Dirty laundry aired as Newcastle’s Amcor Dam draws national attention

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

The Newcastle Municipality recently made significant accusations against local businessman and mayoral elect for ActionSA, Faizel Cassim. They stated that the “magical foam” coming down the Amcor river emerged from his laundry in the industrial area. 

On 3 October 2021, the government entity issued a press statement plus videos to respective media houses. Further taking to social media and Newcastle Mayor Dr Nthuthuko Mahlaba appearing on SABC.

Municipal spokesperson Mlungisi Khumalo explained the Newcastle Municipality learned with shock and dismay about Newcastle’s Amcor Dam and Ncandu River contamination.

He explained, “Last month the municipality was made aware through a publication of a ‘magical foam’ flowing through Amcor Dam’s waterfall. A video titled ‘is Newcastle’s water safe?’ was also circulated on social media platforms. The Newcastle Municipality environmental unit swiftly instituted an investigation to the cause and origin of this environmental hazard.”

According to Khumalo, the municipality’s preliminary investigation established that these water sources ‘magical foam’ and contamination was allegedly orchestrated. “It has also been established that chemical pollutants were deliberately channelled to the Amcor Dam waterfall with the intention to stir public fury. Further, the municipality officials have also found that during the orchestration of this deliberate pollution, the perpetrators filmed the entire ordeal before distributing footage on social media,” he declared.

Moreover, Khumalo claimed the culprits were further posed as potential whistle-blowers to media members before distributing images and video footage material. He enthused it is believed the motive behind the supposed clandestine operation was to campaign and use the video as a tool for the upcoming Local Government Elections by ActionSA in Newcastle.

“The stillborn campaign which failed to gain the intended public traction was presented in a widely circulated video on the group’s social media page. The video was, however, immediately removed when the municipality made its intentions to conduct investigations as this is a serious criminal offence.”

He further said the municipality has made law enforcement authorities and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Environmental Affairs aware of this sabotage.

“Furthermore, it also calls for a thorough investigation on all those involved, including an industrial laundry which is alleged to have pumped out its chemicals to the water sources. The municipality calls upon Faizel Cassim, the owner of the laundry and the alleged mastermind behind this environmental hazard to cooperate and comply with investigations.”

Khumalo also stated, the municipality will also write to the IEC to complain of Mr Cassim and his party’s unlawful electioneering strategy, which would have potentially harmed thousands of Newcastle’s residents had it not been averted. 

“The institution is saddened to learn that employees of the laundry were allegedly threatened to lose their jobs if they testified of their involvement to the scandal.” 

The High Court implemented an interdict against Cassim’s business. This sees the High Court ordering the company to cease operations for 30 days. While jointly receiving an interdict for disposing more effluent and contaminants into the stormwater drainage and sewer system.

Khumalo says, “The Newcastle Municipality unreservedly welcomes the Pietermaritzburg High Court ruling against a Newcastle industrial laundry, which is believed to have been deliberately disposing pollutants into the Amcor Dam’s waterfall and Ncandu River.”

He further highlights, “The municipality respects the constitutional right to campaign, but condemns Mr Cassim’s unlawful electioneering strategy, which was done at the expense of marine life and livestock.”

Khumalo is also adamant that the municipality will further make the IEC aware of the issue. 

“The Pietermaritzburg High Court ruling is not a victory for the municipality, but a victory for the residents of Newcastle who wish to see a thriving ecosystem, which includes clean sources of water and flourishing marine life. The municipality hopes that the court ruling will send a strong message to environmental delinquents who have little regard for nature,” he added.

Addressing the allegations made against him, Cassim confirmed the interim court interdict against him. However, reflecting on the court proceedings, he explained, “The documents from the Newcastle Municipality’s lawyers were sent to us on Tuesday, 5 October 2021, at around 5pm, mentioning the matter will be held at the Pietermaritzburg High Court.”

However, according to Cassim, the link with the necessary documentation pertaining to the allegations could not be opened.

Furthermore, Cassim said his attorney immediately contacted the municipality’s attorneys and requested a new link be sent or hard copies of the documentation. This documentation was allegedly only delivered at 12.30 pm on Wednesday, 6 October 2021. A mere hour and a half before the court proceedings were meant to begin. 

Cassim believes that because his legal team did not have time to prepare for the case, the high court ruled in the Newcastle Municipality’s favour. However, Cassim affirms that he and his representatives now have ample time to prepare for the next legal bout, with him gathering reams of evidence.

He elaborates, “As an ethical leader and citizen of Newcastle, I will abide by the judgement. This is because I believe in the rule of law, and I will prove these allegations are false and just a political smear campaign.”

As to Khumalo’s reference to livestock being affected, Cassim states these allegations are entirely new to him and are not backed by any form of autopsy results. Moreover, Cassim points out that the allegations regarding his staff being threatened are also false.

Delving further into the matter, Cassim stresses that he must also state that the samples taken by the municipality were not done according to the correct and proper procedures, as prescribed by the law.

“It was taken in plastic bottles, including a two-litre Coke bottle. This just shows the lack of knowledge and incompetence of our local department when it comes to such serious issues.”

Now facing legal charges and overwhelming challenges, Cassim explains he has taken it upon himself to acquire the services of independent environmentalists based in Durban and Johannesburg. 

These individuals will travel to Newcastle and test the water, going to precisely the same spots the Newcastle Municipality did.

“I am 100% confident from these reports, it will be proven that the municipality was on a witch-hunt and used this opportunity as a smear campaign against my mayoral candidacy.”

Cassim says it must also be pointed out, the condition of Amcor Dam and Ncandu River had been of significant concern long before his laundry business was established. “My laundry business is in its current location since 2019 and the current situation around the dam goes back as far as 2014.”

To prove this, he highlights multiple articles from the different media houses in Newcastle focusing on the issue.

To read one such article, click here.

As to the reference of the ‘magical foam’ and the water contamination at Amcor Dam, Cassim says he was only made aware of the issue following the Newcastillian – Online News’ article.

To read the article, click here.

Reflecting further on the issue of the said foam, Cassim explains that the mayor alleges that his (Cassim) video is titled Magical Foam and is being used to discredit the Newcastle Municipality. However, Cassim says he cannot take credit for the phrase Magical Foam.

In fact, he says when looking at the situation and its beginnings, he and his laundry business were not around in 2014 and therefore cannot be accused of the serious allegations being brought forward, as will be proven once they go back to court. 

Cassim notes, “The Municipality and its corrupt officials are so threatened by my party and by my support from the community, they will go to any lengths. Even if it is illegal.”

As the court proceedings continue, Cassim is confident that in time, the truth will prevail and highlight that the allegations made against him are nothing more than slanderous.

However, in the meantime, Cassim stresses that he is concerned about his and his family’s safety. This comes after a high-ranking municipal official allegedly told him, “Stay in business and don’t get involved in politics, as it can become nasty.”

In his interview, Cassim stated that the Department of Water and Sanitation had also threatened him. “A phone call was received, and I was told to stay away from the issue, or someone would get hurt or shot. I have escalated the matter to the necessary authorities.”

Furthermore, the subject of water pollution is not a new topic in the Northern KwaZulu-Natal city.

On 16 September 2021, the Newcastillian – Online News published an article titled Dept of Water takes charge of Newcastle, KZN’s water pollution issues.

This article focused on critical points in Newcastle where water pollution was problematic, namely the following sights:

  • Van der Bijl Street
  • Amcor Dam
  • Tweefontein Farm

The article pointed out how raw sewage in Van Der Bijl Street flowed into the Ncandu River. At the same time, Tweefontein Farm saw raw sewage pumping into nearby river streams for just over a decade. The article also focused on Amcor Dam’s Magical Foam.

Looking at the state of Newcastle’s water, the Newcastillian – Online News contacted the Department of Water and Sanitation. The spokesperson for the Department, Sputnik Ratau, confirmed they were fully aware of the situation in Newcastle.

In fact, Ratau said that as soon as the department received the alert about the water pollution in Newcastle, it verbally directed the Newcastle Local Municipality to take all reasonable measures to prevent this pollution from continuing. 

The Department of Water and Sanitation also made the following notes on Amcor Dam:

  • It is understood that once the spillage along Van Der Bijl is sorted, the foaming of the Amcor Dam waterfall will be prevented.
  • There are, however, two other sewer pump stations along the Ncandu River and before Amcor Dam waterfall, which will have to be closely monitored operationally. To ensure that they do not contribute to the foaming of the waterfall. The pump stations in question are Newcastle Sewer Pump Station Number Two and Ncandu Sewer Pump Station.

To read the full article, click here.

As this does not match what the Newcastle Municipality’s media statement claimed, the Newcastillian – Online News submitted a media enquiry to the Department of Water and Sanitation on Monday, 4 October 2021, to clarify.

The department was given until midday on Wednesday, 6 October 2021, to respond. However, the department failed to supply an official comment in time. Missing the deadline even though follow-up calls were made and emails and messages were sent. 

This is a developing article with the next few weeks allowing the Newcastle Municipality and Cassim to prepare for the high court. When and if the Department of Water and Sanitation responds, the Newcastillian will update the article.

Considering the above-mentioned, what are your views on the two arguments? 

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

3 thoughts on “Dirty laundry aired as Newcastle’s Amcor Dam draws national attention

  1. This is lies the municipality is using action sa as an excuse so fingers dont point back at the fact that they neglected the upkeep of our water and the dam plus im sure ive seen people was their laudry in the dam aswel

  2. The heat is on. Mr Cassim is not the only one targeted, other members of ACTION SA are being targeted for different reasons with the same agenda. After 27yrs our municipality got a wake up call. The community of Newcastle have had enough.

  3. How does one explain the river of effleunt flowing from the laundry into the drain, and why would the staff lie?? Where theres smoke theres fire!!

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