Sewage still pouring through Cradock Four cemetery

Photographs posted on Wednesday on the Cradock Speakout Facebook page showed the effluent dammed up between gravestones.
Photographs posted on Wednesday on the Cradock Speakout Facebook page showed the effluent dammed up between gravestones.
Image: SUPPLIED

Raw sewage is still flowing across Cradock’s Lingelihle Cemetery, resting place of famed anti-apartheid activists the Cradock Four, despite an assurance from Chris Hani District Municipality that the flow would be plugged at the weekend.

The district municipality maintained on Wednesday that it had fixed the problem — but a range of other people monitoring the situation painted a different picture.

Mbulelo Goniwe, 62, cousin of the late Matthew Goniwe of the Cradock Four, and head of the Goniwe family, said the pollution was worse than when it first materialised a week ago.

“It’s clearly now drifting across the cemetery into the river.

“Chris Hani District municipality has been promising to fix it since day one and now we cannot reach them on their phones.

“We are helpless and quite distraught. It is shameful.”

Supporting Goniwe’s view, photographs posted on Wednesday on the Cradock Speakout Facebook page showed the effluent dammed up between gravestones.

DA councillor Rika Featherstonehaugh said she had checked the situation on Wednesday from a vantage point opposite the cemetery, on the west side of the Fish River.

“It’s terrible. You can see it coming down in four or five places.

“There must be thousands of litres of sewage running down from the cemetery into the river.”

All the sewage from the township of Lingelihle on the east side of the river was channelled through a pipe which ran adjacent to the cemetery, then over the river to the waste water treatment works.

Sewage streams down from Lingelihle Cemetery into the Fish River on Wednesday.
Sewage streams down from Lingelihle Cemetery into the Fish River on Wednesday.
Image: RIKA FEATHERSTONEHAUGH

Chris Hani municipality, the authority mandated to manage Cradock’s water and sanitation services, said on Wednesday the authority had succeeded in clearing the blocked line.

“Last week Thursday and Friday jetting machines were on site from morning till midnight working on unblocking the lines,” the municipality’s spokesperson, Thobeka Mqamelo, said.

“Works continued ... until Monday, working on the lines with successful unblocking [achieved]."

The underlying problem was aged infrastructure and members of the community dumping foreign objects, ranging from bricks to dead dogs, into the system.

The authority would be reviving its education and awareness programme to counter this and would be monitoring the situation, she said.

The cemetery pollution drama is unfolding against the broader problem where more than a year ago Cradock’s Inxuba Yethemba Waste Water Treatment Works, which is also managed by Chris Hani District Municipality, ground to a halt.

The result was that all of the town’s sewage was channelled into the Fish River without being treated.

After a series of official warnings and directives were not heeded,  the national department of water and sanitation said in July 2019 that it was taking the district municipality to court.

The department’s spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau, said last week this process had been delayed by the Covid-19 lockdown and it would resume once the courts were back up and running.

Mqamelo said last week that the district municipality was, meanwhile, fixing the plant “component by component” and it was already operating at 50% capacity.

- HeraldLIVE


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