The People’s Army is hard at work, repairing sanitation infrastructure.
Three months into Operation Vaal River, army engineers and troops have made significant progress in rehabilitating the Vaal River System (VRS).
Lieutenant General Lindile Yam (centre) is surrounded by fellow troops during his visit to the Sebokeng Waste Water Treatment Works
Technical teams comprising of engineers and other members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) have been camping in Emfuleni Local Municipality since November last year.
The army is here to assist the municipality with its sanitation infrastructure, with a particular focus on repairing pump stations and working on Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTW) to stop sewer spillages into the Vaal River System.
To monitor progress on the year-long project, the Chief of the Army, Lieutenant General Lindile Yam on Wednesday (06 February 2019) visited Operation Vaal River and landed by chopper outside municipal water reservoirs in Vanderbijlpark.
The Army Chief was rushed to a closed briefing on the status of the operation and later began a tour to witness the work of his engineers and troops in different sanitation facilities of the municipality.
Lieutenant General Yam was driven to the Boitumelo Pump Station, which is now fully operational after it collapsed and spilled sewerage into the nearby yards and homes.
He also visited the Sebokeng Waste Water Treatment Works where the army has successfully cleaned and repaired part of the facility, Module 3B, which will soon be commissioned.
The tour ended at the Emerald Pump Station in Vanderbijlpark where the Army Chief was shown sewerage which had overflowed into reserve areas of the facility.
Accompanied by Major General Thembelani Xundu and Colonel Andries Mahapa, the Army Chief ended his visit with a press briefing at the Army Media Centre located in Emfuleni Local Municipality offices at the OK Building in Vanderbijlpark.
Lieutenant General Yam announced retired engineers from the army had volunteered to return to work and contribute their skills to Operation Vaal River.
“It is criminal that our own people in this area have been allowed to live in feces (faeces) for this long time, but that is a matter that it going to be sorted out by the leadership over time,” he said.
The Army Chief said their business was to stay out of politics and execute the instruction of the Commander in Chief.
“Let’s do the work, and ensure where possible, that by the end of this year or even earlier, the people of this area can go to the river and enjoy the water, without any fear,” the Army Chief instructed his troops.
He also reminded the soldiers of the importance of completing the project successfully.
“Remember, this is a military operation, and you will executive this military operation up to the last objective without fail,” he said.
Lieutenant General Yam also promised to ensure that the army troops received all resources they needed to make their stay in the municipality a success, including vehicles and other needs.
Notes to Journalists
The SANDF technical teams have set up camp at the Vanderbijlpark reservoir where they will be based for the duration of the intervention. The army will also work hard to protect municipal infrastructure against theft and vandalism, which have cost the municipality millions in repairs and distribution losses over the years.
The deployment of the army in Emfuleni follows an announcement by the Finance Minister, Honourable Tito Mboweni during his medium-term budget policy speech last October that the military had been called in to assist with engineering and other expertise to resolve the crisis in the Vaal River System.
Aged municipal infrastructure has led to increased sewer spillages in the municipality in recent months, leaving residents frustrated and environmental activists fuming. The Defence Minister, Honourable Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, visited the municipality in November (Friday, 23rd November) and was accompanied on a tour of Sebokeng and Leeuwkuil Waste Water Treatment Works (WWTW) by the Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Honourable Obed Bapela.
Metsi-a-Lekoa, the municipality’s water division, remains intact and workers in the department will work with colleagues from the army. This will help transfer skills and knowledge and share information, history and ideas on rehabilitating the Vaal River System. This is a collaborative remedial effort by government, aimed at repairing, building and maintaining sanitation infrastructure to protect the Vaal River System.
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