A step closer to truth on open toilets – Zille

2010-07-05 13:05

The repeated allegation that “for two years, 55 families in

Makhaza, Khayelitsha, were forced to relieve themselves in full public view” is

untrue, Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille has said.

Writing in her weekly newsletter, the Western Cape premier also

slammed the ANC Youth League and SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) for their

roles in the saga.

There were too many contradictions and unanswered questions. And

too few facts, about the open toilets saga, she said.

The media had repeatedly reported that 55 families in Makhaza were

forced to relieve themselves in full public view for more than two years.

“This has been repeated so often, in various ways, that I believed

it was true. I apologised in Parliament.

“And I asked myself: ‘how was it possible for this to happen under

a DA administration, and under my watch as mayor’?

“But the more I thought about it, the less the story hung together:

If this project started in 2007, why did I only hear about it in January 2010?

Why didn’t anyone protest sooner?

“Even more mystifying was why the ANC didn’t use the ‘open toilets’

against me in the run-up to the 2009 election?

“And most puzzling of all: why did Andile Lili, the project’s paid

facilitator since 2008 (as well as a local ANCYL leader), only start to protest

against the project when it was 96% complete?

“Indeed, given that he was the project facilitator, why was he

protesting at all?” Zille asked.

“The answer is simply this: there were, in fact, no open toilets in

2007 or 2008 or indeed until the end of 2009.

“The 55 toilets that remained open were those installed in the very

final stage of the upgrading project – in November 2009 – when 96% of the 1 316

toilets provided for each family had already been enclosed.

“For some reason, the last 55 were not.”

Following a newspaper photograph of an open toilet in January 2010,

Mayor Dan Plato immediately ordered them to be covered, despite the objections

of the 1 261 families who had enclosed their own toilets.

But on January 25, when the city arrived to enclose the toilets,

they were prevented from doing so by a small group of people claiming to

represent “the community”.

Two subsequent attempts by the city to erect enclosures, were

thwarted when the ANCYL tore them down, despite almost all the individual

families requesting, in writing, that the city enclose their toilets, she


During the time that the 55 toilets remained open, no person was

“forced” to use them.

The community was well serviced with an alternative option – one

enclosed toilet for every five households which was the national norm for

incremental upgrading projects.

Given that 96% of the families in the project now had their own

toilets, the communal toilets were free most of the time.

“In other words, the repeated allegation that ‘for two years, 55

families in Makhaza were forced to relieve themselves in full public view’ is

entirely without foundation,” Zille said.

Upgrading informal settlements had two phases – providing

infrastructure services, such as roads, stormwater, water, and sewage, and

secondly erecting the house.

The two phases had to be aligned, because if concrete toilet

enclosures were provided on each plot during phase one, they had to be removed

in phase two to incorporate the toilet into the house.

This meant an additional cost of R4 000 per plot, deducted from the

R75 000 subsidy for each family’s top structure.

This meant, in practical terms, that a concrete enclosure in phase

one, would result in a house in phase two that was two square metres smaller

than it would otherwise have been.

“If you enclose your own toilet in phase one, it can be

incorporated into your house in phase two, and you will reap the benefit of a

bigger house.

“This is why families choose to enclose their own toilets in phase


“It is an empowering and logical choice. That is, until the ANCYL

decides otherwise,” Zille said.

The saddest aspect of the saga was the “pitiful report” of the

SAHRC, which “is full of the factual inaccuracies required to reach the

conclusion that the council violated the human rights of the residents of


“It is the clearest possible demonstration of what happens when the

ANC deploys its parliamentary cadres into institutions that are supposed to be

independent of the ruling party,” Zille said.


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