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Media Statement: SAHRC institutes urgent application against the Msunduzi Municipality for the management, deterioration and current state of the New England Road Landfill Site in Pietermaritzburg

Attention: Editors and Reporters

Tuesday, 01 December 2020

Following its investigation into the deterioration and current state of the New England Road Landfill Site where several fires have emanated engulfing the city of Pietermaritzburg, the South African Human Rights Commission (“the SAHRC”) has instituted an urgent application in the Pietermaritzburg High Court against the Msunduzi Municipality.  The matter has been set down for 11 December 2020 for a Rule Nisi to be considered.
The SAHRC has been deeply concerned with the state of the site and its prejudicial impact on the environment and on public health.  Section 24 of the Constitution provides for the right to an environment that is not harmful to one’s health or well-being as well as the right to have the environment protected from pollution and ecological degradation.  This right is interrelated with many other rights in the Bill of Rights such as one’s intrinsic right to human dignity.  

Some of the challenges, which have plagued the site over the years, have included a poor leachate management system, pollution of the environment, non-functional equipment, lack of gas as well as the lack of air and quality monitoring amongst others.  These have attributed to the outbreak of fires and the emission of strong toxic fumes which are posing severe threats to the sustainability of the environment and to the health and well-being of residents in both the local and surrounding communities.

The Municipality’s waste management strategy is still primarily reliant on landfill disposal and the lifespan of the New England Road landfill site was already flagged as being close to its exhaustion several years ago.  Given that the various attempts to improve the management, oversight and general condition of the landfill site has not been successful, the SAHRC has taken the view that the only option to address the matter is to approach the relevant court for appropriate relief.  

Given the far-reaching risks and consequences that the site is posing to the environment and to health and well-being of all affected communities, the SAHRC is committed to ensuring that all necessary steps and/or measures are speedily identified and implemented to remedy the situation and to minimise any further threats to the environment and to the health and well-being of the local communities.

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Prepared by the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Office of the South African Human Rights Commission.
For queries, contact the SAHRC’s KZN Provincial Manager, Adv. Lloyd Lotz on 031 – 304 7323 / 0728407910 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or the Senior Legal Officer Ms Pavershree Padayachee at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The South African Human Rights Commission.

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The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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