Hammanskraal Water Inquiry: Tshwane is Insensitive, Irresponsive, Non-transparent & Unaccountable

Today, the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Hammanskraal Water Crisis released damning findings against the City of Tshwane. The findings, contained in an extensive report make it abundantly clear that the City has failed to provide safe water to the community.

The Commission has characterised the City of Tshwane as insensitive, irresponsive, non-transparent, unaccountable, and marked by delinquent inertia on the water crisis in Hammanskraal.

ActionSA will hand over a copy of the report to the Executive Mayor for the City of Tshwane, Cllr. Randall Williams, and demand that the City responds to the findings of the report within 90 days of receipt.

Should the City fail to provide a clear solution for the 16-year-old crisis in the stated timeframe, we will not hesitate to pursue available legal avenues to force the City to execute its mandate to promote and protect residents’ Constitutional rights to clean, safe drinking water.

A copy of the report can be found here

The report is the outcome of a first-of-its-kind, community-led Commission organised by a political party.

The people of Hammanskraal have never been afforded public hearings into the water crisis. Through the Commission, ActionSA sought to allow residents to tell their side of the story, investigate the matter, and make plausible recommendations.

In its final report, the Commission found that the City of Tshwane failed to comply with the values of openness and transparency required of it by the Constitution, and various other legal instruments, throughout this 16-year water crisis.

At no point has the City meaningfully engaged the community on:

  • The nature of the problems and what has hampered the resolution of the water crisis; 
  • how long it will take to resolve the water crisis; and
  • what became of the R295 million allegedly earmarked to address the water crisis?

Since 2005, the quality of water in Hammanskraal has continued to deteriorate. Indeed, 3 different Executive Mayors and Provincial Administrators have all hid their heads in the sand in the misguided hopes that the community’s pleas would go away. Even Mayor Williams chose to run from accountability by refusing to appear before the community during the Commission’s hearings.

Scientific evidence presented to the Commission showed that Hammanskraal water was below permissible standards of safety for human consumption and farming activities. In addition, the unsafe water may also be responsible for numerous hospitalisations recorded in the area.

During the hearings, the Commission also uncovered blatant irregularities in a R295 million City of Tshwane tender to fix the Rooiwal Waste Water Treatment Plant. Failures at the plant lie at the heart of the water crisis.

The tender was awarded to a joint venture which includes a company linked to the now-notorious Edwin Sodi – implicated in the corrupt Free State asbestos scandal as revealed in various media reports. Sodi appeared before the Zondo Commission into State Capture as a result of this matter.

The Rooiwal tender was supposed to increase the plant’s capacity and address the continued leakage of sewerage into residents’ water sources. To date, no discernible work has taken place at the plant to generate much-needed improvement in the area’s water quality. 

It is worth noting that during the Inquiry, the City of Tshwane denied the Commission access to the plant to conduct an inspection in-loco, for no apparent reason. 

The plant, which was originally built to handle 80 million litres per day, has struggled with the massive growth of the Hammanskraal community, with the plant now needed to pump over 200 million litres of water per day. Combined with the shocking lack of maintenance and stalled upgrades to the plant, this has led to the present crisis.

The Commission of Inquiry found that the City of Tshwane had dismally, delinquently, and hopelessly failed to:

  • Protect the community’s Constitutionally guaranteed right to access to sufficient and safe drinking water for over 16 years;
  • Comply with the provisions of the Municipal Systems Act 2000 (the Act), requiring that residents be provided with equitable access to the municipal services (including sufficient and uncontaminated water); 
  • Act responsively and transparently, as required by the Act, and the fact that a memorandum from the community to the City on the water crisis, dating back to 2016, is yet to be responded to; 
  • Respect, protect, promote and fulfill residents’ Constitutional right to an environment that is not harmful to their health and wellbeing; and
  • Comply with the provisions of section 195(1)(b) of the Constitution read with section 4(2)(a) of the Act by failing to use the City’s financial resources in the best interests of the Hammanskraal Community and failing to promote efficient, economic and effective use of resources. This applies specifically to the R295 million allocated for upgrades to the Rooiwal plant. These funds have allegedly gone unaccounted for.

Furthermore, the evidence heard by the Commission suggested that the process for the awarding of the tender had clear deficiencies in that the successful bidder was an amateur contractor quoted a price much higher than other better qualified and more experienced contractors. It is not clear on what basis the contractor was ultimately successful. This is in direct conflict with the constitutional and statutory obligations of the City.

Ultimately, it is due to a sheer lack of political will and administrative competence that the plight of the community of Hammanskraal and surrounding areas has remained unchanged for 16 years and they have been living this nightmare.

The findings of the Commission have emphasised, once more, that given the City’s continued inaction, the only way to bring lasting change to the community is to take the City of Tshwane to court for its failures, and should Mayor William fail to act, this is precisely what ActionSA is prepared to do.

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