The South Africa Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) recently invited the municipal manager of the Rand West City Local Municipality to appear before it, as it continues with its investigations into allegations of raw sewage flowing from the municipality’s Sewage Processing Plant into the Tweelopiespruit and Hartbeespoort catchments.

This meeting follows complaints that raw sewage that enters the plant is let into the river by the municipality without any treatment of the effluent which finds its way to the Hartbeespoort Dam. According to residents, this poses serious risks to the environment and the health of people who are dependent on water from the Hartbeespoort Dam system.

The Commission reported that it would use the engagement with the municipality to test these allegations and establish steps taken to address concerns regarding the maintenance of sewage reticulation and sewage works.

The Vaal crisis

This follows a site inspection earlier this month of the Sebokeng and Rietspruit Waste Water Treatment Plant in the Emfuleni Local Municipality. The inspection conducted by the SAHRC sought to gauge progress made since the deployment of the army to address the crisis.

This inspection takes place following the last sitting of the inquiry into the contamination of the river, in which the commission probed whether the flow of sewage into the river constituted a violation of basic human rights.

Speaking to eNCA, the SAHRC ‘s Mohamed Ameermia noted that the commission it is not only looking into the shortcoming of holding local government in the pollution of the Vaal, but also big industrial users which may have been discharging polluted water into the system. “It is about the dignity of people, and even poor people have a right to dignity,” he stressed.

The commission’s report into the Vaal crisis is expected at the end of June.