14 December 2012

South Africa: Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela Releases City of Ekurhuleni Negligence Report

press release

Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela on Friday released a report titled: "An Egg-Skull Situation" in which she found that the negligence of the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality in Gauteng had resulted in damages to the house of Mr MV Malahlela, a resident of Vosloorus township. This amounted to improper conduct and maladministration.

The investigation followed a complaint lodged by Mr Malahlela on 1 August 2012, alleging that in repairing a 20mm water pipe, the municipality was negligent in that they failed to exercise the requisite due care, the result of which was damage to his house in Mabuya Street, with certain portions of the house sinking. He also complained that the municipality directed him to vacate the house without offering alternative accommodation.

In the repair of the 20mm water pipe, a 300mm bulk water pipe was damaged, releasing large amounts of water into the ground for a considerable time. This caused a 3m diameter, with a 5m depth sinkhole below the land surface.

The pipes were repaired but the sinkhole was left uncovered for nine weeks. Only when Mr Malahlela reported the matter and had it published in a newspaper did the Municipality covered the sinkhole with topsoil.

Mr Malahlela subsequently noticed cracks on the walls of his house, with portions of the property sinking, resulting in the structure progressively disintegrating. He reported the observations to the municipality, which denied liability.

Following an investigation, the Public Protector found that the actions of the Municipality caused the damage to Mr Malahlela's house and that, this constituted maladministration and improper conduct. The damage to the 300mm bulk water pipe was a result of negligence on the part of the Municipality and the damage to the pipe was the cause for damage to Mr Malahlela's house.

She also found that the fact that the house was built on dolomitic land absolved the Municipality of its legal liability towards the complainant. However, its subsequent conduct by refusing to offer Mr Malahlela alternative accommodation and only later offering him a 24 square meter shack was both improper and inadequate, constituting maladministration.

As remedial action, the Municipality is instructed to pay rent for Mr Malahlela including, back pay of rent already paid. Furthermore, the Municipality is instructed to ensure that the rehabilitation and repair processes it has undertaken relating to the house and land are completed without undue delay. The Municipality can only issue a Municipal Occupational Certificate once the land and house have been certified safe and habitable by experts seconded/nominated by the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA).

Issued by: Public Protector South Africa

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