The South African Human Rights Commission is conducting an inspection at the Vaal Dam following allegations that approximately 150 ML of raw sewage is flowing into the Rietspruit and Vaal rivers daily.

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) reports that it and its stakeholders, namely Rand Water, Gauteng Provincial Government, Sedibeng District Municipality and Emfuleni Local Municipality, are “seized” with finding resolutions to the issues of pollution of the river.

According to the DWS, the Vaal River and Dam must be kept as free of pollution as possible as they are critical parts of the Integrated Vaal River System, which is central to the economy of Gauteng, the country, the SADC Region and ultimately the African continent

The department has made R20 million available to the Emfuleni Local Municipality and technicians are back on site at the Emfuleni treatment plant attending to issues. However the DWS says it will take some time before the system working optimally.

Rand Water is currently working on module six at the plant, which will bring further capacity on stream for the treatment of effluent. Meanwhile, the municipality working to return modules two to five to full functionality.

Minister Gugile Nkwinti and other stakeholders are reportedly convening regular meetings with the affected communities who are encouraged not to drink or swim in water from polluted dams and rivers.

The DWS says it will also avail itself for any and all interaction with the South African Human Rights Commission during its investigation.

Ramaphosa authorises special investigation

This comes as President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to investigate suspected wrongdoing by public servants and persons or entities in the private sector in the awarding of tenders or contracts by the DWS.

The SIU will investigate the DWS for alleged serious maladministration and unlawful expenditure of public money in the procurement or contracting of information technology services from the enterprise software provider SAP SE.

This arises from allegations that the procurement of, or contracting for, information technology-related services from SAP had not been fair, competitive, transparent, equitable or cost-effective, and that legislation, guidelines or policies had been flouted.

The SIU has also been tasked to investigate any improper or unlawful conduct by personnel of the DWS or SAP, or any other person or entity, as well as the causes of such conduct, and any losses, damage or actual or potential prejudice suffered by the department or the state.

The investigation will focus on the period between January 2015 and present, although unlawful or improper conduct prior to January 2015 that is deemed relevant to this matter will be taken into account.