Court: City must deliver

2019-07-30 16:15


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Labour tenants and farm occupiers in the uMgungundlovu District Muni-cipality have emerged victorious in a court battle to get water, sanitation and refuse collection services.

However, it won’t be soon.

In a precedent-setting ruling, Judge Jerome Mnguni on Monday directed the district, Msunduzi and uMshwathi municipalities to prioritise the rights of farm occupiers and labour tenants in their Integrated Development Plans.

They have six months to outline to the Pietermaritzburg high court their plans to provide the services. This must explain how the municipalities will go about providing the services and set out deadlines.

The reports and plans have to be advertised on the municipalities’ websites. Monthly progress reports must be provided to the applicants and the court.

Comments from interested parties will also be allowed. The matter will then be enrolled before the judge for him to consider the documents.

Judge Mnguni instructed the municipalities to install sufficient water user connections to supply 25 litres per person a day or six kilolitres per household a month to farm occupiers and labour tenants living in their jurisdiction.

He has also stipulated that the water flow must not be less than 10 litres per minute. Water user connections have to be within 200 metres of a farm occupier’s household.

The municipalities also have to supply the people with access to basic sanitation by installing ventilation improved pit toilets for each household.

Refuse collection also has to be provided.

Judge Mnguni emphasised that the court is not imposing “new or unforeseen obligations” on the municipalities, but rather requiring them to implement duties imposed by the legislature.

The application had been brought by Msunduzi labour tenant Zabalaza Mshengu, who died last August, Thabisile Ngema, a farm occupier in uMshwathi, and the Association for Rural Advancement (Afra).

Afra’s land rights co-ordinator, Siyabonga Sithole, said on Monday that the association was very happy with the judgment and that “invisible” people will now be visible.

“We are over the moon. We have been waiting for this for four years now. We started writing to the municipalities back in 2015, asking them to produce a plan to deliver basic services … there was not much response so we brought the court action in 2017.”

Sithole added that the judge’s instructions show the seriousness of the matter. Afra will definitely be playing a monitoring role from here on for the sake of assisting, Sithole added.

Judge Mnguni declared the municipalities’ ongoing failure to provide farm occupiers and labour tenants with access to basic sanitation, water and refuse collection, as inconsistent with the Constitution.

He said the thrust of the applicants’ complaint is that farm occupiers and labour tenants, particularly those represented in this case, do not have access to sufficient water, basic sanitation, refuse collection services and a clean environment, in general, on the farms where they reside.

“There is no formal sanitation nor sufficient water supply on the farms where they live. They also do not have decent toilets.

“Some farm occupiers and labour tenants have dug pit latrines next to their homes, but these makeshift toilets are smelly and attract flies and vermin.

“Others have to go to the nearest bush in order to relieve themselves.

“The surroundings of their homesteads are dirty with rubbish everywhere due to the absence of refuse collection services,” he said.

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