Residents from a Khutsong township outside Carletonville could soon be forced to leave their homes because of a sinkhole swallowing up giant portions of land, laying waste to properties and infrastructure.
Community leaders have accused the local Merafong City Municipality of ignoring geologists’ reports which years ago said this the earth was likely to give way. The City confirmed that it plans to rehouse more than 25 000 residents.
Homes and streets have already completely disappeared in some parts, leaving residents in nearby areas worried that their properties could be next.
A stench from the broken sewer pipes hangs over the area. Some residents have taken to using the sinkholes as dumping sites.
In some places, owners have abandoned their homes which continue to fall into the sinkholes bit by bit. The situation is often worsened by heavy rain.
This has lead to a rise in criminals stripping deserted homes, taking windows, roofing materials, doors, electric cables, toilet seats, bathtubs and other items.
Those without homes have been relocated to RDP houses in other parts of the township.
When News24 visited the township, a man was seen emptying a rubbish bin into a sinkhole.
“We are trying to fill these sinkholes with garbage, hoping they won’t spread further. Many houses here are cracking and soon they will also be swallowed by sinkholes,” he said.
Two elderly women said the situation was a nightmare.
They said they have lost hope in their local municipality and called on it to replace old infrastructure underground, which was believed to be causing the sinkholes.
Community leader Elias Tsotetsi said that the Merafong City Municipality was waiting for people to die inside their homes before it decided to replace the old sewer and water pipes underground.
Tsotetsi claimed that geologists who did a study about the township’s sinkholes warned the municipality about the situation many years ago.
“They kept it as a secret and did nothing about it. They thought that these sinkholes were not going to spread. Unfortunately, they are spreading worse now and are eating our homes.
“What are they waiting for? They must simply replace those old asbestos pipes with new materials and allow people to live in peace. Residents here are silent and have accepted new RDP houses that they are being relocated to and are not fighting to protect their homes,” Tsotetsi said.
He was worried that moving people into new RDP houses could spark tension because people who previously owned houses were now getting homes before those who have been on the housing waiting list for long.
“The municipality must act and must do that now. This problem is spreading rapidly, and some streets are cracking. Our schools are also not spared because there are sinkholes not far from their location.
“Are they waiting for a disaster before they act? Or do they want the entire old township to be swallowed by sinkholes before they can replace those old pipes?” Tsotetsi asked.
Member of the Mayoral Committee for Infrastructure Mogomotsi Sello said more than 25 000 residents of the township were expected to be relocated elsewhere.
Sello said the area has drastically deteriorated as new sinkholes have formed at several locations in old Khutsong. This has severely damaged internal water supply pipes to Khutsong extensions and sewer pipe networks, which drain via outfall sewers to the Khutsong Wastewater Treatment Plant.
“The current critical situation has become evident due to the collapse of infrastructure as a result of dolomite activity and the severe health risk to residents caused by sewer flooding of residential areas and unacceptable levels of basic services, including water provision,” Sello said.
“The municipality experiences challenges almost on a daily basis, of water shortages, water leaks and/or sewer leakages due to sinkhole formations. This is putting continuous strain on the resources of the municipality as interventions have to be sourced from external parties at a cost to the municipality.”