- Makhanda residents and a high school took the Makana Municipality to court in 2020 for its failure to clean up illegal dumpsites.
- The Makhanda High Court ordered the municipality to clean up seven listed sites within 14 days, identify all other illegal dumps and clear these within 120 days.
- In a comprehensive order, the court also ordered the municipality to mend its ways within eight months.
The Makhanda High Court ordered the Makana Municipality last week to clean and clear seven illegal dumpsites in Makhanda's poorer areas within 14 days.
The municipality was also ordered to pay the costs of the application brought by the Ezihagwini Street Committee from Extension 6 and Mary Waters High School, which is situated in Andrew Heemro Road.
The applicants said the municipality had failed to remove refuse and to put an end to illegal dumpsites in some parts of the town for years.
On Wednesday, Cameron McConnachie from the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), who represented the applicants, said: "We welcome the clear and comprehensive court order. Our clients look forward to reclaiming a living space that is not an affront to their dignity or their constitutional right to an environment that is not harmful to their health and well-being.
"We are under no illusions - this is going to be a long process and will require a vigilant community and dedication from municipal officials."
McConnachie added the LRC first wrote letters of demand to the municipality in 2019, and then launched the case in 2020.
The court ordered the municipality to work with communities to identify all other illegal dumpsites within 30 days, and clear them within 120 days of the court order.
The municipality was also directed to provide three refuse plastic bags to each household per week within 14 days of the court order.
Judge Richard Brooks declared the municipality's by-laws and waste management system in Makhanda were unconstitutional, to the extent they failed to protect and fulfill the residents' rights to an environment that was not harmful to them.
The court has given the municipality eight months to review its by-laws and waste management plans to ensure it complies with the National Environment Management Waste Act.
Municipal spokesperson Yoliswa Ramokolo said the municipality had identified 117 illegal dumping sites during an environmental audit with the Department of Environmental Affairs.
"The municipality is currently clearing illegal dumping sites. The area with the most illegal dumping sites is Joza location," added Ramokolo.
"According to our door-to-door survey and education and awareness campaigns, in collaboration with DEA [Department of Environmental Affairs] and Rhodes University, we have identified that most communities do not adhere to dates and times to take out refuse.
"Some take it out in the afternoon after work and some on wrong days or every day; hence we see lots of illegal dumping."
She said the municipality had experienced a mechanical breakdown of trucks and vehicles, saying it was busy distributing refuse bags to the communities.
A front-end loader was tackling up to two dumping sites a day. Waste containers for non-domestic waste were cleared once a week.
Ramokolo added residents and the municipality had an equal responsibility to ensure a clean and healthy environment.