Holding Polluters Accountable for Pollution: WaterCAN’s Criminal Charges Against the City of Johannesburg
WaterCAN lays criminal charges against the City of Johannesburg to protect our rivers
In July 2023, WaterCAN opened a criminal complaint against the City of Johannesburg and the current and former city managers over the ongoing pollution of the Klip River by two leaking wastewater treatment works (WWTW).
The problems: Goudkoppies WWTW in Riversdale and nearby Bushkoppies WWTW in Eldorado Park, which are both leaking untreated sewage.
These are the officials we want held to account: former acting municipal manager Bryne Maduka and current municipal manager Floyd Brink.
We want urgent action to end this pollution.
What this case is about
Johannesburg is at the intersection of the Vaal River Catchment and the Limpopo River Catchment, and industrial activities, mining operations, and mismanaged wastewater treatment works contribute to the high pollution levels which endanger the fragile river ecosystems.
The City’s Goudkoppies and Bushkoppies WWTW have been leaking raw sewage into Harringtonspruit, which runs into the Klip River and then into the Vaal River.
In August 2022, the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) issued a directive to the City of Johannesburg, ordering the City to clean up, but in July 2023 the plants still leak.
DWS inspections on 23 February 2023 at Bushkoppies and on 1 March 2023 at Goudkoppies found no improvements. The continued pollution of the Klip River has even been linked to recent cholera cases in Johannesburg, underscoring the need for urgent action.
WaterCAN believes that the City’s failure to comply with the DWS directive contravenes sections 19 and 20 of the National Water Act, which deal with the prevention and remedying of pollution. WaterCAN thus laid charges against the City and the municipal managers under section 151 of the Act, demanding accountability. Offences under these sections carry penalties of a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 5 years for the first conviction.
Why we laid charges
WaterCAN aims to send a powerful message to the City of Johannesburg: sewage pollution is unacceptable and must be addressed urgently to protect public health and the environment. Municipal managers who neglect their duty to protect water resources should be held to account.
WaterCAN urges other water activists across the country to explore similar charges against municipal managers who fail in their duties, to encourage the responsible stewardship of water resources.