The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) has called on the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to order an intervention and financial rescue plan for Emfuleni Local Municipality.

This comes after the commission held hearings last week to determine whether the pollution of the Vaal River violates human rights.

Commenting on the situation Michael Holenstein, Outa’s Manager for Local Governance, said the municipality had effectively collapsed.  “Outa wants the Commission to order the Gauteng government to intervene in Emfuleni, in terms of its constitutional obligations.”

A written submission

The organisation has made a written and verbal submission to the Commission on the collapse of Emfuleni’s finances and service delivery, particularly the collapse of the sewerage services which has resulted in the pollution of both Emfuleni and surrounding rivers including the Vaal.

Outa’s submission outlined the organisation’s attempts to engage with Emfuleni management, the provincial and national departments of Cooperative Governance and Gauteng Premier David Makhura, with no response from any of them.

It also included data on the contamination of rivers as a result of untreated sewage from Rietspruit and Sebokeng wastewater treatment works in Emfuleni, with water downstream of both, particularly Sebokeng, showing pollution.

Criminal enforcement action needed

“The decay is clear. The damage has been done. Two directives and nine noncompliance notices have been issued. Outa believes that the last resort must be sought and criminal enforcement action to rectify these non-compliances is the only way to ensure accountability.

“A precedent should now be set for all municipalities around the country to ensure that our and future generations’ basic rights are protected,” Outa pointed out in its submission.