Makana municipal officials may face contempt of court proceedings for failing to heed a court order to properly manage Grahamstown’s municipal rubbish dump.
The dump has been burning uncontrollably for more than four weeks.
A gale force wind fanned the smouldering dump into a roaring fire just before Christmas and caused widespread burning of adjacent land including the Grahamstown Riding Club (GRC).
Some 26 stables were destroyed and extensive damage caused to other stables, paddocks and arenas, GRC chairman Dave Rodgerson confirmed yesterday.
The GRC’s perimeter electric fence was also comprehensively damaged.
“Fortunately no horses or humans were harmed,” he said.
Residents have also complained repeatedly on social media platforms about noxious fumes hanging over the city.
In 2015, civil society organisation Makana Unity League (MUL) successfully took the municipality to court claiming the dump had become a hazard to the health of the city’s residents. It produced evidence in court papers that the municipality complied with less than 2% of its permit conditions and was in conflict with the constitution, national environmental and other legislation.
The stench, litter and uncontrolled fires on the dump were hazardous to residents’ health.
There was no security or control and hazardous waste – including industrial, medical and pharmaceutical waste – was regularly dumped there.
The rubbish is seldom compacted or covered as required by law and fires were a regular occurrence.
The municipality finally agreed to a court order in terms of which it was required to comply with its permit conditions to operate the waste disposal site.
Specifically, the Grahamstown High Court gave the municipality 60 days to control access to the dump site and develop waste screening mechanisms to ensure only permissible waste was dumped there.
The municipality acknowledged in reports to the court that over some years it faced financial and equipment challenges that resulted in it being unable to meet the requirements of the permit to operate the waste disposal site.
MUL chair Professor Owen Skae said the organisation had sought legal advice on contempt proceedings as the fires had been burning at the dump for many weeks.
“There continues to be uncontrolled access to the dump. The bulldozer has not been functioning. Our view is that these are all symptomatic of a lack of an integrated management plan, which shows that the municipality is not committed to ensuring that the citizens and ratepayers of Grahamstown are able to breathe safe and clean air,” he said.
He said the destructive fire would not have happened if the court order had been heeded.
MUL’s attorney, Brin Brody, yesterday confirmed the MUL was considering contempt of court proceedings and a letter to this effect had been sent to the municipality.
Skae said they had not wanted to resort to court but felt they were left with no choice.
“The municipality continues to break the law and we are forced to live knowing that the air that we breathe is dangerous to our health. Enough is enough now.”
Municipal spokeswoman Yoliswa Ramokolo said the municipality would address all media queries in the coming week.