Court rules Umsunduzi Municipality violated the Constitution over landfill site

For over 10 years, the site has been cited as an environmental hazard and a public health disaster.

'Waste-pickers' at the New England Landfill Site in Pietermaritzburg. Picture: Nkosikhona Duma/Eyewitness News.

DURBAN - The Pietermaritzburg High Court has on Thursday declared that the Umsunduzi Local Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal violated the Constitution by mismanaging its New England Road landfill site.

For over 10 years, the site has been cited as an environmental hazard and a public health disaster.

Attempts by residents and the KwaZulu-Natal environmental affairs department to get the municipality to clean up its act have failed to yield any positive results, prompting the South African Human Rights Commission to take legal action.

The commission said poor management of the landfill site had contributed to the emission of toxic fumes and outbreaks of fires in Pietermaritzburg.

Judge Rishi Seegobin has ruled that the Umsunduzi Local Municipality is in breach of a license issued to it by the KwaZulu-Natal environmental affairs department, a second respondent in the matter.

He's ordered the municipality to devise a strategy to improve conditions at the site.

“The first respondent is directed to file an action plan to this court, which will be detailed and comprehensive to address all the compliances identified by the second respondent.”

The commission's KwaZulu-Natal manager Lloyd Lotz has welcomed the ruling, saying it vindicated the appeals of the people of Umsunduzi, which dated back to over 10 years ago.

The municipality is expected to present its action plan to the court in six months’ time.