The residents’ group took over the water and sewage provision from the municipality on Thursday.
This was in line with a December 18 court order, which had given the municipality 10 days to supply water to Koster and Swartruggens residents or lose control of the resource management to the residents’ association.
However, the municipality says the citizens group, led by Karen van Heerden has in fact violated the court order.
“The so-called experts brought by the applicants were not presented formally to the municipality, any government institution or the court nor their qualifications presented to any of the afore mentioned institutions to verify if indeed they are qualified to operate the plants. This essentially means the applicants have taken over the plants without demonstrating to the respondent that they have sought the necessary experts to operate the plant, a function constitutionally bestowed to the respondent.”
“The respondents have been supplying portable and purified water to the communities of Kgetlengrivier Local Municipality. Efforts have been made to stop the spillage into the Koster and Elands rivers and the respondents have succeeded in this regard.”
A court process was also underway when the residents took over. Mogale says they had filed an urgent court application, challenging the ruling.
“To the municipality’s dismay an interim order was executed illegally so by the respondents in the most hostile and inconsiderate manner. The applicants took control of the water treatment plant and waste treatment plant without any courtesy nor due observation of hand over processes despite being informed that the consideration application is set down to be heard on the 8th of January 2020. The applicants came with scores of security personnel including K9 dogs and took over the plants which meant that the provision of water was immediately interrupted due to hostile take-over of the waste and water treatment plants which ceased to operate due to forced shut down by the applicants.”
Van Heerden insists they have done nothing wrong and merely implemented a court order.
The community leader says the community has had enough of water shortages in Koster.
He says it is a risk they can’t afford in the face of COVID-19 that’s wreaking havoc across the world.
The Kgetlengrivier residents’ group had taken the local authorities to court, accusing the municipality of polluting the Koster and Elands Rivers by allowing overflow of raw sewage into both them.
The court also gave the municipality 10 working days to provide potable water to Koster and Swartruggens or lose control of the municipal water works at the towns.
North West MEC for Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs, Mmoloki Cwaile, says a multi-disciplinary team will be established to provide administrative support to the municipality.
Officials from the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (provincial and national), Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, North West Treasury and Magalies Water Board will lead the team.
MEC Cwaile says the team will develop a risk response and a management strategy to assist the municipality to deal with other challenges, including water shortages and other service delivery matters.
He plans to visit the area soon on a fact finding mission as well to check how the court order has impacted on service delivery and provision of clean water to the community.
Kgetlengrivier municipality has been besieged with service delivery issues for years, with some attributing this to incompetent officials and leaders. However, the municipality has blamed some of its challenges to non-payment of services by residents.
It is within the Bojanala Platinum District and is dependent on agriculture, tourism, small-scale mining, trade and government services.
The Kgetlengrivier Local Municipality in the North West has been given 10 working days to supply potable water to Koster and Swartruggens residents.
Failure to do this, will result in the authorisation of the Kgetlengrivier Residents Association to take control of the municipal water works at the towns.
The North West High Court made the ruling on Friday.
According to the Democratic Alliance (DA), a similar order will apply if the municipality fails to take steps to prevent raw sewage from flowing into contaminating the Koster and Elands rivers. Meaning that the residents association will have the power to appoint qualified people to operate the water works at both towns. The municipality and the North West provincial government will then pay for the services rendered.
Welcoming the ruling – the DA says whether or not the judgment is overturned by a higher court, it sounds a serious warning about the constitutional implication of years of corruption and mismanagement in local government.
“We hope that it will end the silence of the minister responsible for local government, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, about the failure of ANC-controlled municipalities,” the party’s Shadow Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), Cilliers Brink,says.
The Kgetlengrivier Local Municipality is one of the many North West municipalities that are under financial strain allegedly due to non-payment of services by residents. It has also been dogged by poor service delivery issues.
In June 2018, the Koster Ratepayers’ Association was granted permission to take control of the municipality’s water and refuse systems following failure to deliver the services to residents.
In February 2020, Cogta deployed a financial expert to work with the municipality in a bid to turn around its finances. It also roped in water utility, Magalies Water and the Department of Water and Sanitation as part of efforts to improve the water supply in the area.
Government has blamed ageing infrastructure, resulting in frequent breakdowns of water pipelines from Koster Dam, Witrand booster pump station and Koster water treatment works, for the water supply challenges.