Mbongeni Skosana’s house in Khutsong. (Credit: Thabo Molelekwa / Health-e)

Khutsong resident Mbongeni Skosana said a sinkhole less than a metre long opened up in his yard last August.

“It has grown so big that I now struggle to get out of my yard. I have

reported it to the municipality, but nothing has been done so far.”

Skosana said the sinkholes are causing damage to houses in the community. His house has actually cracked due to the sinkhole.

“The municipality must do something. We have spent money building our houses but look now. We are losing our homes because the municipality doesn’t take our problem seriously,” said Skosana.

According to Skosana, the region was declared a disaster area in 2012. At the time the municipality was supposed to relocate people living in the area to another location. But this never happened, and now the sinkholes are a continuing danger.

Damage

Skosana told Health-e News that the sinkholes have not only damaged the houses and the streets, but also the drainage system of the community.

“The holes are damaging the sewage system and you find running water and waste all over the streets, which poses a health hazard to us.”

He said that their children have nowhere safe to play anymore as the yards are covered by holes, and the streets are full of burst sewers.

Another Khutsong resident, Bafana Gijimani, said that the municipality ignored the sinkhole problem when it would have been cheaper to fix.

“Now they are going to spend millions paying for the houses that are damaged, and moving the community to another place,” said Gijimani.

The community says the municipality is aware about this problem as they were informed at a past community meeting by municipal representatives that the area would be rehabilitated. This left the community asking how possible it would be to rehabilitate a dolomitic area.

Aware

According to Chris Spies, chief communications officer at Merafong Municipality, officials are aware of the problems experienced with sinkholes and the current state of water and sanitation infrastructure affected by geological conditions in certain areas of the Municipality. This, he said, was why they declared it a disaster area.

He told Health-e News that a task team consisting of officials of the Merafong City Local Municipality, Gauteng COGTA, Gauteng Treasury, West Rand District Municipality and the Department of Water and Sanitation has been formed to address the sinkholes, and the impact they have had on municipal infrastructure.

“The task team did site visits between January 31 and February 3 this year,” said Spies.

According to Spies, the area will be rehabilitated.

“We have received R118-million in funding that will only be used to rehabilitate the previous sinkholes and the infrastructure damaged by those sinkholes over the next three months,” he said.

An edited version of this story appeared in The Star.

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