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Managers on thin ice

Municipal managers in three municipalities are facing various charges ranging from failure to address sewage spills and failure to provide sanitation in their municipalities.

The penalties provided for in the environmental legislation, if the parties are convicted, range from substantial fines up to a maximum of R10 million for the municipality to direct imprisonment for the accounting officer, according to the Green Scorpions spokesman Albi Modise.

GOVAN MBEKI MUNICIPALITY

  • Manager: Mmela Mahlangu
  • Charges: Contravening the National Water Act
  • Indictment: Failure to address critical sewage spills within the municipality
  • Case number: 37/9/2013
  • Police station: Embalenhle police

When contacted for comment Mahlangu referred all questions to municipal spokesman Henry Masango, who confirmed that their sewerage network is erratic because it is old.

“We are aware of the case against our municipality and the manager – and we have not denied the allegations laid against us, but we have also mentioned that the problem is because the previous contractor used asbestos instead of PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) when he installed the sewerage network 25 years ago,” said Masango. Masango said this was a countrywide problem.

“Yes asbestos easily burst, but in such cases, we replace the pipes with PVC as soon as we get reports. This is not just an isolated case for Govan Mbeki alone, but a number of municipalities around the country have the same challenge of the outdated asbestos sewerage network that needs changing, that is if funds are available,” said Masango.

VICTOR KHANYE MUNICIPALITY

  • Manager: Ramakgahlela Maredi
  • Charges: Contravening the National Water Act
  • Indictment: Failure to attend raw sewage spills and failure to provide acceptable sanitation, and as a result, polluting surrounding water sources
  • Case number: 62/7/2012
  • Police station: Delmas police station

In an earlier interview, Maredi confirmed that the Mandela Section in Delmas has “at least 1 200 households” who are still using the bucket toilet system – despite a 2009 report by the Mpumalanga provincial government that such toilets were eradicated.

“Yes, the province eradicated the bucket toilet system in 2009 and moved the people away from Mandela section. But our cousins from neighbouring countries have decided to put up shacks in the area (Mandela section) after finding jobs in the near-by mines.

“Our data base has confirmed that those people are not from our municipality. Our Constitution does not allow us to chase them away. We will cooperate with the Green Scorpions on the cases opened by the DA,” said Maredi.

THABA CHWEU MUNICIPALITY

  • Former manager: Surprise Maebela
  • Current manager: Godfrey Nkosi
  • Charges: Contravening the National Environmental Management Act
  • Indictment: Refusal to attend to raw sewage spills into water sources plus failure to correctly dispose of waste at the Mashishing landfill site
  • Case number: 109/3/2014
  • Police station: Lydenburg police station

Attempts to get comment from both Maebela and Nkosi proved difficult as the municipality refused to give out their cellphone numbers. While municipal spokesman Puleng Mapheto also declined to comment as he was “not aware of the charges against the municipality or the managers in question.”