SA farmer begs Commission to help him save Wilge River

2015-06-12 13:06
Katse Dam.

Katse Dam. (Shutterstock)

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Bloemfontein - If you live in Gauteng, chances are good your drinking water is contaminated by raw sewage that flows into the Katse dam, which supplies South Africa’s most densely populated province with water.

A man living in Frankfort has become the one-man army who plans to save the Wilge River, which feeds the Katse dam.

“It is beautiful, clean mountain water that reaches Frankfort, but thousands of litres of raw, untreated sewerage flows into the river because the town’s sewerage system is in a terrible state,” said Andries Swart, a local farmer who has taken his complaint about the Mafube local municipality to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).

Swart and the municipality have been locked in a legal battle spanning 8 years.

“I have had a lot of success and truly believe there is still justice in South Africa, but it is a time consuming, expensive and sometimes ineffective way of addressing your grievances. Recently I read on News24 about a man in Bloemfontein who triumphed over a big waste disposal company by approaching the HRC, and suddenly I realised this could be my solution.”

Originally he had a personal interest in the fight against the contamination of the Wilge River.

“But gradually the environmental issue became much more important than any personal interest.”


Sewage was apparently spilling out of the Frankfort sewerage works, in violation of a court order that the municipality had to prevent this from happening.

The remainder of the town’s sewerage system was also in a terrible state, allowing raw sewerage to flow freely into the river.

Swart was involved with the University of the Free State in the past, which found the ecosystem in the lower Wilge River was under threat by the sewage.

“I can continue the legal war against them, but it can take another decade,” said Swart.

“But now I have involved the HRC to see if it cannot speed up matters.”

'Basic human right'

When News24 told him it would contact the municipality for comment, he said: “That is only fair, but good luck with getting them to answer their phones. I know I won’t wager anything on you getting hold of them.”

Several phone calls to the municipal offices, to speak to municipal manager Andrew Hlube, remained unanswered.

SAHRC acting provincial manager Buang Jones said they were investigating the complaint.

"We are very serious about a clean environment as a basic human right. It is not only our generation that is affected. It also involves our children and the state of the planet we leave to them."

Read more on:    ufs  |  sahrc  |  bloemfontein  |  human rights  |  pollution  |  environment

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