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Transforming Society

Securing Rights

Restoring Dignity

Media Advisory: Collapse of service delivery at Lekwa Local Municipality in Mpumalanga

Attention: Editors and Reporters

16 October 2020

During May and later in 2020, the South African Human Rights Commission (Commission) in Mpumalanga received complaints against Lekwa Local Municipality (Lekwa) regarding various service delivery challenges in Standerton, ranging from water cuts to electricity cuts and unattended water leakages. Issues raised included the poor quality of the water supplied; continuing sewage spillages; dysfunctional sewage pump stations, resulting in raw sewage flowing onto the streets and into storm water drains, the Vaal river and people’s homes; none collection of refuse; and potholes on the roads.
The complaints followed a complaint investigated by the Commission in 2019 relating to systemic sewage spillages and the inadequate treatment of sewage waste within Lekwa.
Considered collectively, the complaints paint a bleak picture of the state of Lekwa and point to systemic and chronic challenges in the delivery of basic services within Lekwa. The bleak picture necessitated the Commission’s engagements with the Executive Mayors of Lekwa and the Gert Sibande District Municipality (Gert Sibande), as well as the MEC for COGTA, with the view to seeking a lasting resolution of the challenges brought to view by the complaints.

Subsequent to the engagements, the Commission’s overall assessment of the reports from Lekwa and Gert Sibande is that the service delivery in Lekwa has almost collapsed, with no hope of recovery, unless there is an intervening factor.  The dismal service delivery situation in Lekwa in fact seems to be worsening yearly, with the political and administrative instability in Lekwa exacerbating the challenges.
Other than financial constraints, there does not appear to be the necessary human and technical capacity to attend to the prevailing challenges. In this regard, there are admittedly no water master plans, no wastewater master plans and no electricity master plans. During the Commission’s inquiry into systemic sewage spillages in Lekwa, the issue of lack of critical master plans was raised, and Lekwa submitted that it was planning to complete its sanitation master Plan within the 2017/2018 financial year, in order to fully understand the extent of the challenges within its sanitation network. To date, Lekwa does not have a sanitation master plan and has not submitted to the Commission its plan of action aimed at addressing the sewer spillage under its jurisdiction as directed in the said report.
Of even greater concern to the Commission is that Gert Sibande seems to have adopted a tick-box approach to its provision of support to Lekwa, despite the persistence of service delivery challenges in that municipality.
It is for the above reasons that the Commission wrote to the MEC for COGTA on 8 October 2020 requesting the MEC’s urgent intervention, including intervening in terms of section 139 of the Constitution if needs be, to ensure that Lekwa fulfils its constitutional obligations to its citizens.  The Commission is awaiting the MEC’s response by 20 November 2020.
The Commission is concerned that the situation in Lekwa has been allowed to deteriorate to this extent without decisive action being taken. The Commission is particularly concerned about the impact of the current state of affairs on the residents of Lekwa, particularly at this difficult time in world’s history, which has increased the vulnerability of many communities. The Commission however remains hopeful that the respect for the constitution and human rights will ultimately prevail. The Commission will continue to utilize its constitutional and statutory powers to ensure accountability at Lekwa and the protection of human rights.
For further information or enquiries, please contact: SAHRC Mpumalanga Provincial Manager, Mr. E Mokonyama (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 073 585 5944).

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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