SAHRC finds against Free State Municipality over water provision
11th August 2014
Attention: Editors and Reporters
The South African Human Rights Commission (Commission) found that the Kopanong Local Municipality, in the Free State violated the resident’s right to human dignity by its failure to provide safe and sustainable water supply fundamental for a healthy, productive and dignified life. The Municipality has been given 18 months to implement turnaround strategy to fix the water crisis.
The Commission investigated the matter following a complaint from the Democratic Alliance alleging that the municipality is denying residents with fundamental basic human right by not providing access to water to the residents. Residents in the municipality had to endure prolonged and/or frequent water shortages which also impacted on the provision of health care services to residents of the affected areas.
Following the investigation, the Commission found that:
- The Kopanong Local Municipality has violated the right of residents to human dignity by its failure to provide safe and sustainable water supply fundamental for a healthy, productive and dignified life.
- The Kopanong Local Municipality has violated the rights of residents to both water and health by its failure to provide access to sufficient water fit for human consumption.
- The SAHRC finds that in failing to adequately notify residents about the possible contamination of water, possible health risks, persistent water shortages and maintenance challenges, and the inability to disseminate information about plans to ameliorate their access to basic water services and general lack of information upholds the complaint of violations of both the right to clean environment and access to information.
Subsequently the Commission recommended the following:
- The Kopanong Local Municipality is directed to furnish the Commission with an operations and maintenance plan required to run water supply in an efficient, effective and sustainable manner to address access to basic water challenges facing residents of the Municipality, especially women, children and other vulnerable groups within a period of three (3) months from the date of this finding;
- The Kopanong Local Municipality is further directed to:
- Upgrade its package plant and employ modern technology to remove arsenic more efficiently;
- Perform pump test of boreholes in Jagersfontein and Fauresmith in order to determine the sustainable yield of each borehole;
- Continue to monitor boreholes to have knowledge of how arsenic concentration in water varies and what influences it;
This should be done within a period of eighteen (18) months from the date of this finding:
- The Kopanong Local Municipality is required to enhance community participation and demonstrate some level of transparency in its governance by convening regular feedback sessions every three (3) months relating to the supply of water to residents. A copy of the minutes to be submitted to the Commission.
- The Free State Department of Water Affairs is required to provide the Commission with a Plan on how they intend to verify the water quality within a period of three (3) months. The Department is directed to continue to monitor the water supply and infrastructural improvement programmes of the Respondent and to take regular water samples for testing to ensure supply of safe and clean water.
- The Free State Department of Water Affairs is required to conduct an investigation into the extent, if any, of the liability of the mining company for the water pollution and/or failure to rehabilitate or seal the open mine shaft from which water was drawn for the community. The Department is required to provide the Commission with a report on the outcome of its investigations and findings within a period of twelve (12) months.
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Issued by the SA Human Rights Commission