FSE’s submission to the South African Human Rights Commission on the status of the Section 63 Vaal River System Intervention

Notwithstanding the SAHRC’s findings pursuant to the Commission’s investigation in September, 2018, namely that:

  • – the Emfuleni Municipality caused the sewage pollution of the Vaal,
  • – the DWS and the DEFF had not been able to hold the Emfuleni Municipality accountable, 
  • – there was extensive non-compliance at all spheres of government,

Compliance with the following recommendations of the SAHRC in its report of 17 February, 2021 is uncertain:

  • – Officials in non-compliance with legislation to be dismissed.
  • – Corruption to be referred to the Public Protector and SAPS.

Furthermore, according to eye-witness accounts and physical (real) evidence sewage continues to flow in the streets and homes of Emfuleni.  According to a Report by Gibbs, there are approximately 40 collapsed sewer pipelines in Emfuleni Local Municipality. Officials from the Emfuleni Municipality moreover do not participate in and report to the Rietspruit Catchment Management Forum (CMF).  Water Use Licence (WUL) holders are required in terms of the terms and conditions of their WULs to participate in and report to the CMFs.  Of additional concern is the fact that the Department of Water and Sanitation has not conducted water monitoring sampling of the Vaal River for the last three quarters since its laboratory contract has terminated and it has not been renewed hence no water quality results have been supplied to affected parties within the Vaal River Catchment, including the Rietspruit Catchment Management Forum.

Pursuant to the FSE’s written and oral questions to the Deputy Minister and Minister of Water and Sanitation regarding the identification and prosecution of polluters, including municipalities such as the Emfuleni Local Municipality, the FSE received the following responses from the Provincial Head of Gauteng Provincial Operations, Mr Justice Maluleke and Dr K Khorommbi,  the Acting CEO of the Vaal Proto Catchment Management Agency:

Matters raised by the FSE                      Departmental Response

With reference to the status of the directives issued by the SAHRC to the DWS pursuant to its Report on the Sewage Pollution of the Vaal, the FSE received the following responses:

                          Issues raised by the FSE                                       Departmental Response

Gibbs, the consultants appointed in terms of the Sedibeng Regional Sanitation Scheme, recently presented the Vaal River Intervention Plan to the Rietspruit Catchment Management Forum.  The Plan includes the unblocking of sewage lines and biosolids handling; refurbishment; upgrades; operations and maintenance within the Sebokeng-; Leeukuil and Rietspruit Catchments. 

Subjoined hereunder are some of the slides which were presented by Mr Victor de Wet of Gibbs.  With reference to the Leeuwkuil Catchment Upgrades,  Mr de Wet confirmed that all design reports are completed and submitted.  With reference to the Rietspruit Catchment Upgrades, it was confirmed that all the documents have been submitted, the budget is being finalised and thereafter it will go out to tender. With reference to the Sebokeng Catchment Upgrades, the designs were done and are ready for upgrades.

The anticipated costs for the refurbishment of the Leeuwkuil-, Rietspruit and Sebokeng WWTWs are R1.3 billion and the anticipated costs for the upgrades are R7.4 billion.  It is anticipated that the upgrades and refurbishment will take place over a period of 4 years.  

The FSE expresses concern regarding the availability of the financial resources for the abovementioned upgrades and refurbishment in the light of the Department of Water and Sanitation’s predicted R333 billion financial shortfall over the next 10 years.  Plans without an adequate budget are only good on paper.

The FSE too express concern that, after the refurbishment and upgrades of the WWTWs, Emfuleni Local Municipality will once again operate and maintain the WWTWs.  The FSE expresses no confidence in the Emfuleni Local Municipality due to its historic performance, maladministration, dereliction of duty and violations of the right to an environment that is not harmful to health and well-being (s 24 of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa); the right to water of sufficient quality (s 27); and the right to dignity (s 10).


The Vaal River Intervention Plan is available on Rand Water’s The Reservoir YouTube channel and can be watched below.

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