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Officials face arrest for once again failing to supply water

- Lee-Anne Bruce

Limpopo communities call for officials to face jail time and personal costs for consistent failure to provide water in line with court orders even amid pandemic

[UPDATE: The Court subsequently ruled that there should be no arrest at this time, but acknowledged that we should not have had to bring this application and awarded us half of our costs in the matter]

Despite several court orders, the Sekhukhune District Municipality has continued to neglect their duty to supply water and sanitation to the people they are meant to serve. Communities are once again calling for officials to face jail time and personal costs for their persistent failures and apparent disregard for the courts – even during a pandemic.

Residents of five Limpopo villages have once again approached 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 hold the Sekhukhune District Municipality to account and ensure their villages have proper water and sanitation. Despite the communities’ successes in obtaining court orders in their favour, the Municipality has consistently failed in its duties.

Now, amidst a deadly global pandemic, this failure has become even more urgent to address. Without a consistent water supply, the health of the people in these villages is put at an even greater risk than usual. The communities have thus gone back to court in yet another effort to hold the Municipality accountable for repeatedly failing to comply with the orders and fulfil its constitutional obligations. Considering the seriousness of these violations and the trend of non-compliance, the communities will be calling the Acting Municipal Manager to face arrest and punitive costs.

“Ignoring this order time and again not only shows a deep disregard for the communities and their rights, but also a blatant contempt for the court and our justice system,” says Ariella Scher, attorney at CALS. “The communities feel they have no choice but to hold officials personally liable in an effort to send the message that this must be treated seriously.”

“Not having proper access to water and sanitation impacts on so many areas of life at the best of times,” says Basetsana Koitsioe. “During this pandemic, it is absolutely critical. Communities should not have to face such severe consequences for their government’s failures.”

The matter is enrolled for urgent court on 4 August 2020, but is likely to be without an oral hearing.

Read our court papers here

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