The crock at the end of the rainbow ...

2011-04-16 17:12

Every Thursday morning the smell of a week’s faeces fills the air in Ratanda Extension 2, Heidelberg.

Swarms of fat green flies buzz around the buckets as a group of four Lesedi local municipality workers put the mostly half-filled containers onto a trailer.

One worker goes to each house before the tractor arrives and puts the buckets out along the route of the pick-up tractor.

Two other men put the full buckets onto the tractor and replaces them with empty ones. The fourth worker is the tractor driver.

None of them is wearing gloves or protective masks.

The only protective clothes they wear are worn out rainsuit pants and boots.

A municipality employee approaches City Press to complain on his colleagues’ behalf.

“They are all sick; they have chest pains,” the employee says.

The man, also a Ratanda resident, cannot be identified because the municipality does not allow employees to speak to the media.

The four men collect the buckets, dump the contents and wash the buckets at a ­water pipe next to Extension 2.

Their unofficial spokesperson complains that they are “paid peanuts” and that the ­municipality does not give them gloves ­regularly.

“Once in a while they get masks and gloves, but those things wear out so they just continue working with bare hands and without protection,” he says.

Residents with bucket toilets are among the fortunate few in Extension 2.

Kaizer Shabalala (75), a former farmworker, digs a hole in his yard and simply finds another spot when it fills up.

“The truck doesn’t pass our house, that’s why we dig our own holes,” says the blind grandfather, who lives with his sons, Mokholo (25) and Mzwakhe (17).

“I want a place to stay, with water and electricity,” Shabalala says.

He also wants a lavatory.

Lesedi local municipality manager Pieter van den Heever insists that all workers are issued with protective clothing, including gloves and masks.

“Their supervisors will be requested to oversee the problem,” he promised.

Van den Heever said bucket toilets were all removed with the formalisation of informal settlements.

Ratanda Extension 2 is not yet classified as a formal settlement, but the rest of the area around it is.

The municipality insists that money for pit toilets is available in the budget and the process will start as soon as land for the project has been approved.

The municipality is in the process of ­moving Extension 2 residents to another piece of land.

Van den Heever said “night soil” buckets would be done away with by November.

Last year the municipality promised to ­do away with all bucket toilets by the end of last month.

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