‘Illegal’ water sales continue to flow in Constantia

Water sales continue despite cease order.

A Constantia homeowner is at the heart of a storm over water rights.

Angry residents say they have complained to various authorities for more than a year about Paul Baise selling mountain water from his Rhodes Drive home in Constantia (“Truckloads of water removed,” Bulletin December 13).

They have drawn a blank until recently when the national Department of Water and Sanitation’s Blue Scorpions issued directives to Mr Baise to stop selling water from a mountain stream.

However Mr Baise’s neighbour, Kevin McGivern, said that on Tuesday a large truck hauling a tank had been seen leaving Mr Baise’s property

When the Bulletin questioned Mr Baise about that, he said he had an agreement with the department and could sell the limited amount of water he had to “clean out the stock”.

Mr McGivern, said that during the height of the drought, trucks had started arriving at Mr Baise’s property at 7am and had continued coming throughout the day leaving full of water.

When the Bulletin visited Mr Baise, early in 2018, he had claimed to be emptying his swimming pool. Nine months later, however, truckloads of water had continued to leave his property – from 10 to 20 trucks a day, according to Mr McGivern.

He believed the water was being sold to fill up private swimming pools at time when Capetonians were restricted to living on 50 litres a day.

This week Mr McGivern said there had not been so many trucks recently, since water restrictions had been relaxed.

Table Mountain National Park spokeswoman Babalwa Dlangamandla said SANParks had taken action against Mr Baise for extracting water from the park.

“One week ago SANParks served the interdict application to be heard on Monday April 29 at the Western Cape High Court, against a man for allegedly trespassing on the national parks and extracting water,” said Ms Dlangamandla.

She said the matter had been brought to SANParks’s attention by concerned citizens who had provided documentary evidence to support the allegations.

SANParks, she said, had then found illegal pipes in a stream on national park land.

SANParks had applied to the Western Cape High Court for an interdict to stop Mr Baise from using the mountain water “beyond a reasonable amount”.

SANParks attorney Mathew Coetzee said Mr Baise had a right to a “reasonable amount” of the mountain water for personal consumption.

The story goes back to the 1950s. Mr McGivern said homeowners along Rhodes Drive – himself included – had been granted title deed water rights pre-1950 by the then administrator, SA Forestry Company Limited (SAFCOL), to draw “half an inch” of water each day for personal consumption.

This because there was no municipal water available for these properties – and still is none – so all subsequent owners of the three properties have been using the mountain water since the 1950s, and have pipes running from the stream to their houses.

This is the water Mr Baise has been selling.

He has installed three 5.5 thousand-litre tanks next to his driveway, where the mountain water is collected and transferred to tanks on the trucks.

However, Mr Baise said SANParks had no jurisdiction over the matter, as surface water was managed by the national Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS).

He told the Bulletin that SANParks had trespassed on his property and damaged his pipes.

“They know they acted illegally. They admitted under oath they cut my pipes.”

Mr Baise said he had charged SANParks with malicious damage to property but would not supply a case number or a date for the court hearing.

Mr Baise is adamant that he is doing nothing wrong by selling the water.

But the department disagrees. DWS spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said anyone selling water needed a licence.

Ecologist Dr Tony Rebelo said excessive drawing of water upstream would affect the river downstream by drying it out and reducing the flow period. That would harm the river ecology and threaten animal life, he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Baise has been charged with assault and theft, after he allegedly tried to throttle Mr McGivern and allegedly stole his cellphone in January during an argument about receivers that opened the gate shared by the three properties.

Mr McGivern said Mr Baise “became violent, threw me to the ground and throttled me, shouting that I had ‘caused all this shit with national parks’ to prevent him selling water”.

When the Bulletin asked about the assault and theft charges he is facing, Mr Baise shouted down the phone line “It’s not true! It’s rubbish!”

The assault case began in the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court last week and has been postponed.