In October Finance Minister Tito Mboweni told South Africa the military would be part of ridding the Vaal River system of pollution. Two initial assessments have been done by the SA Army Engineer Formation with another visit scheduled for next week.
Included on the early priority list is deployment of troops to guard water infrastructure as well as to protect military equipment brought in to repair broken or vandalised water purification and other equipment.
The Johannesburg digital daily publication TimesLIVE quoted Major General Tembelani Xundu, Chief of Army Corporate Services, as saying technical teams will be deployed to restore infrastructure in the polluted Vaal River system.
In his first medium term budget address to the National Assembly Mboweni said both President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also Commander-in-Chief of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), and his defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula had given their approval. “The generals in charge have started working on solutions,” Mboweni said.
According to Xundu a conceptual assessment was done earlier this month, a week after Mboweni’s address to Parliament.
“We found plants and sub-stations are dysfunctional and not working. There are leakages and burst pipes which, along with other problems, threaten the welfare of people,” the general is reported as saying by the publication.
The conceptual assessment was followed by a technical one in conjunction with Emfuleni Municipality.
“We will look at our limited engineering capabilities and see what we can do to assist, in particularly as far as sub-stations and treatment plants are concerned,” Xundu said adding the Engineer Formation of the SA Army would not stand by and see its work impeded by thieves.
“The whole area will be declared a military zone so the military can secure the area and ensure equipment is not going to be stolen or vandalised,” he said.
The initial Engineer Formation assessments indicate the clean-up project will take up to a year to complete.
Maureen Stewart of the NGO Save the Vaal Environment (SAVE) confirmed a military delegation visited the area. Their intention, she said, was to bring a number of troops to secure infrastructure, apparently subject to theft and vandalism.
SAVE welcomed the involvement of the military. “We’re happy to work with anybody who is going to solve the problem,” Stewart said.