A court has ordered municipal
authorities in Carolina to provide
temporary water to residents who have
now gone seven months without clean
But immediately after the North Gauteng High Court
judgment, the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs
Edna Molewa announced that the town’s water was now
safe for human consumption.
This ruling follows an urgent court application by Lawyers
for Human Rights and the Legal Resources Centre, on behalf
of the Mpumalanga community. Their aim was to "compel
the responsible authorities to provide reliable potable
[drinking] water to the residents of Carolina".
They told the court that the application came about
because the municipality was not meeting the basic
requirements of water provision as set out in the Water
These say each person should get 25 litres of water per day,
or 6 000 per household per month. The nearest water supply
should also be no further than 200m away.
The point of biggest contestation was the provision that
people must not go more than seven consecutive days in a
month without access to water. This had been happening
frequently in the last seven months, residents said.
In his ruling, Judge Moses Mavundla agreed with this point
and ordered the municipality to provide Carolina residents
with drinking water within 72 hours.
"I am of the view that, when fundamentally entrenched
rights are violated or compromised, the matter intrinsically
becomes urgent," he said.
He also ruled that the municipality must provide the court
with a report within a month, outlining the progress it was
making to ensure clean drinking water for residents.
Emma Algotsson, of Lawyers for Human Rights, said the
finding was critical in defending the rights of communities
and the environment.
"We are really happy with the judgment. It is so important
for the future of our work as it sets a precedent which says
local municipalities have to provide basic services, like
water, even if they are not to blame for the problems that
caused the failure."
The judge also ordered the municipality to work with the
local community to solve the problem. This is critical, as
people have been left in the dark throughout the crisis, said
Molewa and her department were not included in the court
order because they had made several promises to provide
assistance to the community, both in court and before.
Speaking after the judgment, she welcomed the court’s
"We welcome the decision of the court and wish to indicate
that even though there is no order against us as the
department of water affairs, we will ensure that the
judgment against the municipality is addressed," she said.
To date her department had spent R5-million on measures
to bring water to residents of the area, as well as fixing the
water treatments works, she said. As a result of this she
said that the latest audit sample of Carolina’s drinking
water showed that it is safe to drink.
"I would like to pronounce that the drinking water of
Carolina be declared safe for human consumption," she
said. This has been confirmed by three consecutive results
from two separate laboratories, she said.
She also pointed a finger at the local municipality, and said
the Water Services Act held it accountable for any problems
with supply. Her department’s assistance was, therefore,
above and beyond what the municipality had to provide as
a basic service.
The problems for Carolina started with 82mm of rainfall in
two hours in January. This brought dangerous levels of heavy
metals – the particles that create acid mine drainage – into
the local dam and the water treatment works. This caused a
failure in the works.
Initially the local municipality told people to boil their water
before drinking it. This produced a white jelly that scared
people away. But they had no other choice. Bottled water
costs R12 for five litres, and the Jojo tanks and water
tankers that the municipality promised were scarce. The
only reliable and clean source of water was from the local
At the time the task team appointed to fix the immediate
problem and find a long-term solution said the best solution
would be to build another plant, at R250-million.
In the meantime the municipality said it would have the
taps running by the end of June.
Sputnik Ratau, a spokesperson for water affairs, also made
it clear last month that this was the timetable.
"We are hoping the refurbishment and upgrading of the
water works will be finished by the end of the month, and
we are working day and night to achieve this," he said.
Mavundla said it was clear that the municipality’s assurance
that the water would be declared safe by June was not the
A court has ordered municipal