The Democratic Alliance (DA) notes a decision by KZN Environmental Affairs MEC, Ravi Pillay and his Department, which essentially protects eThekwini Municipality from full scrutiny by not releasing pertinent documents relating to sewage pollution investigations.
The revelation comes in the form of a written parliamentary response by the MEC following questions by the DA. (view here)
The DA regards MEC Pillay’s stance as a slap in the face to the people of our province who have the right to know what is going on in many of KZN’s water ways. Instead, he has hidden behind National Legislation and – in this case – refused to disclose all contravention notices and investigative notes into the recent devastating Durban Harbour sewage spill.
The DA had asked for full disclosure in its long-term quest to hold municipalities, and their accounting officers responsible for bad maintenance, poor budgeting, and the destruction of the environment.
While the DA fully supports due process, matters of significant public importance and public health demand that government is in the corner of its citizens.
Moreover, KZN’s Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Department (EDTEA) have a history of not pursuing legal avenues to hold municipal officials to account. This begs the question: why not disclose and protect the public who put elected officials into office?
Unfortunately, history is repeating itself on a daily basis in all areas of KZN, with coastal seaside towns and villages bearing the pollutant and economic brunt of raw sewage.
Cases of people falling ill as a result of contaminated river water have been reported in Uvongo, while the Umgeni area remains a cesspool. Umhlanga River has for years suffered massive discharges from the Blackburn pump station – and Thompson’s Bay near Ballito is currently closed due to contamination.
South Africa and KZN in particular is in a fiercely competitive global tourism race. Beaches awash with sewage are undermining a fundamental opportunity to grow the tourism sector and create further jobs. Spills not only affect beach tourism, they concurrently have a direct financial impact on the water sports, yachting and sailing fraternity.
KZN’s provincial government now needs to stand with its citizens in fighting pollution as a direct consequence of municipal incompetence – rather than indirectly protecting officials whose very job it is to keep our beaches clean.
The health and economic future of our province depends on a fundamental shift in the way that MEC Pillay and his EDTEA department tackles polluters.