SARS does not give a … toilet

2013-06-18 00:00

“THERE are no public bathrooms here, try the mall.”

This is what staff at the SARS offices in Pietermaritzburg said to Mithesh Jethoo when he asked for a toilet after waiting hours for assistance. The SARS building in Armitage Road has no toilet facilities for the public.

The Witness have since confirmed that there are no public toilets and that the SARS staff suggest the mall for those who wish to use a toilet.

People needing to use a toilet are forced to go out and find one in the surrounding area. Since SARS moved their offices from town, it is difficult for people without their own transport to get there. Those who use public transport to get to SARS cannot just drive to Liberty Mall, the facilities recommended by SARS staff, to use a toilet. To get to the mall pedestrians have to cross the N3 via the busy bridge.

Jethoo is one of many who have complained about the lack of facilities at the SARS offices. Complaints have been made to Adrian Lackay, the national spokesperson for SARS, who says he has dealt with them. “The building just doesn’t have the capacity for public bathrooms. We give priority to our staff members who need the facilities. We are not expected to provide toilets for the public,” Lackay told The Witness.

Absence of facilities is problematic. People have to wait hours for assistance and it is a huge inconvenience to leave the building for a toilet break. It is especially difficult for people with small children or babies who cannot wait to use the toilet. It is also problematic for the elderly.

“It is totally wrong” said Jethoo. “SARS is a service provider, yet they do not even have facilities for our basic needs.

“I sat next to an elderly woman, and after waiting for three hours she was desperate to use the bathroom. I asked the staff to make an exception for her as she was old and desperate, but they were not willing to accommodate her.

“There were many elderly people in the office. Do they expect us all to go out and urinate in the streets?”

Lackay said that if there is a valid desperate need for someone to use the toilet they will accommodate them, but are reluctant to do so as this poses a security risk. “We do not want to allow members of the public into the staff offices. Working with taxes and money puts our staff at risk,” Lackay said.

According to Lackay, there are plans to build new SARS offices in Pietermaritzburg in the next financial year.

This new building should have the capacity for public toilets. Lackay said: “People should be more concerned with SARS’ ability to do our job properly rather than worrying about whether we have toilets or not.”

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