For over seven years the community of Phomolong has suffered with sewage spills. This takes place just outside the office of the Municipality.
At the entrance of Phomolong, a location in the small town of Henneman, twenty minutes outside Welkom, one is welcomed by the unpleasant smell of sewage to the left of the entrance. The spilling sewage floods the turf of the community’s play park, which joins a natural wetland. The wetland too is now polluted by spilling sewerage.
The complaints by community members of Phomolong for many years have been ignored. This overflowing of seweage has now created a ‘seweage stream’ .
The shocking thing about this polluted stream is that it is situated at about a few metres from the municipality offices. The sewage steam is under the noses of the municipality workers especially the sanitation department, yet for years they have done nothing about it.
We have many questions.
Why is it not attended if it is so visible to the municipal authorities and so close to where residents live?
The blasted manhole which continues to pump out its waste is situated right at the back of Tswelopele Day Care Centre a creche that is between the sewerage station and municipality offices and is a short distance from the houses of residents of Phomolong. What impact does the seweage spills have on the health of the community especially children who attend the crèche
Why is the spilling left unattended when it destroys our biodiversity in the wetlands?
Our investigation to influence change, began with a visit to the impacted creche were we interviewed educators.
We spoke with Mme Annah Lebona, an educator. She said ,“The sewage gets over flooded at times and runs into our yard. At times it runs near our vegetable gaden and the play ground for children. This sewage stinks a lot during windy seasons and its smell is unbearable. Children do get sick at times that they cough and have running stomachs that to my suspicion is sometimes caused by sewage, though it’s not proven thus far. We reported this matter innumerable times to the ward councillor and municipality offices but we saw no change not even a follow up visit. In the meantime the flooding spreads and the smell becoming worse”
We then arranged an interview with the ward councillor, Mr Oupa Mothekge. He has been unavailable on most scheduled times but we met him in a situation were he could not afford to answer most of our questions due to time. In his short response to our questions he confirmed that the seweage had been spilling over 7 years . He said “The overflow of that seweage is caused by the contractor who was installing the seweage system in our community and left without completing his job. The contractor used the smaller pipes.Now with the extension of community’s settlement and population the pipes fail to handle the incresed pressure that led to the manhole’s blast.” He promised to attend to the issue and find means of resolving it.
Amongst the unanswered questions are the legitimacy of the tender bidding, the remuneration fee and time frame to solve the crisis. We have been failing to meet him to follow up due to excuses he gave to us.
Our stand is that the contractor and the municipality should be held accountable for the mismanagement of public services. We seek to see documented records of that tender so that it can be inspected. Moreover, we fail to understand why the municipality fails to take responsibility.
We believe there is corruption here and the municipality must account.
Our activism will continue on the problem of leaking meters and running sewege in our streets that are not attended too.
By Kagiso Matsitsa, Tumelo Klas, Mamikie Mbele