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Transforming Society

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Restoring Dignity

SAHRC takes municipality to court over New England Road landfill site

30 May 2021

Durban - The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has taken the Msunduzi Municipality to court for its mismanagement of the New England Road landfill site.

The relief sought by the commission is two fold.

Firstly, it wants the court to declare that the municipality had violated environmental rights enshrined in section 24 of the Constitution, which guarantee a healthy environment protected from pollution and ecological degradation.

Secondly, the commission wants the court to issue an order that requires the violator to rectify the breach of a fundamental right under the supervision of the court.

The parties appeared in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Friday and the matter was adjourned.

The SAHRC launched an investigation into the landfill site following numerous complaints and petitions by residents who were fed up with continuous fires that often left the city engulfed in toxic fumes. This apparently endangered the lives of many suffering from respiratory diseases.

In July, at the peak of the covid-19 pandemic, the city battled to manage a blaze which lasted about a week.

The municipality received assistance from firefighting teams from eThekwini as well as from other parts of the province. The N3 was temporarily closed due to poor visibility.

Several schools in the vicinity, including St Charles, St Johns and Scottsville primary, also had to close.

Subsequently, an urgent application was filed at the Pietermaritzburg High Court in November.

Advocate Loyd Lots, SAHRC provincial manager, said the municipality had conceded to a structural interdict but contested that there had been a violation of rights.

“We put a good case forward. We wanted the court to declare that they had violated the Constitution and the environmental laws including their own waste management license. The judge adjourned the matter to consider all the arguments and will be calling us back in reasonable time for us to get the order and hopefully the judgement in due course,” he said.

“This matter clearly needs and requires the court to intervene because we need to prevent a catastrophe and further harm to the environment and rights violation of the people of Pietermaritzburg.”

Lots said a timeline, between six months and two years, depending on the facts brought forward, would be given to the municipality by the courts to get its house in order.

“What has been clear here is that the municipality needs to be given some time. The beauty of getting us an interdict is that everything will now be overseen by the court.

“They will now have to submit their action plans to court.”

The spokesperson for the Msunduzi Municipality did not respond by the time of publication.

Source: IOL

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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