In an attempt to tackle the polluted Vaal River, the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is taking steps to repair the Sebokeng Waste Water Plant as soon as possible and has given itself three weeks to ensure that septic tanks are operational.
The SANDF has deployed at least 200 soldiers, among them specialist engineers, to find solutions to the Vaal River contamination.
Untreated waste has been making its way into the river causing blocked drains and flowing into the local community's homes and streets.
Defence Minister Nosiviwe Maphisa-Nqakula visited the waste treatment plant and assessed the challenges in the area before engaging with residents at Sebokeng Stadium.
She pointed out that the vandalism of waste water infrastructure contributed to the problem and warned that anyone who vandalised infrastructure would have to face the defence force.
"The communities should help us in talking to their children that vandalism is not acceptable.. and the army will protect all the boundaries it is operating in", she said.
"I think that at some point the state should think hard about declaring some of the infrastructure as national key points so that government takes over security," the minister added.
"Here in the Vaal, starting from Monday, two primary septic tanks will be repaired, which shows that work is under way".
Maphisa-Nqakula said there would be a memorandum of understanding between the municipality and the SANDF on infrastructure maintenance.
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Deputy Minister, Obed Bapela, conceded that the Vaal River contamination was a national crisis and said national intervention was needed.
"If this river is left like this, it has the potential to contaminate [drinking] water to over four provinces which it flows in."
Bapela blamed migration into Gauteng, saying the current infrastructure was not meant to service the high number of people in the province, particularly in the south.
The army protects its territory
At the same time, Maphisa-Nqakula reassured residents that the army was not taking over the Vaal, but merely providing support so that work could be done.
The deployment of the army comes amid the South African Human Rights Commission's (SAHRC) inquiry into the contamination of the river, probing whether the flow of sewage into the river constituted a violation of basic human rights.
Municipality still under administration
The Emfuleni Municipality has failed to refurbish water treatment facilities and repair damaged infrastructure, which led to raw sewage flowing into people's homes.
Some residents claimed that the foul smell in the area made them sick and demanded urgent attention.
The municipality has since been placed under administration.
The Vaal River rehabilitation project is expected to span 12 months up to December 2019.