The eThekwini Municipality faces a R5 million claim to compensate Rainbow Farms in Hammarsdale after it was forced to dump almost 62 000kg of meat due to water contamination.
The incidents had occurred in July of 2007 when the city had engaged contractors to replace old water pipes with new steel pipes. The contractors who had been employed to conduct the work had fractured the pipe supplying water to Rainbow. Rainbow had to consequently replace pipes, water meters and equipment when muddy water filled with rubble, silt and sand, flowed into the plant on two occasions. The case was argued before the Durban High Court Judge Dhaya Pillay only in June of 2015 due the the refusal of the municipality to concede liability in the matter.
It was evidenced before the judge that Devendaran Moodley (Rainbow’s production manager) had noticed a drastic drop in water pressure, upon investigating the cause he came across a heavy excavator in a muddy pool of water with two city employees in attendance, “trying” to resolve the problem. The judge had said that a civil engineer had testified that it was vital when working next to existing services to locate where they were and to avoid damaging the existing infrastructure. He said that any heavy machinery would damage the existing infrastructure and this was “extremely foreseeable”, and that had a supervisor been on site (which is normal practice) the situation could have been avoided.
Although the city had raised several defences including an indemnity that the city could not be held liable for damages or compensation arising from anything done by it in terms of the by-laws. However, the judge noted, the city’s own witness, head of water in Hammarsdale Mark Backman, had not assisted its cause by testifying that the upgrade (in terms of the by-laws) was to a pipeline 2m to 4m away from the one which supplied water to Rainbow.
Judge Pillay said that while the city also referred to by-laws which stated that it did not have to maintain an uninterrupted supply of a particular pressure or quality “this can hardly be read to imply a licence to act negligently”. “In my opinion, the legal convictions of the community call for the municipality’s conduct to be declared wrongful and unlawful.” She absolved the contractors from any responsibility, saying the city should have supervised their work.