilling into river bodies and water systems will result in a similar outbreak in our province, and we cannot allow people’s lives to be put at risk by non-performing leaders in this Municipality.

Our government must wake up from its deep slumber, and start servicing our people and improving their living conditions.