Prosecute municipal manager in a personal capacity, AfriForum demands


On Thursday, AfriForum filed a criminal complaint against April Ntuli, municipal manager of the Emfuleni local municipality.

This civil rights organization insists that Ntuli be prosecuted in his personal capacity for the large-scale dumping of raw sewage into the Vaal River. This creates a favorable breeding ground for several invasive plant species, including water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes), the incidence of which has increased alarmingly since the end of last year.

AfriForum has made clear its criticism of the government, due to its failure to tackle the problem properly. Jaco Grobbelaar, AfriForum’s regional head for the Central Region, says that they and several other organizations and members of the community have been working hard for months to limit the spread of the water lettuce and thus protect the sensitive Vaal River ecosystem.

Grobbelaar says the government has been dragging its feet with the water lettuce crisis for months. “Although the government has already convened numerous meetings with the community, they are taking months to approve specific actions to tackle the problem. In the end, it always comes down to the community to put their hands in their pockets and jump to work themselves to fight this natural disaster,” says Grobbelaar.

At a recent public meeting, government officials argued that the government only had R2 million available to spend on the Vaal River crisis. This, despite the fact that Barbara Creecy, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, launched a R2.6 billion program, Working for Water, in November last year for the control of alien invasive species and the restoration of natural habitats.

An overview comparison between the input of the community versus that of the government in combating the water lettuce crisis since the beginning of 2024, shows the government’s unwillingness to tackle the issue. The community has already spent more than R6 million, removed more than 168 000 mᶟ of water lettuce from the river and carried out work at the river for more than 80 days, while the government has not yet spent any money or removed any water lettuce.

The community also sprayed 214 36 ha of the invasive plant.

The government has already held more than 20 meetings on the issue.

Grobbelaar says that while the issue is being tackled with money from the community’s pockets, the government is loading its pockets monthly with tax money, which is supposed to be allocated for the use of this project. “Although the spraying of herbicide on water lettuce in the Vaal River is done under the supervision of Rand Water, we would like to see the government start doing something concrete to remove these invasive plants from the river.”

The decay of sewage plants in the Emfuleni local municipality is also a core part of the problems in the Vaal River system. “Large-scale pollution takes place on a daily basis in the Vaal River and is the primary cause of the uncontrolled growth of water lettuce here. We will continue to put pressure on the authorities to properly manage sewage plants. In this way, we will be able to tackle the secondary problem, namely the growth of water lettuce.”

He says the community is currently dealing with the secondary problem, but the government must urgently fulfill its duty regarding the primary cause.

AfriForum encourages people to submit complaints about the dumping of untreated sewage to the Human Rights Commission. “Citizens have the right to a clean and safe environment. Currently, the government is violating that right and must be called to account to correct it,” says Grobbelaar.