Local municipality fined R10 million for contravening environmental laws

The Thaba Chweu Local Municipality was found guilty and fined R10 million for the Contravention of Environmental Laws by the Lydenburg Magistrates’ Court.

Residents of Mashishing had been complaining of sewer spillages and contaminated water flows since 2012

until 2021, when the Department of Water Affairs and Environmental Affairs brought the docket to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

A decision to institute criminal charges was made, and they enrolled the matter in April 2022. Since the first appearance, the defence and the state had negotiations which subsequently came to a plea, and a sentence agreement.

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This is when the municipality pleaded guilty, to seven counts related to the Contravention of the National Water Act.

The charges relate to unauthorised 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. 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 penalised the municipality with R10 million. It suspended half of it to five years, on the condition that it is not convicted of a similar offence during the period of suspension.

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Effectively R4,8 million is to be used in urgent repairs and refurbishment of the municipal infrastructure. R200 000 of the R 5 000 000 fine is to be used as payment for compensation to the Department of Environmental Affairs in Equal Shares. This is for the expenses incurred during the investigation stages.

“We believe 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.

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