Landmark Ruling Over Municipal Mismanagement of Pietermaritzburg Dump Site

  • The High Court in Pietermaritzburg has delivered its judgement on the South African Human Rights Commission case against the uMsunduzi Municipality for failing to manage the New England Road Landfill Site.
  • In a 41-page judgement delivered today, Judge Seegobin found the municipality in breach of a number of constitutional laws that govern waste and the environment including the breach of the Variation Waste Management License and also of Section 24 of the South African Constitution.
  • The court ordered the municipality to file a detailed and comprehensive action plan with the court within 30 days.

In 2020 the New England Road landfill made headlines in the news for all the wrong reasons including prolonged fires that lasted a week during level 4 lockdown. groundWork, Schools, communities and affected residents engaged the municipality and tried to compel them to managed the site in an environmentally safe manner. Department of Environmental Affairs also ordered the city to develop a working plan for the dumpsite and also follow some directives and recommendations from the department but uMsunduzi municipality never honoured those directives which resulted in the deterioration of the site.

For more than a decade groundWork has been engaging the municipality on how they can go about in making sure that the site is managed properly but all those efforts fell on deaf ears. Residents of Sobantu, Hayfields, Scottsville and other surrounding areas have been calling for the relocation of the site due to failure to deal with operational challenges and the impacts it has on the health of the people and the environment.

“In the last decade there has been more than five deaths at the landfill as a result of poor operations. The South African Waste Pickers Association members based at the Pietermaritzburg landfill had a plan to work with the city but that never took off, the access control was agreed between the two parties but in the end it never got implemented by the city and we warned them that the landfill will be swamped by thousands of unemployed people if they don’t take control on access issue. As a result of the non-existence plan for waste pickers/recyclers workers have died as a result some got paralysed. All the above works against human rights how can we allow the municipality to kill people through incompetence. This is a victory for the community of Pietermaritzburg, hopefully the days of the stench and burning landfill has come to an end. Waste pickers are allowed to salvage materials or recyclables so that they can earn a livelihoods the Waste Act 2008 does allow them. The Waste Pickers Guideline document that have to guide municipality in integrating waste pickers should not be ignored. This case is a precedent setting case for a number of poorly managed landfills in the country”, said Musa Chamane, Waste Campaign Manager at groundWork.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal

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