Archived Updates and Interventions

READ | Vaal River clean-up stand-still as community and criminals prevent work

Posted 06 March 2020


The work stoppage was implemented after employees of ERWAT – the waste water specialist company spearheading the project – were reportedly hijacked and held hostage by disgruntled community members in Sebokeng recently.
ERWAT MD, Tumelo Gopane, said the safety of ERWAT employees and locally-recruited contractor colleagues working on the Vaal project was of paramount importance.
The work stoppage was still in force at time of publication but major efforts were being made by stakeholders to resolve the matter as soon as this week, if possible.
No-one as far as could be established was injured in the hijack and hostage incident, which seems to have been sparked by demands for employment on the project by local residents.
One of the major effects of community resistance is that all progress made by ERWAT since it started work in December has now been reversed and must again be implemented from scratch at a cost of millions.
News of the work stoppage on a project of major national importance and of huge importance to the economic development of the Vaal region was greeted with great concern by organized business.
“It is really important that we get the truth out there far and wide – that holding up of the rehabilitation of the sewer infrastructure in the Vaal area is directly damaging the economic well-being of all Emfuleni’s residents,” said Rosemary Cloete-Anderson, Water and Sanitation Spokesperson of the Golden Triangle Chamber of Commerce (GTCoC).
Gopane confirmed on inquiry this week that all work on the project had been halted until the safety of ERWAT employees and locally-recruited contractors working on the project could be guaranteed.
“The safety of our ERWAT employees and our contractor colleagues – mostly recruited from the Vaal – is our utmost priority and work has been stopped until appropriate engagement with community elements and other stakeholders has taken place to find a workable solution.
“However, we are working hard to ensure that safe conditions to resume work are restored and that we can address the concerns of the community and indeed work with them to make this crucial project succeed,” Gopane told Mooivaal Media this week.
The Vaal River Intervention Project, as it is officially know, was taken over by ERWAT in December 2019 from the SA Army and Gopane immediately committed to using local labour and skills for the project to the greatest extent possible.
Cloete-Anderson said everybody needed to know that there would be an injection of billions of Rands worth of economic investment and by implication many sustainable jobs once Emfuleni’s whole waste water system is back on track.
“The longer the rehabilitation is held up the longer we have to wait for these big infrastructure developments to materialize and the same goes for jobs,” said Cloete-Anderson.

Article source:

READ | A clean Vaal River will boost development, says tourism association

Posted 13 February 2020


An excavator clears debris at the Sebokeng water treatment works. Improving the waste-water treatment facilities will open the door to more development in the area.

An excavator clears debris at the Sebokeng water treatment works. Improving the waste-water treatment facilities will open the door to more development in the area.
Image: Alaister Russell


The billions needed to fix sewage-treatment infrastructure and for maintenance of the Vaal River system would be an investment with the potential to transform the Vaal into a vibrant economic hub.

That's the view of Rosemary Cloete-Anderson, chairperson of the Emfuleni Tourism Association and MD of Stonehaven on Vaal, a garden restaurant in the area.

Cloete-Anderson was speaking this week after a visit by human settlements, water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu to the Vaal River to assess projects to clean up the system.

Cloete-Anderson said the deterioration of the wastewater infrastructure in the system, which consists of three wastewater treatment works, 44 pump stations and 2,600km of water networks, had led to an apparent moratorium on new developments in the area.

“What that means is that any new development that is applied for that entails a significant amount of effluent discharge has not been approved,” she said.

This meant there were applications that had been approved by the council but could not go ahead because there was insufficient wastewater infrastructure to cope with any more effluent entering the wastewater system, she said.

Some of these developments included hotels on the river, 30,000 student beds, a glass-bottling factory, a brewery and retirement homes.

Cloete-Anderson said an alterative for developers was to establish their own “package plants”.

This entailed private sewerage works designed, built and paid for by developers on their own properties, under strict criteria set down by the municipality.

Emfuleni local municipality denied there was an official moratorium on new developments.

Spokesperson Stanley Gaba, however, said the municipality had not been able to make improvements to its wastewater infrastructure.

A DA councillor in Emfuleni, Edward von Bodenstein, said there was a lag in the development of a regional sewage-treatment plant in Sebokeng to deal with effluent in the area.

“In the meantime, people who want to construct new developments should develop their own sewage-treatment plants for the development to come on board,” Von Bodenstein said.

He added that he knew of a school development in Emfuleni where the institution had to develop its own “treatment plant” for building of the private school to be approved.

Cloete-Anderson said, “So the R6bn that is required to rectify the sewerage infrastructure and support the forward-going maintenance thereof in the Vaal is actually an investment in the Vaal, since these developments can then go ahead, which are worth billions in capital injection in the area.”

Save the Vaal Environment (SAVE) and the Golden Triangle Chamber of Commerce announced this week they had suspended legal action against the government to give minister Sisulu a chance to clean up the polluted river system.

Article by: Sowetan Live

READ | South Africa: Polluted Vaal River Finally a Focus of National Government

Posted 10 February 2020

A view of the Vaal River from Aasvoelkop in 2010.
10 FEBRUARY 2020
Vaal River Intervention


Minister and Parliamentary Portfolio Get their Feet Wet

The sewage crisis that has been plaguing the Vaal River system is now a focus of national Government.

On Tuesday February 4th 2020 Minister of Human Settlements Water and Sanitation Lindiwe Sisulu visited the Vaal River, travelling on a commercial cruiser from Stonehaven on Vaal to the barrage, and then on a smaller boat through Loch Vaal and up the Rietspruit, the source of much of the pollution currently plaguing the river.

On Thursday February 6 2020 the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee for Human Settlements Water and Sanitation also travelled on smaller boats from the Vaal Barrage to Loch Vaal and up the Rietspruit.

Both visits were hosted by the Golden Triangle Chamber of Commerce and Save the Vaal Environment, entities which have been fighting for recognition of the crisis for many years.

The Minister was accompanied by the Mayors of Sedibeng and Emfuleni, members of the respective Municipal Councils and a representative of ERWAT, the entity contracted to clean up the river. This was her fourth visit to the Vaal Triangle in two weeks. It is the first time a Government Minister or members of a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee have ever travelled on the Vaal River in order to assess the damage caused by Emfuleni's failing sewage infrastructure.

The Minister described the visit as an "eye-opener."  She was concerned at the proliferation of toxic blue-green algae on the surface of the water, the poor water quality and the depth of the sewage sludge which has made parts of Loch Vaal virtually unnavigable. SAVE committee member Michael Gaade pointed out to her that the pollution was due in large part to the partial or non-operation of the 44 pump stations and 3 waste water treatment works which are discharging raw or partially treated sewage into the river at numerous points. There has also been a proliferation of informal and even some formal housing in the vicinity of the Klipspruit and the Rietspruit, without any sewage infrastructure at all.

Minister Sisulu commented favourably on the partnership which has been established between members of the community, organised business, NGOs such as SAVE and the Government and ERWAT, with a view to cleaning up the river and renewing the infrastructure, thereby creating jobs and laying the foundation for further development on the Vaal. She was impressed by a scheme devised by local businesswoman Rosemary Anderson to use treated sewage water for agricultural purposes.

The Minister said that her Human Settlements portfolio was seriously hindered by the fact that the current infrastructure was not designed to carry the exponential growth of the population in urban areas. The slow pace of progress also had a direct negative impact on the construction industry, a large creator of jobs, which is also of serious concern to the Government.

Minister Sisulu said the visit had made the situation clearer to her, and she promised to put the matter before Cabinet because she understood that there were large cost implications. Her intention is to fast track township development with the correct bulk infrastructure in order to prevent a similar situation occurring again.

Golden Triangle Chamber of Commerce member Rosemary Anderson said that she was impressed by the Minister's determination to understand the situation on the ground.

"We are grateful that Minister Sisulu has shown such interest which has been demonstrated by her unparalleled actions of visiting the Vaal numerous times in a matter of weeks and being the first Minister to take the time and trouble to spend many hours on the Vaal River itself, personally inspecting the quality of the water and the causes which have contributed to its current state.  This brings us tremendous hope that we now have a Minister who will finally put an end to the current trajectory of the Vaal River's demise and then go on to address the similar problems plaguing many other water sources in our country."

Michael Gaade of SAVE said "The interest shown and the activity by the Minister reinforces SAVE's decision to pend the litigation against various Government entities as long as good progress is made in fixing the sewage infrastructure."

Legal framework requires strengthening for synergy and efficiency

The Portfolio Committee said in a statement that the broader solution to the problem was two-fold - improved legislative framework governing water infrastructure and dealing with operational and maintenance backlogs.

"The amendment of the two primary legislations, the Water Services Act and National Water Act, is now pressing. We are of the view that the current legal framework must be strengthened to make it more effective," Committee Chairperson Machwene Semenya said.

Directives by the Department to municipalities - the source of the pollution - were not working, the Committee said, which resulted in the need to reconsider the licensing of municipalities that were failing to run wastewater treatment plants.

"We support the Government initiative to clean up the Vaal River. We intend to motivate for further allocation of Government funding to address the situation," Ms Semenya concluded.


Issued on behalf of Viccy Baker for the SAVE and Vaal River Intervention Project.

Article Source:

Reasonable progress made in dealing with polluted Vaal River - portfolio committee

07 February 2020 

Members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) do some work at a water pump in Boitumelo at the Vaal River. (Deaan Vivier, Gallo Images, Netwerk24, file)

Members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) do some work at a water pump in Boitumelo at the Vaal River. (Deaan Vivier, Gallo Images, Netwerk24, file) (Deaan Vivier)

Reasonable progress was being made to resolve the polluted Vaal River system with "steady improvements" already visible, the human settlements, water and sanitation portfolio committee said on Thursday.But the broader solution to the problem was two-fold - improved legislative framework governing water infrastructure and dealing with operational and maintenance backlogs, it said in a statement.

"The amendment of the two primary legislations, the Water Services Act and National Water Act, is now pressing to ensure synergy and efficiency between the two legal frameworks. We are of the view that the current legal framework must be strengthened to make it more effective," committee chairperson Machwene Semenya said.

READ | SANDF intervention in the Vaal comes to an end, but water department has a plan

Last year, the Department of Water and Sanitation set aside R341m for the resuscitation of all wastewater treatment infrastructure in the Vaal Triangle to prevent further pollution in the Vaal River, News24 previously reported.

Directives by the department to municipalities - the source of the pollution - were not working, the committee said, which resulted in the need to reconsider the licensing of municipalities that were failing to run wastewater treatment plants.

Deterioration of infrastructure

READ | SANDF to withdraw from Vaal River intervention project by Friday

It said it was concerned by the deterioration of infrastructure owing to both a lack of maintenance as well as adequate skills to run wastewater treatment plants.

"The justification of lack of skills can no longer be accepted as rational in an environment where the health of our people is of great concern. There must be a concerted effort to increase the skills pool from where municipalities can draw to run these wastewater treatment plants effectively," Semenya said.

The committee called for vacant critical positions to be filled swiftly within municipalities to ensure a skills transfer when the intervention ended.

Semenya said the committee agreed with the minister of cooperative governance (Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma) there was a "need to relook the funding mechanism of municipalities because the shortage of resources has a direct link to lack of operation and maintenance of wastewater treatment plants".

It concurred with Dlamini-Zuma there was a need to relook the funding mechanism of municipalities because the "shortage of resources has a direct link to a lack of operation and maintenance of the wastewater treatment plants".

More collaboration between all levels of the government was needed to reduce the "current silo approach", which the committee said exacerbated the problem.

This week, the committee conducted a site visit where it found untreated water being dumped into river streams around the Seshego and Polokwane wastewater treatment plants.

"We were informed that due to the non-functioning upstream system of the wastewater plants, it was impractical to disinfect the water and that adding chlorine might cause more chemical reactions that might be harmful. The committee instructed both the department and municipality to urgently fix the broken-down system to ensure that the water is disinfected," Semenya said.

The committee called for an integrated approach in planning, from national to local level, to ensure that plans complemented each other.

- Compiled by Tammy Petersen

WATCH | ERWAT intervention Lebohang Senior School

Posted 03 February 2020

ERWAT intervention to allow the children from Lebohang Senior School in Boipatong, to return to school after their grounds were flooded by sewage. Locals in the area had broken the sewage pipes and put rocks down the manholes to give their animals water.

Declare Vaal River sewage pollution a Disaster Area NOW! - GTCoC

By Craig Kotze

Government should declare a Disaster Area immediately to support the Vaal River Intervention Project on sewage pollution to the greatest extent possible, organised business has urged.

“Government should declare a Disaster Area immediately and without delay to turn the corner on the Vaal River sewage pollution crisis which has been allowed to go on for far too long,” said Golden Triangle Chamber of Commerce (GTCoC) spokesperson Rosemary Cloete-Anderson.

Cloete-Anderson made the call after Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu this week visited the Vaal area to assess progress on the intervention project and it emerged that community resistance and sabotage was increasing rapidly.

The GTCoC and civil society did not believe that the R750 million that Water and Sanitation officials said would be available to fund the project from April was nearly enough, especially since budgets of up to R5billion promised by Government a decade ago had not materialised.

Senior Water and Sanitation officials said community resistance to the Vaal River Intervention Project was increasing and had already resulted in losses of up to R79 million in impacts such as work stoppages whilst contractors still needed to be paid.

This highlighted the need for far more intensive and targeted communication at all levels to change knowledge levels and attitudes of all communities not only on present sewage pollution efforts, but on civic mindfulness on all local government issues, including water and sanitation, Cloete-Anderson added.

Sisulu immediately took a tight grip on the entire intervention in a stakeholder meeting in Vereeniging on Tuesday, dramatically shortening intervention project timelines and insisting that work be scaled up and intensified immediately.

This followed an announcement in that meeting by Sisulu that she was in fact already in consultation with her Cabinet colleagues on declaring a Disaster Area - but did not in response to a question say when she anticipated swimming hazard-free in the Vaal River.

No further details were given by Sisulu, such as what the geographical extent of any Disaster Area zone would be or whether it would include Free State areas opposite Emfuleni which also bordered the Vaal River and severely affected the marine economy of both provinces.

She also did not give any time-frame for such a decision.

Sisulu accepted a GTCoC n invitation to a fact-finding Vaal River Cruise extended by GTCoC CEO Klippies Kritzinger to get business and civil society perspectives on the business and social impacts of the present sewage pollution crisis.

Sisulu’s visit took place against a background of increasing community resistance and sabotage against municipal infrastructure and which seems to be intensifying even as the National Defence Force withdraws its security presence from the Vaal.

“Declaring a Disaster Area should be done as soon as possible to unlock further resources for the Vaal River Intervention Project and also to cover the full scope of operations and impact zones - this will give great impetus to the excellent work already being implemented by waste water specialists ERWAT.

“Such a declaration will also dovetail with business and civil society mobilisation of skills and resources to support this and other service delivery and economic development projects which are so vital to creating investor confidence in the Vaal region,” said Cloete-Anderson.

ERWAT MD Tumelo Gopane also said the Army was withdrawing its presence from the Vaal end of January and that a security company would be taking over.

Gopane, who has impressed participants and observers with his visible leadership at grass-roots operations, said the intervention project would be vastly up-scaled now especially on the pipeline network throughout Emfuleni which he described as “a most complex” aspect of the project.

Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has assured Vaal community that the pollution of the Vaal River System will soon be the thing of the past.  She said this yesterday while visiting the area to access progress made by Ekurhuleni Water Care Company (ERWAT).
Minister Sisulu was accompanied by Gauteng MEC of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and Human Settlements Lebogang Maile, Mayor of Emfuleni Local Municipality, Cllr Moerane and other local leaders.
In her remarks, Minister Sisulu highlighted the importance of all stakeholders to play their part as the project will not succeed without their participation. The business community which is one of the stakeholders, committed itself to working with the project leaders and Vaal community to ensure the intervention succeeds.
She also appealed to the local community members to protect water infrastructure by ensuring that there is no vandalism and that foreign objects are not thrown into the system.
Dept. Of Water & Sanitation
Minister Sisulu and MEC Maile visit ELM to observe progress.
HUMAN Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister, the Honourable Lindiwe Sisulu on Tuesday (21 January 2020) visited Emfuleni Local Municipality (ELM) to monitor progress made in the Vaal River Intervention Project (VRIP).
ELM Executive Mayor, Councillor Gift Moerane and his Sedibeng counterpart, Councillor Busisiwe Modisakeng, and Gauteng MEC for Human Settlements, Urban Planning and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) Lebogang Maile, also spent the day in ELM observing the work of the VRIP.
They were accompanied by several other government officials, including ELM Municipal Manager (MM) Oupa Nkoane and Members of the Mayoral Committee (MMCs).
Following a briefing held at the council chambers of Sedibeng District Municipality in Vereeniging, Minister Sisulu and all government leaders undertook a tour of the sites where the VRIP was hard at work unblocking sewer spillages in and around ELM.
At the one of the sites on Frikkie Meyer Boulevard in Vanderbijlpark, Minister Sisulu witnessed the unblocking of a sewer line, which had caused massive spillages in the area.
Later in the day, the minister and the entire government delegation held meetings with communities, employees of the municipality and fellow stakeholders in the project.
Minister Sisulu urged ERWAT to work with speed in ensuring the Vaal River System (VRS) returns to its acceptable operational standards.
She said the VRIP remains government’s top priority as it hinders the development of new human settlements in ELM and surrounding areas.
“One of the issues I’m looking at is considering whether or not it is possible to declare this area as a disaster area after consultation with the relevant ministry as this will unlock some of the potential that is possible for us,” she said.
Sisulu commended ELM communities for cooperating with all stakeholders in the project.
MEC Maile said unspent financial resources will be re-prioritized to expedite the completion of the VRIP.
“This project is important for the economy of the province and country,” he said.
Mayor Moerane reiterated that council has approved ERWAT to work on the municipality’s infrastructure.
“All Emfuleni’s 45 wards should benefit from this project,” said the Mayor, warning communities against stopping projects.
Councillor Moerane promised to undertake Mayoral Imbizos to engage communities on service delivery matters, including progress made in the VRIP.
MM Nkoane told Minister Sisulu that the priority for ELM was to fill vacant posts in the municipality’s water division, Metsi-A-Lekoa.
ERWAT Managing Director Tumelo Gopane and Gauteng Department of Water and Sanitation Provincial Head Sibusiso Mthembu were also part of the proceedings.
The VRIP is aimed at curbing sewer spillages in residential areas in ELM and into the (VRS).
Led by the Ekurhuleni Water Care Company (ERWAT), as implementing agents, the VRIP boasts many other stakeholders including ELM, the national department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Gauteng CoGTA and the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA).
It is estimated the project will run for three years with an initial budget of R1-billion required.
ELM Facebook

WATCH | Vaal River Rehabilitation Project

Published on Jan 22, 2020

WATCH | Vaal River crisis

Published on Jan 21, 2020

WATCH | Vaal River system clean-up by SANDF comes to an end

Published on Jan 21, 2020

Minister Lindiwe Sisulu visits Emfuleni to see progress of ERWAT’s rehabilitation of the Vaal.

Jan 20, 2020

“When I took office, the s*** landed on my desk.”

Minister of Human Settlements Water Affairs and Sanitation Lindiwe Sisulu, who spoke at a media and stakeholder briefing and feedback session in Vereeniging today, apologised for the dire state of affairs in the Vaal River area and promised that at the end of the meeting the people of the region would see that “the problem is behind us.”

The Minister among other things reiterated that the Sebokeng Waste Water Treatment Works would be declared a National Key Point, and said her Ministry was also considering declaring Emfuleni a disaster area.

She appealed to the community to “work with us and not vandalise property” and promised to visit the Vaal at the invitation of the Golden Triangle Chamber of Commerce to see how the pollution was affecting the river and its inhabitants, in particular the Rietspruit tributary which is currently pumping 100 megalitres of sewage daily into the river system.

The Minister instructed ERWAT (the SOE appointed to rehabilitate the sewage system) to provide a plan and final assessment of the work needed by June 26.

In answer to a question by SAVE (Save the Vaal Environment), she said that R1.1bn had been set aside to complete the first stages of the rehabilitation project.

Community members who wanted to work in security and areas related to management of the waste water treatment works and pump stations, would be trained at the State’s cost and thereafter employed if possible, provided they met the entry requirements.

The MD of ERWAT Tumelo Gopane, said that work had started on 2 December on community areas that were most in need of support, especially in Vereeniging.

The entity had so far appointed 10 contractors providing employment for 117 people. One hundred and thirty jobs had been completed. However, there was an urgent need to review Emfuleni’s bylaws and to ensure that these bye-laws were enforced, as many were being infringed and this was hampering the work. The population also needed education on the correct use of sewage-related infrastructure.

Sbu Mthembu of  DWS Gauteng, said that community unrest was one of the biggest issues faced by Government. Over R187 million in fruitless and wasteful expenditure had been incurred in the last financial year through vandalism and other acts against property.

Mthembu reiterated that the SANDF which was appointed to assist the rehabilitation and was due to leave the area at the end of January, had been paid out in full.

Ekurhuleni Water Care Company right for Vaal River clean-up: govt

WATCH | Minister to give update

Published on Jan 21, 2020

JOHANNESBURG - Government believes the Ekurhuleni Water Care Company has already proven itself to be the right one for the Vaal River clean-up.

That's the sentiment of the Water and Sanitation Department's Sputnik Ratau.

READ: ’The Uncomfortable Truth’: SA's water crisis

Last year, the department allocated almost R350-million for the cleanup.

"It was important for us to bring them because they do have capacity so that they can take over from where the SANDF left off in order to make sure the project gets to its ultimate point," said Ratau.


Source: eNCA

Sisulu gives us the big picture on Vaal pollution

Posted 20 January 2020

Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.


The Vaal River sewage pollution crisis must be viewed by Government as seriously as the self-inflicted Eskom power crisis – and Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu should fully share her approach on a permanent solution when she visits the region on Tuesday.

Organised business views a permanent Vaal River pollution solution as underpinning the economic growth of the entire Emfuleni region due to the necessity of addressing the development and maintenance of the entire  sewer and waste water infrastructure.

And with international media paying increasing attention to what is regarded as one of the premier environmental disasters confronting Southern Africa, the matter could yet explode into another nightmare for Government.

Over the years national Government has promised billions but only in December was a credible full-spectrum recovery strategy with waste water specialist Erwat launched – but with a limited national budget of R142 million for only the current financial year.

Sisulu’s intended visit comes against the background of intensive efforts by Emfuleni Executive Mayor Gift Moerane and organised business over December to establish a joint partnership structure on critical municipal projects such as the Vaal River pollution crisis.

“Minister Sisulu is most welcome but should take business and community stakeholders fully into her confidence this week and on an ongoing basis on how the Vaal crisis will finally and permanently be resolved, especially resourcing and budgetary issues.

“This is necessary to fully mobilise the local skills and resources of the business sector to fully support Government and Erwat at all levels,” said Golden Triangle Chamber of Commerce (GTCoC) Water and Sanitation spokesperson Rosemary Cloete-Anderson.

Minister Sisulu is expected on Tuesday for her first official Vaal visit in the Water and Sanitation cabinet portfolio and will also inspect work started in December by Erwat at the Sebokeng Waste Water Works using local Vaal contractors.

National Government had already promised R5billion as far back as a decade ago to resolve the sewage pollution issue but this has not materialised. Instead only ad hoc initiatives have been announced and even the deployment last year of the Army for engineering refurbishment has not developed into a consolidated recovery process.

Sisulu will also be briefed on the multi-faceted plan announced by Erwat late last year to tackle the issue wholistically and not only on refurbishment of infrastructure, but also on pipeline networks, maintenance, security and other related activities.

Erwat MD Tumelo Gopane kick-started the unblocking of the sewer pipeline network in December in Vereeniging with Mayor Moerane despite torrential rains having held up implementation plans.

Plans announced by Gopane late last year included the establishment of a project manaagement office to track developments in real-time and that as many local skills and service providers as possible would be accessed.

However, Erwat’s present allocated budget until March when the current financial year ends is only R142 million and it is not yet clear to what extent the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) will take the project further financially after that.

Speculation is intense that an additional R1,5 billion could be available from DWS after March depending on Erwat performance in the first phase of its deployment.

However, Cloete-Anderson said even the R1,5 billion would not be enough to restore the Vaal River and infrastructure and its ongoing management to efficient and sustainable levels again to underpin the exponential economic growth now needed in the Vaal.

“We need greater transparency on what Government intends to do and exactly how it sees making appropriate resources available.

“A permanent solution on the Vaal from an environmental, municipal and economic recovery and development perspective is vital because we cannot merely see recovery as the goal – we cannot play catch-up for ever and we must already be planning how to springboard to far greater prosperity for us all,” said Cloete-Anderson.

The GTCoC sees Mayor Moerane’s intended Business Forum as one of the premier platforms, along with national Government, to turn the Vaal sewage crisis into a broader trajectory for exponential economic growth and development, she added.

Greater clarity and communication on the extent of Government’s commitment to the Vaal project and its strategy would increase investor confidence and job creation in a region already in decline largely due to failing municipal services.

Minister Sisulu and all stakeholders should also pay greater attention to communication and reputation management on the Vaal River sewage pollution crisis to create greater trust and confidence at all levels of the community.

Although Erwat has access to a R3 million communication budget on the Vaal project, it has not yet revealed its planning or tendering process to utilise local expertise in this regard as it has on local engineering and other services.


Article by Vaal Weekblad:

Update from ERWAT MD Tumelo Gopane

Posted: 07 January 2020

1. When did ERWAT take over repairs from the army?
ERWAT has been part of the Army led VRSI (Vaal River System Intervention) Team, since November 2018. This resulted in the signing of an IP (Implementation Protocol), by 6 state institutions, through the respective Accounting Officers, including the Managing Director of ERWAT.A lot of background work has been undertaken by this team since November 2018, which culminated in ERWAT finally being on site last week, following quite a bit of hectic bureaucratic processes, that had to be undertaken, as well as some hindrance due to the rain.SANDF is still part of the team until the end of January 2020, when the troops will be demobilized from this program, and most likely redeployed elsewhere.Please note that this program is not only about repairing infrastructure.ERWAT will also be mobilizing to perform O&M (Operation & Maintenance) of the three systems, once National Treasury and DHSWS has authorized this.That is because if this is not done, the country might face a similar challenge in the very near future. The bigger challenge which led the country to this, is because there wasn’t adequate O&M.

2. Is ERWAT a public or private company?
ERWAT is a Municipal Owned Entity, belonging to the City of Ekurhuleni. That makes it a SOC (State Owned Entity).

3. How long are repairs of the three wastewater treatment plants and the 44 pump stations expected to take?
It’s quite difficult to tell at this stage, because detailed assessments on the infrastructure still needs to be conducted. Even more so, we can never know how dilapidated is the infrastructure until it’s completely exposed after the cleaning or scum, grime and sludge.With regards to the pipelines, ERWAT will still need to send cameras inside, in order to ascertain which pipe lengths need to be replaced, and of the ones which don’t need to be replaced, how much life is still left out of them.Once all of this has been done, ERWAT will be able to provide a more accurate cost and time estimate.Having outlined that, for now ERWAT is anticipating 3 years.

4. How much will this cost?
ERWAT’s scope of work within the intervention is estimated at R1,1 billion, of which R141 million has been allocated for the financial year 2019/2020. In order to solve the severe pollution problems and rehabilitate the area, all infrastructure needs to be refurbished, replaced, fixed and/or upgraded.The R1.1b doesn’t include some of the following O&M, dredging of the river, where sludge has built up over the years, conducting baseline ecological studies (which have to be done), ascertaining the SDG’s baseline, etc.Once more, as soon as ERWAT has done all detailed assessments, it will be in a better position to provide a more realistic figure, which will be higher that the preliminary estimated R1.1b.

5. What are some challenges you will face in the repair process?
The biggest challenge so far has been stakeholder management. That is always key, if you are to deliver a successful project. All stakeholders are important irrespective of where they sit on a stakeholder matrix map.The other challenge has been getting through the bureaucratic processes, to finally get onto the ground. Some of them are still outstanding, however those are not in the critical path of the project.The availability of spares, especially over the festive season is also going to be a challenge.In future as the work unfold, the biggest challenge is working on a live brownfield system, is far more complex than working on a greenfield project. It’s going to stretch the imagination of the engineers and scientists, as we will need to create temporary by-passes as and when we work on some of the infrastructure.

6. Why do you believe the infrastructure reached such a point of collapse to begin with?
Many suggest poor governance, what are your thoughts? The biggest challenge has been inadequate operations and maintenance of the systems.WWTP (Waste Water Treatment Plants) or WCW (Water Care Works) as ERWAT called them, are factories. Factories cannot be left to man themselves, if we are to still ensure quality, when it comes to the product that is intended to come out of that factory.

7. How many people are dependent on the Vaal currently?
ERWAT would like to suggest that this question be posed to DHSWS (Department of Human Settlements Water & Sanitation) or Emfuleni Local Municipality

READ | South Africa's sewage system collapse a 'time bomb'

Posted: 02 January 2020

South Africa's sewage system collapse a 'time bomb'.

South Africa's sewage system collapse a 'time bomb'.
Image: 123RF/Montian Noowong

Methane bubbles popping on the river's surface, sewage pipes clogged with tampons, diapers and toilet paper, and the smell of faeces lingering in the air.

These scenes are everyday realities for residents of Emfuleni - a municipality southwest of Johannesburg - as the breakdown of the area's pipes, pumps and wastewater treatment plants causes sewage to overflow into one of South Africa's largest rivers.

As the government announced a major plan in November 2019 to address the wastewater crisis and an ongoing drought, residents told the Thomson Reuters Foundation the seeping sewage is making their homes unliveable and their children sick.

"This is a national crisis," said colonel Andries Mokoena Mahapa from his temporary office in the city of Vanderbijlpark near the Vaal River, where the South African army was dispatched to assist with sanitation repairs last year.

"We have seen children playing in the raw sewage," he said. "Old people who can't buy groceries because they can't cross the river of excrement to get to the shops. These are only a few examples. It has been very alarming for us."

Under global development goals agreed in 2015, governments pledged to provide access to clean water and sanitation for all by 2030.

But three in 10 people worldwide still do not have access to a water source free from faecal and chemical contamination, according to a 2017 report by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF.

Much of South Africa, a water-scarce country, still suffers from poor water management, according to South African think tank the Institute for Security Studies.

"The government needs to urgently prioritise funding so that (it) can restore the lives and the dignity of the people of the Vaal," Mahapa said, citing "poor governance" as a major cause for the system's collapse.

He added the army's mandate until January would involve safeguarding infrastructure from theft while it waits for repair work to be taken over by the Ekurhuleni Water Care Company (ERWAT), which is commissioned by the government.

Citing "urbanisation, ageing infrastructure and limited municipal maintenance capacity" as reasons for the worsening conditions, sanitation department spokesman Sputnik Ratau said that 1.1 billion rand ($75 million) had been earmarked for repairs.

But it was not clear when the work would start, he said in a phone interview.

ERWAT did not respond to several requests for comment.

Local environmental groups such as Save the Vaal Environment (SAVE) and Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance (VEJA) said sewage pollution has gotten exponentially worse in recent years, and seeps into neighbourhoods at a rapid rate.

Stanley Gaba, spokesmon for the Emfuleni municipality, said that "(the) government is working around the clock to prevent a complete collapse of all infrastructure." SEWAGE

The Upper Vaal river, together with a few other water sources, supports more than 13 million people, according to the nonprofit Centre for Environmental Rights, based in Johannesburg.

Ratau said that the drinking water coming from the river is pumped upstream from the pollution.

That means when South Africans open their taps it is still "some of the best drinking water in the world", he said.

But for communities living alongside or near the Vaal, the real issue is the sewage leaking from the pipes, said Maureen Stewart, vice-chair of SAVE, who described the infrastructural collapse as a "time bomb".

Nearly all of Emfuleni's sewage infrastructure, comprised of some 44 pump stations, more than 2,000 km (1,240 miles) of pipes and three wastewater treatment plants, are in need of urgent repair, said Stewart.

At the inoperational plant near the township of Sebokeng large steel funnels are clogged with toilet paper, diapers and tampons meant to have been removed from the inflowing wastewater.

Sebokeng is supposed to treat 100 million litres of waste daily but degraded, blocked pipes and pump stations mean only 20% was reaching the plant before it shut down, said Samson Mokoena, a coordinator with VEJA - which was confirmed by Mahapa.

About 10km (6 miles) from the Sebokeng plant Patience Fanseko, an unemployed mother of three, braces herself for the sewage that flows out of her toilet in a hostel about twice a month and spreads across her bathroom floor.

The municipality comes intermittently to fix the burst pipes, but the fixes don't last long, she said.

Throughout the hostel, residents have placed heavy bricks on top of manhole covers to keep the water from gushing into the streets.

Fanie Maquegu, a security officer who lives in the hostel, pointed to a brown line about 30cm high on the brick walls to show how high the sewage flow from a nearby manhole can rise.

"Low-hanging electric wires sometimes combust when the sewage flow makes contact with them and it cuts our electricity supply," he said, walking carefully over sewage-soaked sand.

"Sometimes the children play in it," Gebe said, pointing to the stream of sewage flowing like a river about two metres from her front door.

"They come home covered in rashes. They feel dizzy and get diarrhoea too," she said, shaking her head.

Government spokesman Ratau said the lives of the community would improve "once pipelines were repaired and unblocked".


In November, the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation released a "master plan" for tackling the sewage crisis and improving general water security, focusing on repairing infrastructure and more responsible spending.

"We remain hopeful," said Stewart from SAVE. "But there is such a deep chasm between plans and implementation. What is needed right now is action."

"I haven't swum in years," he said, pointing out the methane bubbles popping on the surface of the water as a result of the rising sewage below.

He dipped a spade beneath the surface and scooped up a mound of dark brown waste.

"The sludge used to be six metres below the surface, now it is about a metre and a half," he said.

"If this doesn't say we need to act now, then I don't know what does."


Article by: Sowetan Live

Emfuleni Intervention Plan on Pollution of the Vaal River Systems

Click on the link below to view the document

GTCoC welcomes ERWAT role in Vaal sewage pollution crisis

By Craig Kotze
Organised business has welcomed waste water specialists ERWAT’s transparency and frankness in addressing the Vaal’s sewage pollution crisis and allegations that the company is itself a polluter elsewhere in Gauteng.
ERWAT formally started in Emfuleni on 1 December and last week its MD, Tumelo Gopane, participated in a high level press conference hosted by Executive Mayor Gift Moerane.
Golden Triangle Chamber of Commerce (GTCoC) Water and Sanitation spokesperson Rosemary Cloete-Anderson has responded at length to Erwat’s announced strategy and related issues as follows:
ERWAT MD Tumelo Gopane’s was addressed with some difficult questions at the 26th November’s Media Briefing. One of them being that ERWAT currently does not have a blemish free reputation at their 19 waste water plants and therefore why should we believe that ERWAT can do the job of addressing the Emfuleni sewerage carnage and finally rehabilitating the Vaal River Reservoir – when they themselves have problems with some of their waste water treatment works within Ekurhuleni.
He answered candidly but with a lack of defensiveness. He detailed how ERWAT was not perfect and specifically has structural problems at their Olivantsvlei waste water treatment works which has required major infrastructure intervention.
The materialization of this intervention should shortly see a major improvement in the quality of the effluent discharged and that overall, ERWAT had a 89% compliance which was substantially higher than the national average.
Gopane also said that we had two options, we can either do nothing and just accept the fate we are in, or we can try to remedy the situation with the ERWAT intervention – and that is exactly what he intended to do. With a sense of determination but with no sign of arrogance, he mentioned that he had decades of experience both overseas and in South Africa and that he had every intention of making a success of this challenge. He was simply going to do it.
Mr Gopane also briefed the media that there would be several parallel programs – of simultaneously unblocking network pipes, repairing pump stations, restoring functionality at the three wastewater treatment plants and dredging at the two discharge points (Rietspruit and Klip). He also accentuated that there was no point in doing any of this if there was not a program of operations, maintenance and security set in place from the onset. This was heartening to hear, since this has been a concern expressed by many before regarding the maintenance of these points once they were rehabilitated including the security aspect.
MD Gopane also warned that due the need to unblock the network pipes that had been blocked for so long, obviously there will be a spike in the pollution as the sewerage blocked within these pipes is released. However, this unfortunately is a necessary part of unblocking of the pipes – and the rehabilitation of the system.
With all the false promises, starts, let downs and disappointments we have had for well over a decade – it is difficult not to feel jaded and sceptical regarding any new promises regarding the rehabilitation of the Vaal River System.
However, as MD Tumelo Gopane said, we can either do nothing – or we can start this new intervention with ERWAT as the implementing agent.
If Mr Gopane pulls this off – he will indeed be the Vaal’s hero since the major positive ramifications of the rehabilitation of the Vaal River System – will have a significant catalytic effect on the approval of the billions of rands worth of development projects currently on hold in the Vaal due to the moratorium.
Perhaps time to root for MD Tumelo Gopane!

Article by Sedibeng Ster:

ERWAT Vaal entry is a R120 million plus Emfuleni investment injection

What is possibly Southern Africa’s single most intractable and thus-far insoluble (pun intended) environmental, economic and socio-political Gordian Knot - the Vaal River Sewage Pollution crisis - this week cast its baleful glare on another apparent candidate for the reputational and service delivery graveyard that is Emfuleni.

Waste water specialist company ERWAT this week began formally in Emfuleni without the fanfare which preceded and accompanied the deployment of the SA National Defence Force almost a year to the day in December 2018.

ERWAT’s entry into the Vaal suggests that the crisis reaction phase of national Government - launched before the May 2018 general election - is now over and a more measured and integrated strategy is finally under way.

Indications are ERWAT work with local Vaal service providers could pump about R120 million or more into the local economy. That’s only in the current financial year, which ends in March 2020. Thereafter intensifying operations could potentially pump many times that amount into the Vaal economy for the rest of 2020 and into 2021, says the official ERWAT Vaal budget.

This is a form of direct Vaal economic investment now needed more than ever in especially the steel and engineering sector, now also faced with a job loss holocaust from ArcelorMittal retrenchments which also impacts a host of local service providers.

The Vaal Army has the gratitude of the Emfuleni community for its intervention and securing of municipal infrastructure even whilst a very ruthless and high-stakes bureaucratic and political battle was clearly fought about Emfuleni, but largely in Tshwane itself.

And because a River Runs Through It and People Actually Live Here, the agony of Emfuleni’s environment, communities and business continued unabated, and even worsened over the past year.

Some sectors of civil society have reservations about ERWAT due to pollution spillages elsewhere in Gauteng, but MD Tumelo Gopane is clearly able to inspire most stakeholders with his energy and mission-directed strategy as well as transparency and frankness in redressing such issues.

Gopane’s mission-directed style and world-class hi-tech strategy to address all project aspects in parallel has already won the confidence of many local stakeholders, including the Golden Triangle Chamber of Commerce (GTCoC). Unlike before, budgetary issues now seem sorted.

Even cursory inquiry reveals that ERWAT definitely does already possess considerable environmental and social responsibility credentials and track record in the waste water treatment field.

ERWAT grows mielies watered by treated waste water all around its Hartebeesfontein Office Park Head Office in Kempton Park and also feeds treated waste water to two Ekhuruleni Prisons - Nigel and Modderbee - to grow fresh vegetables  for the incarcerated.

Now, in the words of GTCoC Water and Sanitation spokesperson Rosemary Cloete Anderson, that represents an attitude and approach stakeholders in the Vaal can work with!   Craig Kotze

Vaal River sewage crisis will get worse before it gets better


Colonel Andries Mahapa stands next to the one of the two Primary Settling Tanks successfully refurbished by SA Army engineers at the Sebokeng Waste Water Treatment Plant south of Johannesburg. Picture: SUPPLIED

Johannesburg - On October 24 last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the Vaal River sewage problem a national crisis and authorised the deployment of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to urgently intervene because the local Emfuleni municipality (ELM) had failed.

I led a team of specialists to the Vaal the very next day. We spoke with the ELM to determine the best approach to stabilise the situation and avert the looming humanitarian crisis.

In the meanwhile we deployed our troops consisting of sappers to secure these key point installations from vandalism and theft and our specialist architects, water care engineers, Geographical Information System specialists, artisans and scientists, to refurbish and maintain the water waste management systems, protecting the integrity of the Vaal River from raw human effluent being pumped straight into it – and to safeguard the health of the hundreds of thousands of people living on both banks of the river and beyond who depend on the water, literally for their survival.

Our arrival had immediate effects; we cut the vandalism and theft of pumping instruments and electrical equipment overnight. We immediately set up an E. coli scoreboard and monitor at the headquarters of our temporary base, recording the water pollution levels every day and began work at the Sebokeng Waste Water Treatment plant, especially on the three primary settling tanks (PST). Each PST is approximately 7m deep, filled to overflowing with 3m of compacted sludge at the bottom – a situation that had existed since 2008.

We estimated at the time it would take R1.1-billion to fix the crisis, money that the Defence Force certainly doesn’t have. The plan would have involved outsourcing certain aspects of the project too because of the limited wastewater equipment within the SANDF, given our operational mandate. Although the engineers are among the army’s most highly skilled and ingenious soldiers doing everything from mine warfare to water purification – and even building military installations, we have never been expected to manage waste water on the kind of scale we were being asked to. We had limited equipment for that particular task, given the sheer scale, nothing else, but we were not deterred.

The first phase of our mission was achieved with great success, characterised by quick wins; the E. coli count dropped dramatically, we secured the installations and we successfully refurbished and recommissioned two of the three PSTs and unblocking 10km of sewer lines at Sebokeng’s Moshoeshoe Road.

We also reached out to the community in very meaningful and impactful ways; a family in Boitumelo was able to celebrate Christmas for the first time ever after we fixed the running sewers that had flowed through their house and their yard for an entire year. We built an improvised bridge across a polluted and dangerous spruit in Tshepiso, allowing the community safe passage and unhindered access, where before they put their health in harm’s way just getting to the shops.

The problem though was funding. The projected budget we drew up envisaged maintenance costs and capital expenditure. This was rightfully the preserve of the Department of Water and Sanitation and as such, this department became the funder department for the project after a steering committee of all the relevant stakeholders comprising DWS, Rand Water, the local municipalities and the other relevant government departments including the SANDF was set up in March and April this year.

In June we stopped all our refurbishment initiatives and our maintenance programmes out of respect of the DWS processes and continued with our mission which is the protection of the key point installations. Since then, there has been neither maintenance nor refurbishment and the e-coli levels into the Vaal River have spiralled upwards because the raw untreated effluent is being allowed straight into the river system’s various catchments.

Unfortunately, the situation will get worse before it gets better because there are very distinct processes that have to be followed in terms of procurement. The project will also require DWS to outsource certain functions to the Ekurhuleni Water Care Company (Erwat) as a confirmed Wastewater specialist to assist with technical skills in resolving the crisis and beyond the intervention period.

Throughout this crisis, the SANDF has learnt incredibly valuable lessons from this operation. We were given one of the biggest peacetime missions, also known as Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW), that the engineer corps in particular has ever been tasked with in its long and proud history – managing 100 mega litres of wastewater. We were up to that challenge, we believed that we could have resolved this within the year we allotted to it, and we believe that we could have used this as a benchmark to be rolled out to other struggling municipalities within our own borders and similar potential humanitarian crises elsewhere in Africa.

The SANDF has learned vitally important lessons in terms of intra-governmental department co-operation together with our troops, most of whom were drawn from the Reserve Force: 3 Field Engineer Regiment in Durban and 19 Field Regiment in Cape Town, as well as 44 Para Engineer Regiment and 35 Engineer Support Regiment, who  attained critical skills in the essential service of waste water management that will stand them in good stead not just militarily but on their return to the civilian world too.

We are very proud members of a highly professional and disciplined military that faithfully operates on the tenets of mission and mandate. Our mission was given a set time frame which is due to expire soon. When we demobilise, we will do so knowing that we did everything we could – but also with the realisation that we could have done far better, but we were constrained by both the system and funding.

Should our principals wish to extend the operation, we will comply because supporting the people of this country has always been the secondary function of the SANDF after protecting the sovereignty of this country and the safety of its citizens. We also thank our chief for affording us the opportunity to serve the people of South Africa.

* Colonel Andries Mokoena Mahapa is the Officer Commanding the South African Army’s 1 Construction Regiment and the Commander of the SANDF’s Vaal River intervention task force.


Article from

So what’s the latest with the sewerage situation?

Posted 29 May 2019


1996 – 2019

For too many years now – we have had sewerage pollution plague the Vaal area.


September 2018

In September last year, we were filled with hope when the Human Right’s Commission conducted a formal enquiry over three days, to establish if the extent of the sewerage pollution was in fact a violation of the human rights of Vaal residents. The commissioners called DWS, Emfuleni, Rand Water and other entities to account and respond to the input received from a broad representation of the negatively affected parties.  When DWS was asked by the lead Human Rights Commissioner how much was needed to address the sewerage pollution in the Vaal – DWS answered that R5 billion was needed to put a halt to the sewerage pollution in the Vaal region.


October 2018

Then a month later, in October last year – our hope was further boosted when our Minister of Finance announced that the SANDF would be sent to the Vaal tasked with “the rehabilitation of the Vaal River System”.  Not long afterward in November and December – the Vaal Army came to the Vaal.  We had presumed that funding would have been organised for the tremendous task they had been given, which for the greater part of a decade, DWS, Rand Water and Emfuleni had not managed to achieve.  However for some inexplicable reason, no budget was afforded the Army - so they obviously did not achieve anything that they planned to achieve throughout the past 6 months and they have just used their own usual operating budgets, which obviously do not include any budgets for all the interventions that are required to address the Vaal sewerage issues.


February 2019

In February this year, at a continuation of the Human Rights Commission investigation, DWS confirmed that it would cost in excess of R1billion to ensure all the 44 pump stations were working in the Vaal’s waste water network.  This figure tied in with the bulk figure of R5 billion which was mentioned 5 months before.



April 2019

In early April this year DWS’s Minister came down to Sebokeng to announce to great pomp and ceremony that R341 million would be allocated in the 2018/2020 budget with the project completed by 31 March 2020 which would be “to ensure that all wastewater treatment infrastructures are resuscitated to an operational state and pollution in the Vaal River is stopped” (from a document he gave out on the day).  In the same document, it was detailed how Module 6 (Sebokeng wwtw) still needed R185 million to be completed and would be provided in the 2018/2019 budget.  This figure was not part of the R341 million but a separate figure.  Anyone who knew the real budgets required - felt totally dejected and could not understand what there was so much fanfare about a figure which was grossly inadequate.



May 2019

Then on the 16th of May this year, Treasury came down, once again to significant fanfare (including a river cruise in Vereeniging and a luncheon afterwards elsewhere) where they announced that they are only giving a budget of a total of R241 million.  The shortfall from the R341 million that was announced a month before by the Minister, was because R100 million was an amount allocated to network connections for Boikatong (to feed into Leeukuil).  This R100 million was in fact provided a few years ago to Rand Water by Human Settlements for this specific project (it has been ring-fenced).  So it seems not entirely transparent to include this as part of the R341 million that was announced, since it was made available a number of years ago and is not part of the budget needed to address all the current issues with the pump stations, networks or the three wwtw.  So at best this is confusing at worst it is misleading to include this figure to what appears, to pump it up to appear R341 million, when it was really only R241 million.


So of the R241 million, it was indicated by Treasury that R100 million will go towards Module 6 (which should have been completed with its own adequate budget over a year ago).  R62 million for the army (to reimburse them for what they have spent so far), R2 million for ERWAT (what they say they have spent so far) and that leaves us with R78 million.


The scope that ERWAT, the Army and Metsi a Lekoa advised to government was that they needed is over a R1billion to address the critical basic areas of concern so they could get quick wins, regarding stopping raw sewerage pollution from running into homes, townships, suburbs, CBS’s, municipal offices, churches, schools, farm lands, spruits and rivers.


And now we find out that there is R78 million.


Not sure what to say about this.

Questions could be posed – take your pic.


  • Is there really no more money in Treasury to assist with this intervention, to stop sewerage entering a strategically important water source, besides violating human rights?
  • Do the authorities not understand the full extent of the problem?
  • Do the authorities not care?
  • Is there some cat that will be pulled out of the bag, such as the rumoured R1.2billion secured loan from DBSA (Development Bank of South Africa) and then some more will miraculously materialise to make up the R5 billion needed?


In the meantime – residents are left in the dark, with no consideration shown to them to update them on the dire situation that affects their daily lives.  Some residents’ reality is to have sewerage surrounding their homes and schools as many of us watch clean water pouring down the roads, while the municipality struggles to pay their monthly Rand Water bill.  Calls to call centres go unanswered and people responsible for managing the water and sanitation dept can hardly pick up their phones or answer emails anymore, since they are drowning in complaints and problems.  They know full well that they can’t rectify these problems since their budget is grossly inadequate as well as their shortage of vehicles, regular access to diesel and petrol, staffing and tools.  Today they are equipped with a tenth of the necessary budget that they used to have 10 years ago.  There is no hope for them or us if this inadequate budget is not addressed along with the R5billion needed.


Conversely, all this doom and gloom could be totally turned around if someone who could engender unity between ELM, Unions, Business and the Residents and ram the Vaal Ship into as many National and Provincial doors – demanding that they hear our plight and give us the necessary budget.  Human Settlements owe the Vaal Region a few billion, for not increasing the necessary waste water bulk infrastructure, when they just went ahead and built tens of thousands of RDP houses. Demand compensation for this.  The same goes for the City of Johannesburg, the West Rand and East Rand, where we are left with the problems of their sewerage run offs – they also need to compensate us adequately, far more so than they are currently doing.  Demand DWS to uphold their responsibility to the constitution and direct the necessary funding here to protect the strategically important Vaal River.

Let’s together demand our fair share – to restore the Vaal Region to a place where all residents are once again proud to live.


This will then free up the dozens of developments that have been signed off, but the sewerage moratorium is the only thing holding them up.  Some include:-

  • A retirement village of 1200 units
  • Private hospital of 250 beds
  • Student accommodation of 25,000 beds over 50 hectares
  • Residential homes – over 1000.
  • Two hotels
  • Dozens more.


If only we could make someone influential in Government understand that the R5 billion needed is a sound investment in the Vaal, which will receive handsome dividends.

Together – let’s start demanding this.  We deserve nothing less.


Rosemary Anderson


WATCH | Wat is die impak van volgehoue rioolbesoedeling in Vaaldriehoek?Seg 1 - PRONTUIT

Published on May 06, 2019

WATCH | Wat staan inwoners van die Vaaldriehoek te doen? Seg 2 - PRONTUIT

Published on May 06, 2019

Vaal clean-up: Eyebrows raised over Erwat appointment


File picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency(ANA). 

Earlier this month, Water and Sanitation Minister Gugile Nkwinti announced that he had appointed the East Rand Water Care Company (Erwat), an entity of the Ekurhuleni Metro, as the implementing agent for the initial R341m Vaal sewage clean up.

“As a wastewater specialist company, Erwat will ensure that all wastewater treatment infrastructure is resuscitated to an operational state and that pollution in the Vaal River is stopped,” Nkwinti said.

But water adviser, Professor Anthony Turton, was critical of the firm’s appointment.

“Erwat is a persistent and known polluter of the Hennops River. Therefore, to now appoint them to rectify the highly complex problem in the Vaal, at great cost to the taxpayer, does not represent good value for money.”

He wondered if Nkwinti understood the complexity of the Vaal river problem, where sewage infrastructure had collapsed.

“This includes more than 40 sewage pumping stations that have seized up with solid waste, flooding the chambers and rendering the pipelines useless. In all probability, the entire pipeline network will have to be replaced because it is unclear if such blockages can be cleared without highly specialised machinery not in the possession of the state.

“It also begs the question as to why the sums of money being spent on the SANDF and Erwat deployment, collectively approaching R1 billion, are not being channelled through the normal service procurement process into the private sector.”

Rosemary Anderson, a spokesperson for waste and sanitation for the business chamber in the Vaal, agreed.

“Erwat has received, for many years, negative mention for causing sewage pollution and spillages into water sources, emanating from their region. If it was felt we were in such crisis and we needed to get an outside entity because the level of expertise was not found in the Vaal, why did we not get the best company out there, due to our dire state? One with a near blemish-free reputation, unlike Erwat?”

Maureen Stewart, of Save the Vaal Environment, said: “At this stage, we have little knowledge of Erwat’s capabilities, but will be watching progress with great interest and their ability to meet the minister’s commitment of no more sewage pollution by March 2020.”

Sputnik Ratau, spokesperson for the DWS, said Erwat was a government entity specialising in wastewater management.

“Erwat was engaged in the Vaal intervention as they have capabilities that are needed in the Vaal clean up, ie, wastewater management equipment that is critical (equipment that is much too costly to hire), laboratory services that are also needed, etc.

“With the high cost of cleaning the Vaal River, DWS had to engage all available Gauteng government agencies that can assist with the clean-up campaign in addition to the SANDF.

“The inclusion of Erwat will assist in bringing down the R1.1 billion projected cost for the clean-up. Rand Water is also involved as programme and project managers to the upgrade of the Sedibeng Regional Sewer Scheme.”

Anderson said a DWS document further detailed that 51% of the initial contract would be undertaken by the construction unit of DWS, based in Potchefstroom, 19% will be reserved for strategic partnerships such as the Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority and 30% for local labour and procurement in the Vaal.

“Why are we getting an entity like DWS’s construction unit, which is not known for its expertise - to have 51% of the contract? Skills in the Vaal are superior to those of this construction unit.”

That pollution of the Vaal has continued under the DWS for the past 15 years and “deserves serious contemplation.

“The DWS owes the Vaal big time. It has caused tremendous harm to the environment, residents, business, tourism, employment levels and our reputation.

“The very least they could do is give the forthcoming contracts a major lion’s share to the unemployed and residents and entities within the Vaal so that the Vaal 100% benefits by the funds coming in to address the crisis.”

Saturday Star

Read | Rooting out corruption in infrastructure projects

Published on April 08, 2019

Rooting out corruption in infrastructure projects

In an effort to root out corruption within the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), Minister Gugile Nkwinti has announced sweeping changes in the management of major infrastructure projects.


Nkwinti noted that poor management has been a problem within the department, but he is working hard to turn things around.

According to the minister, the ‘blind contracting’ of water and sanitation mega projects to service providers has cost the department between R10 and R15 billion over the past few years. The DWS is now working with law enforcement agencies to investigate corruption within the department and three senior managers have since resigned from their posts to avoid being investigated, he said.

Directive to the TCTA

In terms of Sections 74 and 103 (2) of the National Water Act, Nkwinti has issued a directive to the Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA) to provide programme management services to the DWS on the following water projects:

  • De-Hoop Water Project
  • Mzimvubu Water Project
  • Loskop Water Project
  • Xhariep Bulk Water Supply
  • Clanwilliam Water Project

In his directive, Nkwinti said TCTA should utilise its capabilities and resources to increasing support DWS in its infrastructure mandate that will enable the effective delivery of water and sanitation services to the public.

“The directive shall be implemented in line with all applicable laws and the new implementation Model which promotes effective utilization of the Construction Unit in the Department of Water and Sanitation South Africa DWS_RSA implementation of the managed projects and socio-economic transformation in the execution of projects,” he said.

He instructed the TCTA to develop a business plan, stating that a service level agreement will be concluded by the end of April. Once concluded, a technical task team will be established with officials from DWS, TCTA, Water Service Authorities, relevant institutions impacted by the projects and as well as provincial COGTA officials to analyse a suitable model for implementation funding for each project.

Partnering with DBSA

Nkwinti issued another directive for the DWS to follow an applicable legislative framework in formalising a relationship with Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA).

The DBSA will be entrusted to perform programme management services for the following projects:

  • Giyani Water Project
  • Nandoni Nsami Pipeline
  • Nwamitwa Dam
  • Tzaneen Dam
  • Polokwane (Ebenezer and Olifants)
  • Vaal Gamagara Project

These announcements by the minister follow on form his budget vote speech when he introduced his turn-around strategy to improve the optimal operations of DWS. The department faces enormous challenges of inadequate capacity for effective programme planning and co-ordination, necessary for ensuring effective project preparation, roll out and delivery to specifications, on time and within budget.

Article by:

WATCH | ENCA Vaal residents are living in their own waste

Published on April 07, 2019

Vaal residents are living in their own waste

Vaal residents are living in their own waste. For years, the river has been an environmental and health hazard with raw sewage flowing into surrounding areas from various points. Despite the deployment of specialised engineers from the South African National Defence Force, not all sewage sources have been stopped. And now – the Vaal River clean-up project will receive another cash injection.eNCA’s Tshegohaco Moagi has the story. Courtesy #DStv403

Posted by eNCAnews on Saturday, 6 April 2019

Read | R341m set aside to prevent pollution in the Vaal River - Water dept

Published on April 06, 2019

Ntwaagae Seleka - News24

The polluted Vaal River. (Picture:
The Department of Water and Sanitation has set aside R341m for the resuscitation of all wastewater treatment infrastructure in the Vaal Triangle.The aim of the project is to prevent further pollution in the Vaal River.Water Affairs Minister Gugile Nkwinti announced on Friday that the East Rand Water Care Company (ERWAT), will ensure that all wastewater treatment infrastructure is resuscitated to an operational state and that pollution in the Vaal River is stopped.Nkwinti told community members at Saul Tsotetsi Sports Centre in Sebokeng, that his department together with COGTA department in Gauteng, Emfuleni Local Municipality, South African National Defence Force (SANDF), Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA) and the ERWAT, signed an Implementation Protocol on March 29.

He indicated that the allocated money will be used to train 250 youth and community members on plumbing, carpentry, brick-laying, paving and agriculture.

“SANDF will also train 2000 youth and community members to guard 44 pump stations until the completion of the project, that is projected for March 2020,” he said.

READ: R240m cash injection to fix polluted Vaal River, but it still isn't enough

Nkwinti informed the community that 120 000 Households will benefit from Module 6 of the Sebokeng Wastewater Treatment Works, a regional bulk sanitation infrastructure, which is projected to be completed by the end of May 2019. Module 7 of the project is expected to start by July 2019.

The minister also announced the establishment of the Vaal Catchment Management Agency in a bid to protect water resources in the area.

"The work of the Agency will include river monitoring, reporting on pollution incidents and dealing with polluters. The Agency is expected to also raise awareness and educate citizens on protection of the water resources and environment, local planning with citizens as well as manage the processing of water use licenses.

“The Vaal River Catchment Management Agency will ensure that water is protected, used, developed, conserved, managed and controlled in a sustainable and equitable manner," he said.

WATCH | Vaal water clean up

Published on April 04, 2019

Read | SAHRC and Minister of Defence to visit the Vaal

Published on April 03, 2019

Article by Rosemary Anderson


The Vaal Army is having a busy week – today, (Thursday the 3rd April) the SANDF will be receiving the South African Human Right’s Commission at the Sebokeng Waste Water Works – to show the Commissioners what has been done so far working towards the Rehabilitation of the Vaal River System. The SAHRC will also be visiting the Rietspruit Waste Water Works.

And then tomorrow (Friday the 4th April), the Minister of Defence will be visiting Sebokeng Waste Water Plant to see the commissioning of Primary Settling Tank (PST) 3 and the Minister will be shown how sludge is removed - by also viewing the commencement of the removal of the sludge from the last PST needing cleaning, namely PST 4.

So far the Vaal Army SANDF, has cleaned out 21 tons of hardened sludge – no small feat.

The benefit of the army’s work regarding the emptying and cleaning of the PST’s will only be seen once they are commissioned.  The treated waste water leaving Sebokeng waste water treatment works and entering the Rietspruit should then be of a much improved quality.  This water then entering the Rietspruit, will then hopefully also dilute polluted water in the Rietspruit that enters the spruit from all the settlements not connected to the main sewerage networks and spillages too.  This is not an ideal situation and first prize would be that all settlements were connected to the sewerage network.

Another good thing is that the SANDF are going to now man all 44 pump stations in the Vaal.  There has been no vandalism or thefts from any of the pump stations that the Vaal Army has secured over the past several months – so this success is going to be emulated at the rest of the pump stations.  This should be commissioned within the next few weeks.

The current problem however which puts a bit of a cloud over the above successes – is that the sewerage networks (2,600km of pipes transporting sewerage to the three waste water plants) are in the worst state they have ever been in, which is translating into sewerage being spilled at a record level all the way from Evaton down to the Vaal River.   The consequence of this is that there are major spillages in townships, suburbs, CBD’s, schools, clinics, council buildings, apartment blocks and roads – everywhere.  The larger ramifications of this is that this sewerage is not even getting to the waste water plants to be processed and treated and is eventually entering the tributaries and the Vaal River.

For some reason, when the SANDF were given the mandate to spearhead the Rehabilitation of the Vaal River System – the networks were not included in their mandate, only the waste water plans and the pump stations were included.  This is definitely a weakness in their mandate.  The networks are an integral part of the future success of their mandate.  Hopefully this will be reconsidered and amended.  The SANDF has strength in manpower – which is something that is really needed in unblocking and repairing networks.  It would definitely be of significant benefit to Metsi a Lekoa who has the onerous job of trying to facilitate servicing on average 60 leaks and blockages per day with their understaffed, under-resourced and under budgeted small team.  They work under very difficult conditions trying to attend to the many complains that come in daily.

What National, DWS and Treasury urgently needs to do, is free-up funds urgently so that the Vaal Army can continue with their mandate and that Metsi a Lekoa be funded as they need to be funded to provide adequate water and sanitation to the residents of the Vaal.

WATCH | NGO Save the Vaal interdicts govt for sewage spill

Published on April 02, 2019

Read | Latest update on SANDF Vaal River Rehabilitation Project

Published on March 22, 2019

Article by Rosemary Anderson


The SANDF has been tasked with the rehabilitation the Vaal River System by implementing the necessary remedial action required at the Waste Water Plants (first Sebokeng, then Rietspruit and then Leeukuil) as well as the 44 pump stations.  The SANDF have not been mandated for the networks  (sewerage pipe networks – that remains under ELM).


In the past weeks, the SANDF, under Colonel Mahapa,  has removed 21 tons of sludge within  the Primary Settling Tanks (PST’s) at Sebokeng waste water treatment plants which left them either non-operational or only partially operational.  Primary Settling Tanks are an important part of the waste water treatment process, ensuring that the quality of treated waste water leaving the plant and entering the Vaal River System – is acceptable.  At Sebokeng there are several PST’s – Module 3 (a) and (b), Modules 4 and 5 (Modules 1 and 2 were decommissioned and removed a number of years ago).  Colonel Mahapa has now instructed that Module 3 be commissioned as soon as the last blocked pipe has been opened up and then within 3 – 5 days, module 5 will be commissioned.  Module 4 will then be emptied, cleaned and the functionality restored as per Modules 3 and 5.


The SANDF’s progress has been hampered by funding not being provided timeously. However a MOU between the various Government and SOE’s has now been signed – which should hopefully free up funding and allow the SANDF to execute its mandate of the three wwtw and pump stations regarding the rehabilitation of the Vaal River System with no further delay.s


The good news above (which is under the mandate of the SANDF),  however needs to be read in conjunction with the rapid deterioration of the sewerage network within Emfuleni , where burst and leaking sewerage pipes are a growing daily occurrence in schools, townships, suburbs, homes, businesses, council offices and streets.  The networks are not under the mandate or budget allocation of the SANDF.

Word on the outcome of a strategy session between the various government, municipal and SEO stakeholders to access funding, will hopefully be forthcoming and the  plan presented to the residents to let them know there is light at the end of the tunnel of this growing deterioration of standard of health and safety of living in the Vaal.


The public are very disappointed in the lack of communication from the Communications Dept within Emfuleni and the responsible entities, regarding when leaks will be repaired.  If a time scale or just daily updates were provided - this would be the common decency basic that should be afforded to residents and would go some way to help appease the outrage in the communities of having to live with sewerage infecting their homes, schools, businesses and streets.


Metsi a Lekoa (the water and waste water arm of ELM) is mandated with keeping the waste water networks within Emfuleni in a safe and environmentally acceptable condition This entity is totally underfunded and under-equipped in every possible way – as has been the case for the past decade.   There needs to be national intervention to provide Metsi a lekoa  with the necessary funding, staffing, equipment and vehicles to execute their mandate.  It is impossible for them to do their jobs or attend to the over 60 complaints a day - with the status of this entity.  They are hamstrung and operating under very difficult conditions.  By province and national not funding and equipping this department – it is further adding the pollution and safety concerns of all residents.  There is no point in funding the SANDF and then also not adequately funding the entity who’s primary job is sanitation in ELM.


What ideally should be done to free up funds urgently to address the dramatic health and safety violations Vaal residents are having to live in at no fault of their own - would be to declare the Vaal a disaster area – which it currently is.

The politicians do not want to do this – since it has negative ramifications for them, however it would be the right thing to do for the residents, businesses and the environment.  We have formally made the authorities aware of the extent of this health and dreaded diseases risk to Vaal Residents.  Government will be totally responsible should there be an outbreak of diseased caused by the proliferation of untreated sewerage permeating the living conditions of communities extending all the way from Evaton all the way down to the Vaal river.


The time for  doing the right thing is now.  Let is not be said, “We told you so – and you are now legally responsible for the diseases and deaths caused by your lack of action and therefore negligence.  There was a way – you could have declared the Vaal a disaster area to free up funds urgently.  But you failed to do so for political reasons.”

WATCH | SANDF needs funding to continue its Vaal River sewage clean-up

Published on Feb 19, 2019

WATCH | Update on SAHRC's Inquiry into Vaal River contamination

Published on Feb 19, 2019

R240m cash injection to fix polluted Vaal River.

20 February 2019


The SA National Defence Force's (SANDF) intervention at the severely polluted Vaal River has received a whopping R240m cash injection, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) heard on Wednesday

However, there is still a shortfall.

The SANDF deployed soldiers, among them specialist engineers, to find solutions to the contamination of the Vaal River, after untreated waste made its way into the river causing blocked drains and flowing into local community members' homes and into streets.

The SAHRC initiated an inquiry in September, which ended on Wednesday.

At the inquiry on Wednesday, the Department of Water and Sanitation said much effort was being made to ensure that the SANDF had the support it needed.

Provincial head of the department, Sibusiso Mthembu, said R1.1bn was needed to fix 39 pump stations and three water treatment plants in the Vaal.

"We are now just waiting for the final approvals. They have already been discussed with Treasury, and once the papers are signed, the funds will immediately be made available," Mthembu said.

READ:  Vaal River pollution: 'There have been challenges to compliance', Sasol says

Over the weekend, the SANDF revealed to eNCA that it was unable to continue due to a lack of funding.

But after hearing Mthembu's submissions, the commander responsible for the Vaal mission, Colonel Andries Mahapa, said he was happy that the department was making resources available.

"This is good news. We are happy that there will be some money available for us and that will somehow speed up the process.. as we are now using the funds of the defence department which were not budgeted for this mission," said Mahapa.

Mahapa and Mthembu made a joint presentation before the SAHRC on Wednesday.

READ MORE: SANDF sends more engineers to sort out Vaal River contamination

Mahapa added that despite the financial constraints, there has been significant progress in the cleaning of the water treatment plants in the area.

"We have cleaned the Sebokeng water treatment facility's primary settling tank module 3. [It's] 100% clean, which has not been clean since 2008 or 2009.. and within two months, we will be done with module 5".

Mahapa said that the raw sewage which flowed through streets led to airborne diseases.

"But should the situation not be restored to normalcy, definitely people are going to die," Mahapa warned.


News 24

WATCH | R873m needed in the Vaal

Published on Feb 18, 2019

WATCH | Vaal river rescue operation in desperate need of funds

Published on Feb 18, 2019

Colonel Mahapa stands inside the PST (primary settling tank) Module 3 at the Sebokeng Waste Water Plant.

28 January 2019


Module 3 PST was not operational for some time due to it being filled with hardened sludge, this has been compromising the functioning of the whole of the Sebokeng Waste Water Treatment Works.  It was a significant job to remove all the sludge from this deep and awkwardly shaped reservoir.

This has finally been done, despite the SANDF not having the usual dedicated equipment that is needed to do this type of job. The SANDF is currently “Just Doing It” by using the equipment they have at their disposal.  Ideally what they need to tackle this job more speedily is:-


  •  A Vacuum Truck/Combo which can suck out the sludge and blow the blockages into the Sewer line.
  • A High Pressure Water Pipe is also needed to break the solid sludge into liquidified molecules so that it can be sucked out easily.


PST Module 3 should be operational either the 29th or 30th January 2019.  No small achievement.

21 January 2019 update by the SANDF on the Rehabilitation of the Vaal River System





I recognise the Protocol of our Democratic Government and its different spheres.

I recognise any member from National Government and the Gauteng Provincial Government present.

His/Her Excellency the Executive Mayors of Sedibeng District and Emfuleni Local Municipalities.

The Community of Vaal and particularly Emfuleni.

Organised Business.

And most importantly members of the Media.


Accept warm landward greetings from the Chief of the SA Army Lt Gen Lindile Yam who has directed the SA Army to schedule this first engagement with the people of Emfuleni, the District Municipality, Gauteng and all those who take interest in the well-being of South Africans geographically located in the Vaal around which the economic livelihood of the people in this area depends largely due to its tourism potential.


The Vaal is in many ways a defining feature of the area and its historic value to the revolutionary history of South Africa through the 1960 game changing march led by likes of Robert Sobukwe gives it such strategic significance that all should be concerned when the socio-economic fabric of its people is adversely affected.



 I have been correctly introduced as Major General Thembelani Thandekile Xundu, Chief Director Corporate Services in charge of the Army Corporate Communication.

Government exists as integral part and custodian of the state. It has a relatively fixed meaning, which has two dimensions in that it refers to both the institution and the process (Bvuma 2000:81).

The process dimension involves the making and implementation of public policies in institutions (Roberts 1971:89 in Bvuma 2001:81). Literature (Bvuma 2000) states that the form of Government depends on the relationship between itself and its citizens.

The Supremacy of the Constitution articulated in chapter 1(Section 2) of the country’s Constitution of 1996 makes the RSA a Constitutional Democracy. Such is a choice the South African people made.

The operative word for this introduction is the Supremacy of the Constitution which establishes or bring into being entities for a specific purpose which is articulated or given substance to, through legislation such as the Defence Act 2002 as amended ito the SANDF.

The SANDF by extension the Department of Defence exists on the strength of the Constitution of RSA of 1996.

Chapter 11 of the Constitution does not only prescribe the establishment of security services of the country but also pays attention in Section 200 to the establishment of a military capability for the country with a distinct regimental character. It calls for the establishment of the SANDF structured as a discipline military force.

It prescribes that the primary object of Defence force is to: defend and protect the Republic, its territorial integrity and its people in accordance with the Constitution and the principles of international law regulating the use of force. Such is the Constitutional Mandate of the DOD.

Section 227 of the Interim Constitution extends the Mandate of the SANDF to service in the Preservation of Life, Health and Property, Service in the Provision or Maintenance of Essential Services in Upholding Law and Order in Co-operation with South African Police Service and important for the day, service in support of any State Department for the purpose of Socio Economic uplifment.

Department of Defence policy documents such as the White Paper on Defence (1996:6) has in line with the above provision defined the concept of National Security differently from the traditional protection of the State used by the previous Colonial Apartheid regime. It defines National Security as an all-encompassing condition in which all South Africans live in Freedom Peace and Safety (and) participate fully in the process of Governance enjoy the Protection of Fundamental Rights, have access to resources and the basic necessities of life and inhabit an environment which is not detrimental to their health and wellbeing.

What we have heard and seen as the SA Army at Emfuleni is in direct contrast to the latter part of this definition (inhibit an environment which is not detrimental to their health and wellbeing).

The Defence Review 2015 has made a ground breaking strategic analysis of the constitutional imperatives imposed on the Defence Force and came with 4 goals and 13 tasks.

The goals are: Defend and Protect South Africa, Safeguard South Africa, Promote Peace and Security and lastly execute developmental and other ordered tasks.

Under goal 4, tasks 12 and 13 enjoin the SANDF to assist civil authority such as Emfuleni Local Municipality as ordered (Task 12) and contribute to the development of South Africa and its people (Task 13).


By implication the Defence Force is a unique instrument and an important lever of power at the disposal of the state to pursue its National Security and foreign policy priorities and is consequently at the core of South Africa’s National Security as defined in the White Paper on Defence of 1996.This stands to reason that the collateral value of conventional capabilities of the SANDF like bridges for mobility of the forces during mobile operations and construction capabilities (vertical and horizontal) can be used to assist communities in distress like in the Vaal.

As a creature of doctrine efforts and actions conducted by the military in a non –conventional setting are referred to as Military Operations Other Than War or Simple Operation Other Than War (JWP 106, 2006).

The JWP 132 (Planning at the Military Strategic Level) on the subject of strategic analysis provide that inputs or determinants of a military action are informed by inter alia, guidance from the National Strategic Authority or Level. The Defence Review 2015 has discussed extensively in Chapter 4. The national strategic level involves not only the C-I-C and President of the country but also the members of the cabinet, part of which the Ministers of Defence and Military Veterans and Finance reside. Page 4-6 for instance directs that: At the strategic level cabinet controls all the means and power bases of the strategic (political, diplomatic, information and military) to resolve insecurity and conflict. Each and every incident insecurity and conflict will be different, thus there is no single template for the resolution of such. The President and the Cabinet will exercise judgement and the most effective approach to tackling a situation. The pronouncement made by the Minister Of Finance should be seen in that context.



On 24 October 2018 Government made a public pronouncement in the National Assembly through the Minister of Finance, Mr Tito Mboweni during his Medium term Budget Statement that the Department of Defence will do Engineering work to resolve the crisis in the Vaal River system.

Consequently, on the 25th of October 2018 (the very following day), the SA Army Engineers were on the ground to do the following:

A conceptual and visual assessment of the problem.

This led to the understanding of the scope of work required to resolve the crisis.

A much more detailed technical assessment followed together with stakeholders followed by joint planning and costing.

The costed plan was jointly presented to National Treasury with other stakeholders (Department of Water and Sanitation DWS), Municipal Infrastructure Support Agency (MISA), Emfuleni Local Municipality, Sedibeng District Municipality, Randwater and Gauteng Provincial Government).

The total cost projected is about Rm873.

National Treasury is hard at work developing an appropriate financing model to fund the operation.

On 24 November 2018, the Military deployed an advance team which comprises of Engineers and Protection element.

The SA Army Composite Engineer Squadron comprises of a suite of expertise such as:


Civil Engineers


Water Care Specialists

Geo spatial environment

Different Tradesmen (Electricians, Welders, Plumbers, and Bricklayers.

Troops for protection of infrastructure.



The SA Army Engineers are currently working at 3 Waste Water Treatment Plants, namely:

Sebokeng with 4 Pump Stations.

Leeukuil with 2 Pump Stations.

Rietspruit with 36 Pump Stations.


At the Sebokeng Waste Water Treatment Plant they are working on 2 Primary Settling Tanks (PST) which comprises of Modules 3 and 5.

They are also cleaning the Primary Settling Tanks (PST) by removing the scum on top, empty the tank of the waste water and desludge the tank.

Ideally SA Army Engineers need a Vacuum Truck/Combo which can suck out the sludge and blow the blockages into the Sewer line.

A High Pressure Water Pipe is also needed to break the solid sludge into liquidified molecules so that it can be sucked out easily.

The DOD Engineers do not have the required equipment owing to persistent budget cuts since 1994.

They are currently using alternative equipment (excavator and water pumps) which are designed for water purification and not for sanitation or sewer system.

A Trailer (Sucktion Pump Trailer) can also be used as it can manoeuvre between built up areas due to its relative small size.

The SA Army Engineers can with professional comfort make use of any vertical and  horizontal construction equipment at their disposal.



The following are the achievements registered by the Army Engineers:

They are working simultaneously on Modules 3 & 5.

Module 3 is 95 % complete. They are currently at the bottom of the tank, however it needs a Combo to break the sludge bricks.

Module 5 is 80% complete. There is no dedicated Combo as the one in use is borrowed from the Department of Transport in a Roads and Transport sub entity.

Should the DOD have daily access to these machines, Module 3 & 5 would have been finished by now in a matter of 2 months.

The SA Army Engineers have from today as I speak (21 Jan 19) started to work on Module 4.



The SA Army Engineers have repaired Boitumelo Pump Station in conjunction with the municipality.

The SA Army Engineers have managed to stop the spillage of raw sewage out of the house that is adjacent to the Boitumelo Pump Station in which raw sewage has been spilling for the past 12 months. The family’s dignity has now been restored.

The SA Army Engineers are guarding the Sebokeng Waste Water Treatment Plant and Pump stations .There are currently 28 members on the ground guarding the Sebokeng Waste Water Treatment Plant.

The following Pump stations are also guarded by the Army Engineers:

4, 5, 8, 10, Everton Gardens, Emerald Hotel and Prison Pump station (which is guarded by a stick of 6 members).

The guards are rotated weekly.

There were no break-ins throughout December holidays due to the presence of the Military in the area, whereas in Rietspruit Waste Water Treatment Plant experienced break-ins.We are rolling out and extending the Military zones to this area from today. The break-ins will forthwith a phenomenon of the past

The SA Army Engineer also assisted the municipality and private company in replacing the gravity lines (these are pipes underground at showground in Vereeniging).

The SA Army Engineers assisted during December (Post Christmas) with floods at Sebokeng Zone 6 by channelling water away from residential areas by creating a buffer between oncoming floods and residential areas.



 The need for a partnership with a private company that has the machinery mentioned above is inevitable to secure the requisite progress.

If not, government should consider procuring the equipment for use by SA Army Engineers at a cost of only salaries and allowances.

This may reduce the costs related to outsourcing and ensure independence of supply should a need for SA Army Engineers be required elsewhere in the country.

Government should consider capacitating the Department of Defence Engineer capability for future use.

Government should consider a structured interdepartmental arrangement to make use of SA Army Engineers in the DOD and other departments to resolve engineer related problems elsewhere in the country.

The absence of the required equipment may stretch the duration of the operation well beyond 24 October 2019 threshold.

The SA Army is mandated by C SANDF to be in the Vaal River Operation until the 31 October 2019.



The DOD foresees an enduring situation in which it deploys its capabilities to  Waste Water Treatment Plants, Pump Stations and secure them as it works in some to prevent criminal elements from accessing and stealing, resolve problematic issues through the conduct of engineering work required by key service providers such as the DOD in the Plants and Pump Stations in partnership with other stakeholders, until the WWTPs and Pump Stations are in full use and thereafter hand over to Government through the Gauteng Provincial government, the District and Local Municipalities in a jointly prepared and deliberate Sustainability Strategy that involves the security and technical proficiency of the plants and Pump Stations.

In essence as the DOD and other service providers exit the municipality at local and district levels come in and resume their normal operations.

The Engineering work done will be certified by competent institutions such as Randwater, Department of Water and Sanitation, Cooperative Governance and Traditional (COGTA) and Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA).



The success of the Vaal Operation in the opinion of the SA Army depends on 3 Critical Success Factors:

The certainty on the funding of the operation in line with the pronouncement made by Government through the Minister of Finance Mr Tito Mboweni on 24 October 2018

Timeous decision by Government to either procure the machinery required by the SA Army Engineers such as the Vacuum Truck/ Combo and Trailer to secure the services of a reputable private Company to partner with the Department of Defence and provide the much needed machinery.

I am not referring to a “Front Company” that does not have the machinery but only secure a contract only to outsource the work to another Company which may prove costly.

Support and cooperation by all stakeholders.

We hope to interface with the community in the Vaal to an extent that the youth especially from disadvantaged communities and indeed all interested make use of the opportunities to join the SANDF through the MSDS system which will open soon. The young and fit youths from the Vaal may deem it fit to join the Engineering Corps and ensure that the problem at hand never befall their communities again.


The SA Army, SANDF and the DOD is at the disposal of the people of South Africa through government to make a positive difference. But it needs appropriate funding.


I thank you

Maj Gen Tembelani Tandekile Xundu


WATCH | First update for the New Year 2019, Colonel Mahapa

Published on Jan 10, 2019

WATCH | Update on Emerald Pump Station, Colonel Mahapa

Published on Jan 10, 2019

WATCH | SANDF deployed to Vaal River Rehabilitation Project

Published on Dec 19, 2018

LISTEN | IFM Radio interview with Colonel Mahapa

Published on Dec 12, 2018

WATCH | Module 3 Sebokeng WWTW will be operational by 15 December 2018

Published on Dec 09, 2018

WATCH | Update from Colonel Mahapa on work completed from 28 November to 04 December 2018

Published on Dec 04, 2018

WATCH | Colonel Mahapa, sequence of priorities of the Vaal Army

Published on Dec 04, 2018

WATCH | Colonel Mahapa, action that needs to be taken on the mouth of the Rietspruit

Published on Dec 04, 2018

WATCH | Soldiers try to alleviate the flow of raw sewage into the Vaal river

Published on Dec 1, 2018

WATCH | Vaal Army already making inroads, after just Day 2!

Published on Nov 26, 2018