The Lydenburg court found Thaba Chweu Local Municipality guilty of unlawful water use and disposal of raw sewerage as well as polluting the environment.

 A member of the Green Scorpions inspecting the Lydenburg landfill site in 2020.

The Lydenburg Regional Court has found Thaba Chweu Local Municipality (TCLM) guilty of seven charges in terms of the National Environmental Managing Act after residents have been complaining about issues such sewer spillages for more than a decade.

The court case follows an investigation by the Mpumalanga Environmental Affairs’ Green Scorpions and the Department of Water and Sanitation’s Blue Scorpions.

NPA spokesperson, Monica Nyuswa, says the docket was brought to the Director of Public Prosecutions’ office in 2021 for a decision to institute criminal charges. The matter was enrolled in April.

Sphiwe Matsi pleaded guilty to the charges on behalf of TCLM as its accounting officer and municipal manager. Adv. Tula Bekwa led the investigation, plea and sentence agreement.

The court penalized the municipality with R10m, of which half of it was suspended for five years, on the condition that it is not convicted of a similar offence during the period of suspension, meaning TCLM received an effective fine of R5m.

Magistrate MJ Ngobeni instructed TCLM to invest R4.8m of the R5m fine in the infrastructure of the town for the improvement of sewage and water quality before the end of the year.

He ordered the municipality to pay R100 000 to the Department of Water and Sanitation and R100 000 to the Department of Environmental Affairs.

The charges included contravention of the National Water Act 36 of 1988, the pollution of the Dorps and Spekboom rivers in Wards 2, 12 and 14 and the mismanagement of the Lydenburg landfill site and two water treatment plants.

Spiros Couvaras, a DA councillor in TCLM, says the party is overjoyed by the sentencing.

“We work for the community and to improve the quality of life. I want to thank the Green and Blue Scorpions for their continued support and investigation in the case that led to the guilty sentence today.”

“We believe that this sentence will serve as a deterrent effect to certain organs of the state who do not uphold the rule of law,” says the Director of Public Prosecutions, advocate Nkebe Kanyane.

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