Sexwale to appoint toilet task team
Cape Town - Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale will appoint a national task team to investigate recurring complaints that local government has failed to provide enclosed toilets in poor communities.
"Quite clearly many of these abandoned toilets-in-the-veld projects, which have been constructed as far back as year 2000, require not a piecemeal approach as they are exposed, but a comprehensive approach," the ministry said.
As a result, Sexwale will announce the task team's members next week. It will deal with the matter in each province and all municipalities.
"The poorest of the poor cannot be left in this undignified situation through a fault not of their making."
Open toilet controversies
The announcement came after both national and local government struggled to say what progress had been made in enclosing open toilets in Rammulotsi, near Viljoenskroon in the Free State, since they were discovered in May.
Sexwale now also had to contend with a second open toilet controversy in the province, in Tshiame, near Harrismith.
Sexwale's spokesperson Mandulo Maphumulo said she knew "everything" was in place at "government level" to complete the enclosure of 1 600 toilets built in Rammulotsi in 2003. She could however not provide figures on progress made in the past two months.
The issue severely embarrassed the ANC on eve of the May municipal elections, while the party was making mint out of the Democratic Alliance's failure to enclose toilets in Khayelitsha on the Cape Flats.
A spokesperson for the mayor of Moqhaka promised the municipality, which runs Viljoenskroon, would give more information on Friday, as did the provincial human settlements department's spokesperson.
The Sowetan on Thursday reported claims by the DA that only 112 toilets in Rammulotsi had been enclosed since May.
A day earlier, Sexwale visited Tshiame amid an outcry over claims that the Maluti-a-Phofung municipality had built 1 000 toilets on land earmarked for low-cost houses, and intended to sell these to residents for thousands of rands.
He subsequently said these were rumours that needed to be "flushed away".
But the ministry conceded that after the visit it was still not clear whether Harrismith municipal officials had indeed tried to extort money from the poor, or whether local residents were simply misinformed.
"There are no 'open toilets'," ministerial spokesperson Mandulo Maphumulo said.
"They were built on service sites and people were told that they have to pay R10 000 or R12 000 for those. It may be a rumour, it may be true.
"We have to investigate. He (Sexwale) went there with the police and said 'if somebody told you this, tell us who they are'. The community also has a responsibility to report this."
Maphumulo said the Maluti-a-Phofung municipality had built 500 toilets on the site in Harrismith in question. Of these, 311 were part of service sites that would become RDP houses under an approved project.
On the rest of the sites, houses would be built for the so-called gap market - low-income earners who could not access bank financing for a home.
The situation in Harrismith angered Cosatu. Trade union federation spokesperson Patrick Craven called on police to investigate and arrest any officials found guilty of profiteering at the expense of the poor.
The SA Human Rights Commission commended Sexwale's "swift response" in visiting the area, and sounded a warning to the municipality.
"The commission condemns the pattern of lack of consultation, engagement and non-provision of information by some municipalities, including the Maluti-a-Phofung municipality.
"The commission cautions municipalities that legislation and judgments of our courts actually require not only consultation, but the active participation of our communities."
Early last year, the DA become embroiled in a political storm for failing to enclose more than 1 300 toilets in Makhaza, on the Cape Flats. After a long legal battle, the City of Cape Town on Monday began building structures around these.