Taking control – legally
Koster / Swartruggens – A true victory for human rights! ... The Kgetlengrivier Local Municipality (KLM) had to acknowledges the sovereignty of the Mahikeng High Court. Koster and Swartruggens residents were granted the power by the court to take over the management of the Kgetlengrivier Local Municipality’s (KLM) water services as from Thursday 7 January. According to reports, the residents were at first prevented by the KLM's municipal manager to enter the premises of the waterworks, however the situation was resolved. The residents are now in control of the waterworks.
Being fed up with the collapse of water services by the KLM, residents took to the courts for their assistance.
For several years, residents had to deal with contaminated water stemming from raw sewage flowing into the Koster and Elands river. The contaminated water, with an Ecoli count of more than 4,000 times the allowed amount, was then supplied to residents to use – often as drinking water.
Concerned residents of the Kgetlengrivier district emerged as victors in the court case on 18 December 2020. The judge presiding over the matter declared that the water purifying works at Koster and Swartruggens are in a state of disrepair and are being mismanaged. The court order also stated that Bojanala Local Municipality and KLM are in breach of their constitutional obligations of providing potable water sustainably.
It was accordingly ruled that the systems for the provision of clear potable water is repaired and clear potable water, in sufficient quantities, is sustainably supplied to the residents of Koster and Swartruggens within 10 weekdays from the date of the court order.
KLM was ordered to immediately cease their usage of a raw sewer trench/ pipe or furrow to divert the flow of raw sewage into the Koster river and take remedial steps to stop the pollution by fixing the cause of the spillages and to remedy the effects the pollution caused.
The KLM failed to adhere to the ruling and in line with the court order, Kgetlengrivier residents were authorised to take control of the water works by appointing or employing suitable qualified people to operate the water works at Koster and Swartruggens.
The costs for these appointments must be paid jointly by members of the executive council for environmental affairs, KLM and Bojanala.
In an attempt to make sure that those who failed the residents are being held accountable, KLM's municipal manager was ordered to file a report at court 11 weekdays from the date of the order on steps taken to resolve the spillage of raw sewage and the prevention of similar incidents in the near future. If he failed to present the report, it was ordered that he will be imprisoned for 90 days.
“Residents of the KLM could no longer just sit back and hope that everything will be fixed. They knew something drastic had to be done. We assembled a great team of people to work on this and thanks to their determination, we were successful,” said Andreas Peens, the attorney for the Kgetlengrivier residents.
The KLM has until 1 March 2021 to prove their case as to why the order should not be made final.
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