Further relief granted in Sakeliga’s favour over water in Ditsobotla, but big fight still lies ahead

Muncipal Failure

The High Court in Mafikeng has last week granted further urgent relief in Sakeliga’s ongoing court application regarding the water crisis in Lichtenburg and Coligny in the Ditsobotla Local Municipality.

The latest judgment follows urgent relief granted by the court on 14 October 2022, which required the local municipality to urgently restore full water supply to the communities of Lichtenburg and Coligny. This did not happen, and in last week’s ruling, the Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality was ordered to restore the water supply by March 17, 2023 and to report back to the court on the same date.

Last week’s ruling in Part A of the application deals with interim relief and forms part of an extensive court case with which Sakeliga and other communities want to orderly strengthen their role in the restoration of water supply and, where appropriate, compel intervention by the national government. Part B of the application, in which further relief is requested, will be heard on 23 and 24 March 2023.

Sakeliga does not foresee that the Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality will comply with the order to restore the water supply in affected communities by March 17, 2023. Such a failure could possibly have a strengthening effect on Sakeliga’s application in part B of the case, which seeks structural legal relief involving a combination of national interventions and recognition for community interventions.

The part B application will be heard together with Sakeliga’s paymaster case which seeks medium-term relief in respect of the financial decay of both the Ditsobotla and the Naledi municipalities in the North West. The relief sought in our paymaster case, launched in May 2021, overlaps significantly with the relief sought in the urgent part B application on water supply in Ditsobotla. The judge-president of the court therefore determined in terms of case management that the cases can be heard together. It is no coincidence that the cases overlap. Due to the slow progress in the paymaster case (largely due to respondents’ lack of cooperation), Sakeliga had to launch a further court application in October last year, on an urgent basis, specifically regarding the water crisis in Ditsobotla. The two cases can now be heard together.

In part B of the application on water interventions, read together with the paymaster application, Sakeliga is seeking an order on 23 and 24 March requiring:

  • That the national government must intervene in terms of section 139(7) of the Constitution in the Ditsobotla and Naledi municipalities
  • Pending the proper implementation of a financial recovery plan as prepared by the national treasury, a special master – or paymaster – must receive monies for services in a separate bank account at Ditsobotla and Naledi, which revenues are to be paid directly to service providers, under the supervision of the court
  • That the national government must see to it that water supply is restored in Ditsobotla, failing which community organisations are authorised to do it themselves and can recoup all reasonable expenses from the municipality.

Sakeliga is assisted in our court application regarding water supply in Ditsobotla by two co-applicants, namely a public interest organization and a local businessman. The respondents appear on our notice of motion, which can be downloaded here.

Read more about the matter here .

Read more about our paymaster case here.