Living in filth over a decade

2010-07-14 00:00

FILTHY water with pieces of used toilet paper and raw human waste from sewerage pipes and blocked toilets have been a familiar unpleasant sight for members of about 20 Imbali families in Pietermaritzburg for over a decade now.

The families said the sight is accompanied by the putrid smell of human waste, especially in summer.

They said heavy rains always exacerbate the situation.

When The Witness visited Mlahlankosi Road recently following an invitation from desperate residents, large rivulets of water were seen flowing from blocked toilets and manholes into the nearby Willowfountain River.

The river joins the Msunduzi River, home of the Dusi Canoe Marathon, several kilometres downstream on the Camps Drift Canal.

People and their small children tiptoed on bricks to avoid stepping in the sewage water. Others sat outside their four-room houses in front of the nasty pools.

“We have been living like this since our sewerage system was damaged by the big storms of 1995,” said Ntombi Dladla .

Residents draw cooking and drinking water from taps surrounded by the sewage.

The water pooling in front of Dladla’s kitchen door is from her neighbour Fanifu Shezi’s home.

“Dirty water with excrement and toilet paper just spewed all over my yard,” said Shezi (37), who is disabled as a result of a stroke.

The toilets, just holes in the ground, were originally left without toilet bowls and seats, but many residents have since upgraded their toilets themselves.

But Shezi, who is unemployed and disabled, could not afford a proper toilet seat, so he made his seat out of a fibreglass box he picked up from a dump.

He said during the big floods, which damaged many houses on the street, soil got into his toilet and blocked the sewerage pipes. Now his toilet is half full because waste cannot be flushed away.

“When there is a large pool of dirty water in my yard I cannot go to my toilet, so I’m forced to go to my neighbour’s toilet.

“Municipal workers once came here, but they just looked at the situation in my yard while standing in my neighbour’s yard and promised to come back to fix my sewerage.

“They told me that pipes in the area needed to be replaced because they are all blocked with soil. It has been years since they said that,” said Shezi.

Agnes Majola (70) said water from her toilet and her neighbours’ toilet has damaged her house.

“Water comes into my house through cracks. My house has been damp for years, and I am concerned that one day it will collapse,” said Majola.

Local councillor Khethokwakhe Khambule said he knew about the problem even before he became the area councillor in 1996.

“I informed the municipality about this in 1996. I told them that these pipes needed to be replaced because they are old and have decayed since they were installed in 1962.

“[Former mayor] Zanele Hlatshwayo had promised to visit Mlahlankosi Road to see the situation. But she got fired soon after that,” said Khambule.

A Pietermaritzburg general practitioner explained the risks of being exposed to sewage.“They can get gastroenteritis, skin infections, and chronic diarrhoea among other conditions. These diseases are very dangerous, and can be even worse for children.”

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