Emfuleni | Pain of a failed municipality

Residents of Emfuleni, in the Vaal, have had to put up with a life of non-existent services such as uncollected refuse, power outages and sewage in backyards and increasingly potholed streets

The municipality owes Eskom and Rand Water R3.2bn and R1.3bn, respectively. This led to two of the municipality's biggest accounts being attached after a court order was granted and the municipality was unable to pay companies for services rendered.

Residents of Sharpeville are facing a serious health hazard due to dysfunctional sewerage system and the absence of refuse collection in Emfuleni.

The township has struggled to maintain its sewerage water system for years now.

When Sowetan visited these areas motorists were forced to drive on the sides of roads, fearing their cars could get damaged. In Sharpeville, many roads were not even tarred, making driving in the township a nightmare for taxi drivers.

Sam Mashobane, a taxi driver, said tyre punctures have become a common experience. He gets about three punctures a month.

The collapse of basic services in Emfuleni has hit local businesses the hardest, with companies owed by the municipality forced to retrench workers and property prices in the area slashed.

Harm Muller, said power outages had hit his business hard. In the past two weeks, the butchery experienced two outages. One was from 8pm until 2pm the following day. The following week, there was load-shedding that was supposed to be from 8am to midday but the power only came back the next morning at 11.

“In the last outages, which are not related to load-shedding, I witnessed two explosions at the substation. We then lose power for the whole day or about eight hours a day…It is totally unacceptable,” Harm said.

Failure to provide basic services has left residents of Emfuleni municipality without hope, many choosing not to pay their bills.

Charles Mabuza, 50, who has lived in Sebokeng all his life, said residents have had to organise their own electrician just to keep the lights working.

Sowetan spoke to some of the youth about their daily struggles to improve their lives in an environment where basic services have totally collapsed.

Prudence Hlanyane, the coordinator in the Sharpeville Development Initiative, detailed how projects aimed at helping the youth have stalled. One of the projects is a rehabilitation centre in Sharpeville that is hidden by tall grass in the yard.

A group of ex-convicts have taken over the task of collecting refuse and cleaning the streets of Sebokeng in the Vaal, in an effort to undo the pain they caused society in the past.

In an initiative led by Beyond Bars, about 70 youth are cleaning their township every day as the Emfuleni municipality, which is responsible for this service, cannot fulfil its duties.

The SA Human Rights Commission has called for cabinet to consider a national intervention in Emfuleni to avoid possible litigation against the government over the sewage crisis in the Vaal areas.

This one of the recommendations contained in a report released by the SAHRC on Wednesday following its investigations of the flow of sewage into the Vaal River.

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