The Greater Tzaneen Local Municipality in Limpopo is accused of refusing to issue a letter approving a provincial government-funded project to fix a sewer that is now spilling into a daycare center.
According to the community members, the spillage problem started approximately 12 years ago and was reported to the local authorities, but nothing was done about it.
In 2021, Mopani District Municipality appointed a service provider who allegedly failed to come up with solutions and asked to be released before completing the project.
Then, in May this year, the local traditional council and the community requested a local engineer, Joseph Mashele, to attend to the problems.
Mashele agreed, but the municipality allegedly refused to permit him after learning that the Limpopo Department of Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements, and Traditional Affairs (CoGHSTA) intended to fund him.
“The problem is beyond the blockage, but the initial assessment we conducted showed that there could either be design or construction-related faults. However, we could not get far with our assessment because of blockages resulting in overflowing through manholes.
“After the traditional leadership gave me the mandate to fix the problem of sewerage and to knock on doors for project finance, I started to approach different offices, whereby I was advised to liaise with the municipality and CoGHSTA. CoGHSTA is supportive, but we can’t work without the support of the municipality,” said Mashele.
Mashele said he was reliably informed that the municipality was frustrating him because they planned to replace him with a company that they would appoint.
“We need the municipality to approve our appointment. We submitted our technical assessment report, which they are basing their discussion on regarding this project. They are not questioning our credentials, but they want us replaced,” Mashele complained.
An angry community member, whose granddaughter goes to the affected local daycare centre, said she was not interested in politics but in a solution.
“This situation has now escalated to a situation where the sewage spills right at the gate where our grandchildren play when their parents are at work. This is shocking, as the toddlers are sometimes seen crawling on the contaminated ground.
“We decided to approach the media because no one is willing to help us. We have been ignored for years, but this cannot be allowed to go on, not when children keep falling sick at their schools in the country,” said the grandmother, who asked not to be named.
The old woman confirmed that they have repeatedly reported the matter to the Greater Tzaneen Local Municipality without any positive feedback.
“We tried to report the matter to the municipality and other relevant authorities in the province, but they kept averting responsibility. We even tried to contact the Human Rights Commission’s provincial offices and the Public Protector’s Office, but we did not get assistance. That is why now we have resorted to the media,” she said.
In an audio recording heard by this publication, Cassius Machimana, a representative from the Greater Tzaneen mayor’s office, was heard telling community members that the municipality would not be pushed to allow Mashele to fix the sewerage because it was constructed by the provincial government and not the municipality.
“We cannot be held accountable for a project that we did not implement. Mashele and his team will never get the approval letter from the municipality because the initiative belongs to COGHSTA, not the municipality,” Machimana told the community members.
When asked for comment, Greater Tzaneen Municipality spokesperson Neville Ndlala said the district had the appropriate authority to respond.
Mopani District Municipality spokesperson Odas Ngobeni conceded that the municipality was aware of the sewage spillage.
“So far, we have not had success in our efforts to find funding for the project aimed at expanding and refurbishing the sewer network system in Dan village. The technical report from the engineers shows that we need a minimum of at least R16 million to deal with that system, and additional millions are also needed to upgrade the capacity of the wastewater treatment plant so that it easily accommodates the higher volume of wastewater,” said Ngobeni.
“The system was built by CoGHSTA some years ago, and the positive is that there is commitment from the MEC to find funding for the project. There was a meeting on Monday between ourselves, CoGHSTA, and Greater Tzaneen Municipality where the MEC reaffirmed that commitment.”
CoGHSTA spokesperson Hitekani Magwedze had not yet responded to a media inquiry about the sewer saga at publication.