Today the Hammanskraal Water Inquiry Panel held a press conference outside the gates of the Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment plant after heaving been denied access to the facility by the City of Tshwane.
The Chairperson of the Panel, Prof Adv Letsaolo praised the expertise of the panel, ranging from water and sanitation experts, human rights law experts, faith-based leaders and tribal authorities.
Praise was heaped upon the residents of Hammanskraal, business groupings, informal traders, civic society and farming communities came together to voice their experiences. Many did so despite fear of reprisals that they have experienced before because they have never been granted the opportunity to voice their grievances.
The panel jointly slammed the City of Tshwane, previous Mayors and current Mayor Randall Williams for their seemingly uncaring attitude towards these hearings. The panel characterised the situation in Hammanskraal as a human rights disaster which sees South African citizens denied their must fundamental rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights.
Chairperson Letsaolo spoke emotionally of the testimonies where residents must buy safe water to drink, and his experience in being shown the quality of the water by residents in the community. Even the provision of the water tanks meant to alleviate the issue, are selective in who supplies the water and who receives the water.
The panel voiced outrage about what appears to be blatant irregularities on the expenditure of R295 million to a joint venture including a company linked to Edwin Sodi – implicated in the Free State asbestos deal.
The panel has confirmed, despite being established by ActionSA, that they have completed their work without regard to politics and will now move to complete a report. This report will detail the way forward for the people of Hammanskraal which will be presented to the public in due course.
The panel was joined by a representative of the farming community of the surrounding areas around the Apies River. The impact on this community has contaminated bore-hole water and affected crops. This serves to demonstrate that this crisis is not just impacting the people of Hammanskraal.
One option that was put on the table is the clear and obvious possibility that the City of Tshwane be taken to court and forced by our judiciary to fulfil their constitutional responsibilities to the people of Hammanskraal and surrounding communities.
ActionSA will ensure that the panel receives our full support in the important task ahead of them. No expense will be spared to ensure that expert opinions are sought to ensure the best solutions are being identified to solve this problem for the people of Hammanskraal and surrounding communities.
The Human Rights violations of the people of Hammanskraal and surrounding communities must be the focus of all South Africans. Water is a fundamental human right and is can only be given meaning when South Africans stand up for their fellow countrymen and women at times like this.
I call on all South Africans to Act As One for human rights, for clean water and for the people of Hammanskraal and surrounding communities.
The testimony to the hearings was conducted in-camera to protect the identity of the municipal official who claims more than 30 years experience in the water industry. Mr X demonstrated that cheaper tenders with greater experience were overlooked in favour of the joint venture that was ultimately awarded the contract.
Mr X’s testimony spoke clearly to the fact that the contract that was awarded, and the scope of work in the contract should have improved the water quality for the people of Hammanskraal during the lockdown last year.
Instead of this, the people of Hammanskraal continue to live without safe, drinkable water.
ActionSA, some 3 weeks ago, filed an application with the City of Tshwane in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA). We have demanded access to the tender documents but are being frustrated through what is clearly a deliberate effort to evade transparency.
ActionSA will approach the courts, if necessary, to compel the City of Tshwane to provide these documents so that the people of Hammanskraal, and Tshwane more broadly, can see justice against those who take funds meant to fix a 16-year long water crisis and use it for nefarious means.
Regrettably, the lack of response from the City of Tshwane is consistent with the absence of Mayor Randall Williams from the hearings yesterday and today.
ActionSA acknowledges, however, the courage of a DA Ward Councillor who attended today’s sessions and spoke freely with the community about the water crisis. The fact that he could do so and be received warmly, only serves to demonstrate that Williams is not cut out for this job.
ActionSA warns the City of Tshwane and Mayor Williams to comply with our PAIA application in the one-week period left, or face the consequences.