20 June 2016
The DA is concerned by provincial government’s lax approach towards addressing the issue of asbestos contaminated infrastructure in the Northern Cape.
Government’s uncaring attitude has again been exposed, this time in the deteriorating condition of a state-owned asbestos housing complex in Kimberley that is being rented out to government employees at a cost of R1200 per month.
The matter recently came under the spotlight after the DA received complaints regarding the poor state of roads and broken street lights within the said housing development. During a visit to the complex by DA councillor, Dirk van der Merwe, it was ascertained that more than 20 houses, which are situated on the border of Carters Glen and the Schmidtsdrift Road, are in fact old prefabricated asbestos homes. The structures are in a poor condition, with loose boards and broken gutters being clearly visible from the outside. The houses all fall within the jurisdiction of the Northern Cape Department of Roads and Public Works.
The DA is perplexed, but not surprised, by this finding.
Since March 2008, asbestos was effectively banned in South Africa. Government efforts are meant to be underway to rehabilitate asbestos contaminated infrastructure. But, while there have been half-hearted attempts to address asbestos contaminated schools, and while the Roads and Public Works Department has set aside over R12 million towards the rehabilitation of asbestos roads in the province for 2016/2017 financial year, nothing has been set aside for the rehabilitation of other contaminated infrastructure in the province. Asbestosis has been named the Chernobyl of the Northern Cape, having claimed the lives of an untold number of workers who were employed on the province’s many asbestos mines, as well as countless members of surrounding communities in especially the Kuruman and Prieska areas, who became sick after environmental exposure to asbestos fibres. Even with the last asbestos mines closed, the Northern Cape still struggles with exposure risks from the remaining asbestos mine dumps.
The fact that provincial government wilfully continues to fuel the spread of this disease by failing to manage its own asbestos contaminated property portfolio, is highly disturbing. The poor state of the asbestos contaminated houses in question, increases the chances of asbestos fibres being released into the environment when they are disturbed. This in turn places residents of the complex, and the greater Kimberley community as a whole, at an elevated risk of environmental exposure to asbestos fibres, which can further be dispersed by the wind.
The DA will submit written questions to the MEC of Roads and Public Works, Mxolisi Sokatsha, as soon as legislature processes resume in the third quarter. Amongst other things, we want to know the full extent of the Northern Cape government’s asbestos-contaminated property portfolio, as well as why the department continues to rent out asbestos homes and what plans the department has to ensure that the homes in question do not further fuel the scourge of asbestosis in the Northern Cape? It simply cannot be that the state is perpetuating the very problem that it meant to be solving. It is for this reason that the people of the Northern Cape must choose carefully on 3rd August and vote for change that will improve the lives of our people and not worsen the conditions under which they have to live.
DA Northern Cape Provincial Leader
082 383 6914
Shelley De Witt
082 847 1387