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SAHRC investigates Bloemhof water crisis and death


06 June 2014

ATTENTION: Editor and Reporters

The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is deeply concerned about the water contamination crisis and its resultant deaths in the Bloemhof region located in the North West Province. A water crisis has hit the communities of Bloemhof in the last week of May with allegations of a cholera outbreak and patients afflicted with diarrhoea.

The SAHRC understands the outbreak is allegedly caused by the consumption of contaminated running water. Three babies reportedly died from this outbreak and hundreds of residents have received medical treatment as a result of consuming the water.

On the 2nd May 2014 the Minister of Water and Sanitation Nomvula Mokonyane is reported to have confirmed that contaminated water is behind the diarrhoea outbreak.
Running water has since been cut off and some people do not have access to water. Because the community has had its water supply cut off. There are also allegations that the community does not have access to sanitation.

The right to water is a fundamental human right that the SAHRC is committed to protect and promote. Section 27(1) (c) of the Constitution provides that everyone has the right to have access to sufficient food and water.
In addition, national legislation, specifically the Water services Act 108 of 1997 provides for amongst other things, the right of access to basic water supply and basic sanitation necessary to ensure sufficient water and an environment not harmful to health or well-being.

The SAHRC visited Bloemhof and is currently in the area gathering evidence that will help it in its investigation. The SAHRC is investigating allegations related to the water contamination and the deaths allegedly caused by the consumption of the contaminated water.

SAHRC Deputy Chairperson, Pregs Govender, who leads the Commission's work on water and sanitation argues: “The SAHRC's 2014 Water and Sanitation Report is clear - it is unacceptable that 20years into our Democracy, Apartheid-era spatial geography still defines and devalues the lives of those who are Black, poor and working class.
“People in Bloemhof and many other areas are entitled to the right to clean drinking water that is enshrined in our Constitution and in our laws. The illness and loss of lives caused by contaminated water in Bloemhof must move Government across all spheres and departments to act with the necessary urgency.
“The newly formed Water and Sanitation Ministry and COGTA, should lead Government, in ensuring it immediately addresses these violations. Government needs to proactively identify potential and ongoing denial and violation of human rights. The Presidency's DPME promised that Government would develop such a plan to systemically address these across the country. It cannot keep responding only after the tragedy of death".


Issued by the SA Human Rights Commission.
For more information please contact:
Isaac Mangena
Head: Communications

For comments email info@sahrc.org.za [Back]

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