“Why is no one arrested?” deputy minister asks after investigating Brits’ water pollution

Deputy minister David Mahlobo

“Why is no one arrested? This water will kill people,” the deputy minister of water and sanitation told representatives of the Madibeng municipality on Thursday.

Deputy minister David Mahlobo visited Brits after social media posts on the town’s dirty water, as well as lack of water, during the Covid-19 pandemic went viral on social media.

“It will kill people, especially children. If someone pollutes, we take actions. The law is the law and you should be arrested,” the minister told the Madibeng acting municipal manager and director technical services during an urgent meeting at the municipal offices.

He said the water situation in Brits was unacceptable and despite the financial support of the department of water and sanitation in the past, the situation has not improved. Mahlobo refused to watch Madibeng’s presentation on plans to address the situation and instead insisted that everyone attending the meeting immediately visit the Brits raw water as well as waste water (sewage) purification plants.

During the visit to the respective plants, Mahlobo, a qualified biochemist, interviewed workers, managers and laboratory staff and inspected the facilities. Some serious issues discovered were:

  • Untreated sewage is being released into the Crocodile River
  • The sewage purification plant is barely functioning
  • The municipality has whopping 53% water losses
  • Serious system failures at both plants
  • Water tests are seemingly not conducted according to national standards

Upon Mahlobo question whether the municipality regarded the water supply as fit for human consumption, acting municipal manager, Neo Maape, replied affirmative, upon which the deputy minister accused him of lying. “I hate lies. Why are you telling lies on record? If you want to solve the problem, you have to acknowledge it. What you are doing is not okay.” Mahlobo then forced Maape to admit on record that the drinking water in Brits and surrounding areas is not fit for human consumption.

Mahlobo said the department could not allow water to kill people. “You should be arrested but we (the department) want to help.

“We know you are broke and I will report to the minister and director general to see where money can be raised. However, we want to see where the government’s infrastructure grant to Madibeng goes.”

He said specialists from the department will be sent to Madibeng to investigate certain factors like groundwater quality. Regarding the deployment of water tankers, he told the municipality that he hoped that none of the tankers belong to politicians.

“You have a total infrastructure failure and your losses are too much.” He also expressed his dismay at the condition the facilities are in. It is is hazardous for people to work at these facilities. It must be cleaned up.”

A follow-up media briefing was scheduled but postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic.