PMB’s own toilets of shame

2011-05-14 00:00

IN France township residents have toilets. The toilets have walls. They have an outlet pipe. But for five years these outlet pipes have remained unconnected. As a result many residents started to use the portable toilets that council provided. But these are now full and haven’t been emptied for a while.

After living for more than five years with a toilet inside her one-room RDP house, Florence Bhengu (60) said she has yet again been promised that her problem would be solved.

“For years we have been suffering because these toilets are filling up and are spilling into houses,” she said.

“They now come here and promise that they’ll fix our toilets of shame because they want us to vote for them. They must just forget about my vote,” she added.

However, like many other residents in France — the low cost area outside Imbali in Pietermaritzburg — Bhengu doubts the promise. She suspects that it is just a ploy to get her to vote for ANC, which governs Msunduzi Municipality.

The area falls under ANC councillor Alpha Shelembe, former council speaker, who is aware of the problem.

The France toilet saga follows the pattern of similar problems, first identified in DA-run Cape Town and targeted by the ANC, before town after town run by the ANC in other provinces were also exposed as having open toilets.

The troublesome toilet is inside Bhengu’s house in the extension area of the settlement. She said she has witnessed maggots floating over the rim of her filled-up toilet. She complained about the unbearable smell of faeces that fills her house, forcing family members to spend most of the time outside.

“When this toilet gets full. I empty it into my bath basin and throw the dirt into my garden. I do this several times a week. This is shameful. I’m even ashamed of having visitors in my house,” she said.

Her granddaughter Slindile Nkabinde (18) owns a nearby house. She has opted to demolish her internal toilet because of what it does to her house.

“Dirty water would spill over and fill my whole house. So last year I decided to remove the seat and covered the space with soil. I now go to neighbours’ houses to relieve myself,” said Nkabinde.

Nkabinde’s neighhours have dug holes outside their houses, which they use to dump the effluent from their toilets. Others are using 41 mobile toilets, which were supplied to them by the municipality last year at a cost of R41 000 per month. Those toilets are now filled up and are unusable since the authority last collected the buckets more than two months ago.

According to the municipal spokesperson Brian Zuma, Msunduzi needs R2 million to supply 2 000 mobile toilets in the area while there are no permanent structures.

On visiting the area on Thursday, The Witness was told that other residents are forced to fill plastic bags with faeces and throw them into nearby bushes.

“Other people just walk into the bushes to relieve themselves,” said a resident.

It is alleged that this week young women came into the area taking details of houses that have problematic toilets.

“We have been reporting the problem to the municipal office for years and nothing has ever been done. Now that we are approaching elections they come here with a promise of attending to the problem. They think we are stupid,” said 31-year-old Tshengisile Latha.

Zuma said the municipality requires R90 million to eradicate the problem “for good”.

“We have sought the intervention of the national government. The Department of Human Settlement has promised to give us R40 million to install waterborne toilets,” he said.

Zuma said the problems were either caused by the constructor who abandoned their work before completing the houses, or because the area is so rocky to is difficult to install a proper sewerage system.

“Also the land in which the houses are has rocks which makes it difficult to dig septic tanks,” Zuma said.

Now that we are approaching elections they come here with a promise of attending to the problem. They think we are stupid.

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