The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is expected to rescue Vaal residents from poor waste management facilities which have caused raw sewage to flood the streets and residents’ homes.
This comes as an SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) inquiry looks into the water crisis in and around the Vaal River.
Sewage flowing from poorly managed drains and poor water treatment infrastructure have contributed to the contamination of water in the river, and locals have complained about sewage flowing into their streets and homes, and of foul smells in the air.
The Cooporative Governance and Traditional Affairs Department (Cogta) has not declared the area a disaster.
However, the SANDF is expected to set up camp on Wednesday to start working.
“We don’t want them to operate far from the problem area, so they will have to establish their own station with all the equipment they need,” said SANDF spokesperson Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi.
The move comes after their engineering team went in to assess the extent of damage last month and establish how it affected communities.
Mgobozi said Defence Minister Nosiviwe Maphisa-Nqakula would meet the soldiers on Friday to get an update on what they found during their assessment and their plan of action.
Some residents in the area claim the sewage flowing onto their streets and the toxins filling the air have made them sick.
The SAHRC’s inquiry, which is expected to continue on Tuesday, seeks to clarify whether government structures failed in their duty to ensure that communities were not deliberately exposed to the contaminated water, and whether they could have foreseen the short- and long-term impact the contamination would have on the area.
In its submissions to the SAHRC on Monday, the environmental affairs department said that in its view, poor sanitation in the Vaal was a violation of basic human rights and it was investigating possible deliberate acts by officials.