Community 'needs bulletproof toilets'
Cape Town - Corrugated iron toilet enclosures are not acceptable for Khayelitsha residents because criminals can shoot through the walls, the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said on Friday.
"The corrugated iron relates to the safety of the people that live in that area because of the crime incidences," commission chairperson Lawrence Mushwana said.
He was speaking in Cape Town at the release of the commission's findings on a complaint laid in January by the ANC Youth League against the City of Cape Town.
The commission found that the city violated people's right to dignity by not enclosing 51 toilets in the township's Makhaza area.
The finding comes after members of the league last week demolished tin-and-wood structures the city was putting up to give people privacy, demanding brick and mortar instead.
The council this week removed the toilets altogether, a move followed by violent protests in which 32 people were arrested.
Commission deputy chairperson Pregs Govender said on Friday that she hoped the fact that the findings were being released now would help bring peace to the area.
The full report would be made public next week.
"The commission finds that the city violated the right to dignity as envisaged by section 10 of the constitution by not enclosing the toilets," she said.
It also found that the consultation process over the toilets was inadequate.
"The commission recommends that the city reinstall the 51 toilets that they removed and enclose them effectively in terms of national law to ensure safety, cleanliness etcetera," Govender said.
She said the city should do the rebuilding with bricks and mortar.
"We don't want corrugated iron structures. We're saying those are not the sort of structures that afford the kind of right to dignity, to safety, because the issue of safety is a critical issue."
Mushwana said the commission could not recommend corrugated iron when the people living in the area "are telling you what happens in that particular area".
Asked how a brick and mortar toilet was safer than corrugated iron, he said: "In terms of bullets. You can shoot through a corrugated iron and you cannot do so in a mortar. (Those) were the arguments that were advanced."
Asked whether a brick toilet would not have a galvanised iron door like a corrugated iron toilet, he said: "You cannot make the whole structure vulnerable. You can open up if the corrugated iron's all around. I mean, that's what the people who are living there are saying."
"In other words, we are trying to move into a finding that will satisfy both the council and the community."
The city has said that the toilets were erected after it reached agreement with householders that they would build enclosures themselves, and as more than 1 000 other households in the area had done.
It said it did not want to put up permanent enclosures because it planned to redevelop the area.
Mushwana said on Friday, however, that people's dignity could not be "held in abeyance".
"I think whatever we want to do, let us do it properly. Let us suit the dignity, the needs of the people."
"It cannot be postponed on the basis that it's going to be redeveloped later."
Govender said it had to be asked why the council, which had a huge budget, did not prioritise the dignity of residents in an area where unemployment and poverty were rife.
Rulleska Singh, spokesperson for Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato, said the city had not received any formal communication from the commission on the findings.
"Until such time as we get the report, the mayor won't comment on the findings," she said.