Minister Senzo Mchunu of Water and Sanitation together with his two deputies, David Mahlobo and Dikeledi Magadzi, today visited several waste water treatment plants in the Emfuleni Local Municipality in Vaal with the aim of finding a permanent solution to the sewage spillage into the Vaal River. They were accompanied by Gauteng Premier David Makhura, COGTA MEC Lebogang Maile, Executive Mayor of Sedibeng District Municipality Lerato Maloka, and Emfuleni Mayor, Gift Moerane.
Speaking at a subsequent media briefing and a public participation with various stakeholders and NGOs, Minister Mchunu said the government had a political will to finding a permanent solution to the spillage. The DWS had invested a sum of R100 million towards the Phase One of the Sebokeng Bulk Waste Water Treatment Project. Premier Makhura said the Gauteng Provincial Government had invested R200 million towards the project.
"The cleaning and re-investment into the Vaal River is central to everything that is geared towards the regeneration of the economy in the Vaal. Vaal Dam is the source of water for Gauteng Province. However, the damage of infrastructure in the Vaal is a source of great concern," Makhura said.
Mchunu said the whole project depended largely on the government's political will rather than the pumping of millions of rands into the project.
"The political will is there and it is critical to finding a permanent solution to the problem of sewage spillage at Emfuleni," Mchunu said.
"The biggest mistake that everyone has made was to turn Vaal River into a curse of pollution. The spillage of sewage into township houses was an unforgivable sin. The local communities were also wrong to destroy water and sanitation infrastructure", he said.
"The last sin that we have committed as government was to lower our guard. I don't appreciate the failure to protect our precious river. We would like to extend our sincere our apology to the local community for our sins," said Minister Mchunu.
Mchunu said after confessing its sins the government must repent and do better on handling the Vaal River issue. It was for this reason that President Ramaphosa appointed a Minister dedicated solely on water and sanitation.
Speaking at the public participation, various NGOs - including AfriForum, South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO) and Water Caucus - blamed the pollution of Vaal River on corruption and the rampant vandalism of infrastructure.
The Chairperson of SANCO in Sedibeng Region, Mlungisi Hlongwane, said lack of proper consultation with local stakeholders in the Vaal had not helped to bring awareness on the matter of the spillage. SANCO would appreciate continuous consultation by the Department of Water and Sanitation.
"We would like to see continuous consultation with other provinces that are also responsible for the pollution of the Vaal River. Emfuleni Municipality is not solely responsible for the pollution of the river," said Hlongwane.