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JOHANNESBURG — Veteran journalist Ed Herbst keeps getting better with his incisive, witty and incredibly well-researched articles on burning issues facing South Africa. In this piece, he touches on the sewage and water problems facing large parts of South Africa. He paints a picture of how corruption and ineptitude on the part of the ANC has resulted in terrible sewage problems across the country, let alone several schools in poorer rural areas having inadequate toilet infrastructure. Literally, rivers of shit and chemicals are flowing through some parts of the country, destroying the ecosystem and causing devastation. As Herbst puts it, the ANC’s Tsunami of Sleaze is quite literally becoming a tidal wave of excreta. – Gareth van Zyl
By Ed Herbst*
The country’s local governments are inundated by complaints about sewage as sewage freely leaks out somewhere in the country at any given moment, subsequently causing a major health risk to South Africans as well as water pollution. AfriForum branches all over the country receive complaints from despairing community members in this regard almost on a daily basis. – Sewage has become a national crisis AfriForum 10/4/2017
Elize almost drowned in the sewage. She was covered in sewage from head to toe. There was sewage in her eyes, ears, nose and throat. – Couple receives settlement after septic tank explosion News 24 9/5/2017
The quote below a Politicsweb article was incisive, entirely germane to the subject of this article and I would like to think that the pun was intended:
So what can the Nation expect as the country falls between these three stools – Gigaba, Zuma and the Guptas. A septic ANC mess and a big stink which will take South Africa years to disinfect itself from and recover.
After 22 years of ANC deployed cadre corruption, bribe-based Black Elite Empowerment, mismanagement, almost incomprehensible levels of incompetence and its disdain for the ‘Western Paradigm’ of preventative maintenance, the Beloved Country is quite literally drowning in excreta.
This was highlighted again by Sunday night’s Carte Blanche programme.
Few municipalities in the country have suffered more from the ANC’s self-enrichment ethos and its complete indifference to the concept of preventative maintenance than Mangaung. This is a province where the health system has collapsed while its Premier, Ace Magashule, wastes hundreds of millions of rands on failed joint projects with the Guptas and spends millions of rands taking hundreds of ANC cronies on taxpayer-funded holidays to Cuba. They go to pay homage to the memory of their role model, Fidel Castro, whose offspring gambol and frolic in the fleshiest of Mediterranean fleshpots thanks to their father’s plunder. All this while Castro acquired mistresses faster than he jailed his political opponents without due process and had those who were considered a threat to him executed.
Magashule’s stench has become so nauseating that even Razzmataz is holding his nose.
Tidal wave of faecal matter
It was in the Free State that an elderly couple, Johnny and Elize Baldock, found that two decades of ANC looting and bludging – the Tsunami of Sleaze – had morphed at frightening speed into a tidal wave of faecal matter.
As the anchor quote in this article indicates, their car was swept away in a wall of ordure after a bludging ANC deployed municipality cadre either allowed a septic tank valve to become clogged or did not close it properly.
South Africa is failing because it’s ethnically-based deployed crony system – declared illegal in the Eastern Cape division of the High Court on 6 November 2008 in Mlokoti v Amathole District Municipality – is just another version of the National Party’s job reservation policies. That makes us the antithesis of a meritocracy – something that defines the world’s most advanced democracies and commercially-successful countries.
One of the most obvious examples of the leeching class that this system has produced is what I call a ‘spokespinner’. They can never be contacted when the brown stuff hits the fan, refuse to comment when contact is finally made and do not respond to written queries about the latest in a series of ANC-created crises, which have resulted in daily service delivery protests. This has invariably proved to be the case when municipal spokespinners are asked for comment on pervasive sewage problems.
The spokespinner in the ANC-controlled Pietermaritzburg refused to comment last year after a Scottsville family was virtually marooned in their home for months by streams of excreta, used condoms, sanitary towels and toilet paper – the ANC’s ‘better life for all’.
The failure of ANC-controlled municipalities to maintain sewage treatment plants became tragic a few weeks ago in the Sol Plaatje municipality in the Northern Cape. Five people succumbed to methane gas fumes in the pump station at the Homevale sewage plant in Kimberley and drowned in human waste.
The consequences of the de facto ANC policy of avoiding preventative maintenance while focusing on self-enrichment was brought home to me in 2008 as a consequence of baby deaths in Barkly East and the reporting on this by Chris Bateman.
Here’s the relevant paragraph from an article I wrote about the collapse of the Free State health system under Ace Magashule:
After 1994, in the interests of ‘transformation’’, the town’s well-qualified water reticulation engineer was paid a handsome severance package – and never replaced by anyone with his academic qualifications, experience, engineering expertise and institutional knowledge. Bateman’s investigation revealed that most of the water purification equipment was not functional and pipes were leaking raw sewage into the ground all over the place. But there was a further aggravating factor. A drought had seen the water levels in the town dam drop substantially and all the sediment which had not been filtered out for years started feeding into the town’s water supply. Tragedy was inevitable.
KZN faces huge problems as a result of pollution in Midmar Dam. Here, it’s the sewage treatment plant at nearby Howick which has, for years, been unable to cope. Such pollution has potentially fatal consequences. Historian R W Johnson nearly lost his life and had a leg amputated after swimming in a polluted lagoon on the KZN south coast where he encountered a flesh-eating bacteria, necrotising fasciitis.
‘Almost certainly the reason the lagoon was polluted with such a deadly organism was to do with the dumping of raw sewage by communities living upriver.’
The ANC has become, according to Gwede Mantashe, a gang of thieves and it will batten on any facet of our lives, any commodity, which involves the potential for snouting. KZN is a tawdry example as far as the supply of water is concerned.
The Chief Executive of Umgeni Water, Cyril Gamede, has just been suspended from his post pending an investigation into corruption.
The Mhlathuze Water Authority in KZN, headed by Dudu Myeni, has long been a suppurating abscess, a classic example of state capture and worthy of its own chapter in the ANC’s Domesday Book of Snouting.
In Welkom, an ANC controlled city in the Matjhabeng Local Municipality the ground water is dangerously polluted but one can understand why when one realises that it is just a spoke in the Zuptoid patronage wheel.
According to Statistics SA, the vacancy rate in the wastewater management department of the ANC-controlled Rustenburg municipality, the fastest-growing municipality in the country, is almost 70% – a figure quoted by Mondli Makhanya in a recent City Press article.
But life for the ANC’s snouting elite must go on and, for these compradors, life is too short to worry about prodigious quantities of Escherichia coli in the drinking water of the rural poor – a contributory factor being the thousands schools with pit toilets. In the ANC’s heartland, the Eastern Cape, hundreds of schools have neither toilets nor ready access to water and some, after two decades of ANC governance, lack even electricity. (Significantly, no child has died in a pit toilet in the DA-controlled Western Cape.)
Here’s a quote from Mark Heywood’s recently-published book Get up! Stand Up! Personal journeys towards social justice:
Suffer the children: death by toilet
SECTION27’s first journey into the right to basic education was to insist that it included the right to textbooks. But on that journey what really shocked Nikki Stein and Nthabi Pooe was the state of the toilets they saw in the schools they visited. As they hunted for books, they began a parallel process of inspecting each school’s toilets, not something that middle-class women would normally choose to do. Over several months they compiled a three-volume photo album of the pictures they took of school toilets, mostly filthy, broken, dangerous, brimming with shit, often riddled with maggots, their exteriors buzzing with flies, newspaper for toilet roll, some without doors, ventilation or water to wash hands.
(Not to worry, comrades, the Lamborghinis and the riverside mansions have been bought – exploiting the travails of the poor for personal profit has been fine-tuned over more than two decades of theft by the ANC and one of the founding pillars of the Tsunami of Sleaze is that the tenderpreneur is paid his/her tens of millions of rands before any ‘work’ is done. Ask the deployed cadres who embezzled millions in East London and exploited the name of Nelson Mandela in doing so – they’ll tell you! Nothing is sacred to the ANC anymore, the trough is everything as it always is in a kleptocracy – ask the people of Mozambique which has been bankrupted by the snouting of its ruling party mandarins.)
Unsurprisingly, given the ANC’s manic self-enrichment focus, one and half billion rand seems to have been siphoned out of the Department of Water and Sanitation and even parliament cannot get answers.
That’s how the ANC rolls and it would roll far more effectively were not for the Fourth Estate and reporters like Sipho ‘Watergate’ Masondo who expose bankruptcies due to pervasive snouting and such reporters are distressingly impervious to what drives the Tsunami of Sleaze – backhanders, bribes and tenderpreneurial ‘facilitation fees’.
River of shit
But the bigger picture is far more alarming as the following two quotes indicate:
Beyond air pollution, the mines and power stations have a devastating impact on land and water. A large part of the Mpumalanga Highveld is quite simply ruined. In many places, the water is undrinkable but many people must drink it anyway because they don’t have money for bottled water. Fertile land is left lifeless and food cannot grow on it. – David Hallowes Politicsweb 24/4/2017
But systematic failures of governance along the entire Olifants River mean that it is in danger of collapse. Few people are willing to say this on the record, but the Mail & Guardian has talked to people who use words varying in intensity from “problem” to “crisis” to describe the state of the river. – A river of shit, chemicals, metals flows through our land M&G 13/4/2017
The Olifants River is the quite literally the lifeblood of the Kruger National Park, an essential strand in South Africa’s tourism industry and it is difficult to see how the environmental damage done by 20 years of ANC peculation and neglect can be overcome.
The Fourth Estate continues to expose the ANC’s questionable conduct in this regard however and a new environmental investigative unit, the Oxpeckers, is now doing sterling work in revealing the ANC’s attempted exploitation of environmentally-sensitive areas for monetary gain.
In February they exposed how Environment Minister Edna Molewa had collaborated with Gupta insider, Minister of Mineral Resources Mosebenzi ‘Wabenzi’ Zwane, to grant coal mining rights in the Mabola water catchment near Wakkerstroom in Mpumalanga – without the legally-required public notification – to the Indian company, Atha Africa. This, it is felt, sets a dangerous precedent. One of the BEE partners of the company, the Oxpecker unit found, is Sizwe Zuma, a nephew of President Jacob Zuma.
But wait, there’s more!
And the scarcity of water in the Karoo has not dissuaded the ANC Fat Cats from granting uranium mining licences as well.
The latest news is that fracking will not be confined to Karoo.
“But what about the mine reclamation fund?” I hear you ask.
“But what about the mine reclamation fund, indeed sir?” as Peter Sellers would have responded.
Everything is grist to the ANC’s snouting mill, no ingredient is not welcome in the ANC’s peculating potjiekos
Ask the Department of Mineral Resources and the Guptas – they’ll tell you
To increase the Bribe-based Black Elite Empowerment potential of all these endeavours, the Mining Charter has just been changed. The fact that this will damage investor confidence is of little consequence to the ANC’s leading snouters. Grease the right palms and you, too, can translocate to Dubai.
What is significant here is that the ANC is doing absolutely nothing to improve the water pollution situation described by AfriForum in the anchor quote to this article. There has been no announcement of yet another ‘Ten-point Plan’, yet another ‘Turnaround Strategy’, yet another bailout as part of the glorious National Democratic Revolution. Everyone acknowledges that the situation at municipal sewage treatment plants under ANC control is hopeless, not least because many ANC municipalities are under administration. Our water pollution crisis is beyond repair, beyond recovery, beyond redemption. After 1994 the ANC drove our best engineers out of the civil service and out of our parastatal organisations because they were white and now it whines about ‘capacity challenges’. Having lost two decades of mentorship and skills transfer the situation has been further aggravated by the collapse of our education system and the complete absence in the ANC government at all levels of an ethos of preventative maintenance.
Sea of sludge
In 2008 Dr Anthony Turton, then with the CSIR, raised concerns in this regard and was suspended for expressing those concerns. Eutrophication, the sea of sludge which is one of the by-products of the slimy Tsunami of Sleaze is a particular danger which was highlighted by Turton in the 2008 paper which got him suspended by the CSIR. It was most obvious in the aerial footage of the Vaal Dam which was featured recently in one of the many programmes which Carte Blanche has done on South Africa’s water crisis.
(Not to worry comrades. Just as Snuki [Let them ring room service] Zikalala pointed out that there could hardly be a hunger problem in Zimbabwe if he was able to order Johnnie Walker Black and freshly-baked bread rolls during his stay at the Sheraton Hotel in Harare, so the rural poor in South Africa can nip down to their local supermarket and stock up on bottled water.)
Turton does not mention the role of corruption and the absence of preventative maintenance as contributory factors in South Africa’s water crisis, but then he does not have to – in the annals of the Despot’s Democracy, Africa’s youngest kleptocracy, these factors, thanks to the ANC, are a given.
Ask RW Johnson – he’ll tell you.
- Ed Herbst is a retired veteran journalist who writes in his own capacity.