Water Crime

Part of the largest Angling/Fishing site in Africa

------ Forwarded Message
From: "Morne Viljoen [HQP]" <Morne.Viljoen@consult-cls.com>
Date: Wed, 19 Mar 2008 07:41:25 +0200
To: <benvandermerwe@telkomsa.net>, <BVenter@justice.gov.za>, <francois.retief@nwu.ac.za>, HENK VILJOEN <henkv@tiscali.co.za>, <johann.tempelhoff@nwu.ac.za>, <4_babich@fishingowl.co.za>, <etienne@stywelyne.net>
Conversation: World heritage site under pollution threat
Subject: World heritage site under pollution threat

http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=3045&art_id=vn20080318081941199C407756 <http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&amp;click_id=3045&amp;art_id=vn20080318081941199C407756>
 
A world heritage site, the Vredefort Dome in the Free State, is under threat from pollution in the Vaal River, while in the nearby town of Parys the municipal water stinks and is undrinkable and the sewage network is breaking down, threatening tourism which is the town's lifeblood.

But the mayor of Emfuleni Municipality, Max Moshodi, and his municipal manager Godfrey Mahlatsi are attending a two-day workshop on municipal bylaws, while Rome is burning, so to speak.

Degradation in this once jewel of the Vaal is evident once you get off the well-maintained R56 provincial road.

The municipal roads are pock-marked with big potholes and the drinking water smells. Access to clean water is a constitutional right in this country, but not so in Parys.

Many of the residents in this town, which has the potential to generate many jobs and huge revenue for the municipal coffers from tourism, can barely afford to put food on the table, let alone buy bottled water.

Edward Mafareka is a community leader in Tumahole informal settlement, where the poorest of the poor live, and he is furious. He says "the top-heavy Emfuleni council members do not earn their big paychecks", least of all the mayor.

Mafareka claims Moshodi spent R1-million of ratepayers' money on a wake for a deceased councillor at the end of last year, while the people of Tumahole have to draw drinking water from the sewage-clogged Vaal River and use the undignified bucket toilet system.

"Many people in my community have compromised immune systems from HIV. They get diarrhoea from the water and parasites from eating toxic fish bought from subsistence fishermen eking out a living from the dying Vaal River."

This eloquent and wiry individual is fuelled with passion to see things come right in Parys, but says the politicians have their own agendas, which do not include the interests of the poorest of the poor.

He points out the ageing sewage pump station in the town, which is grinding to a halt. The equipment is broken and there is no register for inspections. The smell is unbearable and the filter ponds are caked with human waste.

Refuse lies rotting under a tree at a once-popular picnic site and the canals used to irrigate vegetables and crops are pumped from the polluted Vaal River. The canal water is left untreated before flowing back into the Vaal even more polluted.

In Tumahole, the stench from a blocked sewage pipe is unbearable. Mafareka points to the high-mast lights that burn day and night - so much for municipal energy-saving, he says.

The informal settlement has no basic services, not even water from a municipal tanker.

But what really gets to Mafareka is the recreation facilities in the centre of Parys. The place where the youth could be learning to play cricket, rugby and soccer is filthy and rat-infested. And inhabited by vagrants.

"These are all signs of an uncaring municipality. People are not working and there is no accountability," he says.

Tredoux Odendaal, head of Parys Tourism Information, has a tough task on his hands.

"Our municipal infrastructure is crumbling and threatening our tourism industry. Cancellations are increasing as tourists become aware of what is happening here," he says.

A local businessperson, Henk Havenga, is passionate about Parys, but despairs over the lack of support from the local council.

"The council does not give a cent towards the Tourism Information Office. They don't even clean our streets; we have created employment for two cleaners and provide them with trolleys for refuse to keep our streets clean.

"We wonder what our municipality is doing with the revenue from ratepayers, it sure as hell is not being spent on our communities," he says.

Both Havenga and Tredoux say the Vredefort Dome world heritage site status is being threatened. This is confirmed by Thomas du Toit of the Save the Vaal action group.

Du Toit says: "The disastrous consequences in the region as a result of the polluted water comes mainly from the continuous raw sewage spills."

The drinking water in Parys has tested positively for E.coli, but Du Toit says the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry Lindiwe Hendricks "has the audacity to say the country's water is not in crisis".

"She should come and drink our water, I guarantee you she will change her tune," he adds.

Unlike the arrogant telephonist in the mayor's office, the manager in the mayor's office, Vincent Mokgosi, is obliging and helpful.

Mayor Moshodi refers the question of the R1-million party and the other allegations to his municipal manager for comment, but says: "I can confidently say the world heritage site is not being neglected.

"There is new development and we are busy negotiating with the province to have a full-time office there."

Comment is still to come from the municipal manager and Marius Keet, the director-general for the department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF).

This article was originally published on page 10 of The Star <http://www.thestar.co.za>  on March 18, 2008

 

Morné Viljoen
CLS Consulting Services (Pty) Ltd
Tel     + 27 12 307 3022
Fax    + 27 12 307 5735
Cell    + 27 73 229 2455
Email  morne.viljoen@consult-cls.com <mailto:morne.viljoen@consult-cls.com>

 

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