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Call for arrests after Municipality once again fails to comply with court order

- Lee-Anne Bruce

Communities call for officials to face jail time and personal costs for consistent failure to provide water in line with court order

Despite being held in contempt of court late last year, the Sekhukhune District Municipality has continued to neglect their duty to supply basic services to the villages they are meant to serve. Communities are now calling for officials to face jail time and personal costs for their persistent failures and apparent disregard for court orders.

Residents of five Limpopo villages will appear tomorrow in the Pretoria High court, represented by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS). The communities of Elandskraal, Morarela, Mbuzini, Dichoeng and Tsansabela have spent the last five years trying to compel the Sekhukhune District Municipality to provide their villages with an adequate water supply. Despite the communities’ success in obtaining a court order in their favour, and despite having the matter placed under case management to closely monitor compliance with that order, the Municipality has consistently failed in its duties.

In November 2019, Judge Hans Fabricius found this unacceptable, holding the Municipality in contempt of court for failing to comply with his earlier order. The communities agreed to monitor the Municipality’s progress over the next few months and were hopeful that the judge’s intervention would lead to greater compliance with the court order and a more consistent water supply. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. Instead, the villages have been almost entirely without water over December and January, forcing the residents to walk long distances to collect water from crocodile-infested rivers and put their safety and health at risk.

The communities will thus be returning to court tomorrow in yet another effort to hold the Municipality accountable for failing to fulfil its constitutional obligations. Considering the trend of non-compliance, the communities will be calling for the arrest of the Acting Municipal Manager as well as a punitive costs order against them personally.

“Ignoring this order, time and time again, not only seems to show a deep disrespect for the communities and their rights, but also a blatant disregard for the court and our justice system as a whole,” says Ariella Scher, attorney at CALS. “Our clients feel they are left with no choice but to hold officials personally liable in an effort to send a message that their failures must be treated seriously.”

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