The Thaba Chweu Local Municipality has been found guilty and fined R10 million for the Contravention of Environmental Laws, by the Lydenburg Magistrates’ Court. Since 2011, the community of Mashishing, have been complaining about sewer spillages and contaminated water flows.
This was until 2021, when the Department of Water Affairs and Environmental Affairs brought the docket to the Director of Public Prosecutions office, for a decision to institute criminal charges, and the matter was enrolled in April 2022. Since the first appearance, the defence and the state had negotiations which subsequently came to a plea, and a sentence agreement, where the Municipality pleaded guilty, to seven counts related to the Contravention of National Water Act.
The charges relate to unauthorized disposal of waste, unlawful water use, causing significant pollution to the environment, unlawful negligent disposition and distribution of raw untreated sewer, failure to comply with the conditions stipulated in the Water Use License issued in terms of Section 28 of the National Water Act, and failure to comply with a directive in terms of Section 19 and 53 of the National Water Act 36 of 1998.
Adv. Tula Bekwa led the investigation and consequently led the plea and sentence agreement. The court penalized the municipality with R10 million, of which half of it was suspended for five years, on the condition that it is not convicted of a similar offence during the period of suspension. Effectively, R 4,8 million is to be used in urgent repairs, and refurbishment of the municipal infrastructure and R200.000 of the R 5 000000 (five million rands) fine is to be used as payment for compensation to the Department of Environmental Affairs in Equal Shares, for the expenses incurred during the investigation stages.
“We believe that this sentence will serve as a deterrent effect to certain organs of the state who do not uphold the rule of law,” said the Director of Public Prosecutions adv. Nkebe Kanyane.