Residents sickened by filth as contractors down tools

Raw sewage is leaking into a stream located behind the Omega Old Age Home in Heidedal, forcing residents to live with the sickening stench. PHOTO: MARK STEENBOK

An electrician from Auto Electrical in Heidedal, Johnny Tabole, says that the leaking raw sewage pipe located in front of his business has been leaking for over a month now. He says complaints to the municipality has fallen on deaf ears.
“We phoned the municipality. They said they will come. We’re still waiting. It is leaking all over the place. It has been like this for a month. It is affecting us heavily. Really, we are literally getting sick of this,” says Tabole.
The 25-year-old Tebogo Musi says the problem poses a potential health risk. “It is affecting us. We cannot work and stay in a place like this. It always smells here. We are going to be sick.”
Residences further complained about the raw sewage that is leaking into a stream located behind the Omega Old Age Home in Heidedal. Gregory Werner, a community activist, adds that the raw sewage is being pumped into the Renoster Spruit, which is a key water source for farming on the Bloemspruit river system.
“The result is that farmers cannot use the water to irrigate their crops, due to the high faecal count. Many people can lose their jobs, not to mention the ripple effect on the local economy with higher fresh produce prices due to imports,” says Werner.
He says contractors doing maintenance at the plant do not want to come out and work there because they do not get paid and have to wait for months before they are paid.
The DA says in a statement that every service provider of the Mangaung Metro has cancelled its services in protest of outstanding payments from the metro. This has resulted in an immediate halt to numerous critical services and will see sewerage, sanitation and water purification, among others, severely affected.
DA Councillor in the municipality, Dirk Kotze, has been in contact with several of the metro’s larger contractors, who say they are tempted to suspend their services as well, as the municipality owes millions in unpaid debts. The contractors have been reluctant to speak to the media as they fear victimisation and cancellation of their contracts, but some have confirmed the strike to Bloemfontein Courant. Kotze says Mangaung Mayor Olly Mlamleli’s claim that a R500 million loan that has recently been acquired may not be used to settle debts might make things get worse. Meanwhile, Mlamleli has said that reports of contractors downing tools due to not being paid by the municipality, is news to her. She says she has recently held a meeting with a service provider responsible for the municipality’s traffic system. He received his payment on Wednesday and has agreed to return to work. “But what is disappointing to me is that they don’t come to me as the executive mayor, because I am the person who called them to come and explain to me. I even called the CFO and infrastructure manager; we agreed on the date. Now that the R500 million is on the table for specific purposes, they decide to put their tools down,” she says. The municipality says it is working together with the contractors on a payment plan to try and resolve the matter quickly.- Mark Steenbok, Earl Coetzee & Seithati Semenokane