Rights Commission’s Pietermaritzburg landfill case gets started

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A firefighter works at the New England Road landfill site during a fire there last December.
A firefighter works at the New England Road landfill site during a fire there last December.
The Witness

Msunduzi Municipality has been given until January 19 to respond to the South African Human Rights Commission’s (SAHRC’s) high court application to get it to do something about the New England Road Landfill site.

The matter came before the Pietermaritzburg high court on Friday where timeframes were set for the filing of papers.

Advocate Lloyd Lotz, for the SAHRC, told Weekend Witness that it is hoped that the matter will be heard at the end of February or in March.

He said that although the case was just adjourned, “we have now set the ball rolling”.

“It is only a matter of time before a disaster may occur at the dump. In fact, such a disaster has already happened in the form of the fires.”
Jonas Sibanyoni, part-time commissioner at the South African Human Rights Commission

The SAHRC seeks an order declaring that Msunduzi’s mismanagement of the landfill site and breach of its statutory duty unlawfully violated the Waste Management licence, the national Environmental Management Act, Waste Act, the National Water Act, a section of the Constitution and international law.

The application also raises the issue of whether a structural interdict is an appropriate constitutional remedy to rectify the breaches of the municipality’s statutory and constitutional duties in the context of operating and managing the site.

The application is also against the head and MEC of the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs.

Residents of Pietermaritzburg are fully behind the SAHRC.

A picket had been arranged for Friday outside the high court to raise awareness about the case, but it had to be cancelled following news that KZN is experiencing a second wave of Covid-19 infections. In addition, the community Facebook group Love Pietermaritzburg shared a link to a petition calling on the landfill site to be closed.

Supporting the application to the high court, Jonas Sibanyoni, a part-time commissioner at the South African Human Rights Commission, said in an affidavit that the operation of the landfill site in the manner undertaken by the municipality is a “disaster waiting to happen”.

He said that there is a continuing violation of the Constitution by an organ of state.

“The violation concerned has spanned a period of more than 10 years. The plight of the municipality’s citizens is continuously in jeopardy.

ALSO READ: Smoke engulfing N3 from Pietermaritzburg dumpsite 'should clear soon' - municipality

“It is only a matter of time before a disaster may occur at the dump. In fact, such a disaster has already happened in the form of the fires.”

Sibanyoni said a stakeholder engagement that the commission undertook revealed that the municipality’s operation of the dump has: compromised the health of some of the citizens; negatively affected the livelihoods of some of the citizens; compromised the wellbeing of some of the citizens; and negatively affected the environment within the municipality’s area of jurisdiction.

Despite there being several audits compiled on the dump by the department over the years, there are still many non-compliances, he added.


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