The “crisis” in the Vaal River system highlighted by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni in his mini-budget has, according to the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), been subjected to a reconnaissance visit by a task team from the SA Army Engineer Formation.
Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi, director of the national defence force’s corporate communications directorate, said: “The task team compiled a report which will be presented to the SA Army Council on 30 October. Further details will be communicated in due course”.
Speaking in the National Assembly on 24 October, Mboweni said he asked President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also Commander-in-Chief of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), and Minister of Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, for the military to assist with engineering and other expertise to resolve the crisis in the Vaal River System.
“I am happy to report approval has been granted. The generals in charge have already started working on solutions,” Mboweni said.
It appears there is a difference of interpretation in what the Finance Minister says is work in progress and the national defence force sees as preliminary assessment (reconnaissance) prior to analysis and then deciding on what action or actions to take.
The Vaal River system supplies potable and other water to South Africa’s economic heartland Gauteng and has over the years been subjected to pollution from various sources including broken and under-maintained municipal sewage treatment works. Matters have worsened to the point where the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) last month said it would hold an “urgent inquiry” on pollution in the Vaal River system. Also last month the NGO Save the Vaal Environment (SAVE) called for “someone to be held accountable and even face jail time” for sewage found in the river.
Another report had it that the river was “poisonous” with the national department of water and sanitation advising people in the Parys area not to drink Vaal River water.
The SANDF often assists government with matters such as this, including bridge building and assessment and helped provide sanitation services to North West earlier this year, among other duties.