Rollout flushed out

2017-08-22 06:01

A clash of wills has taken place over the delivery of portable toilets in Masiphumelele. During the recent rollout of portable flush toilets (PFTs), City of Cape Town officials and service providers were allegedly threatened by some community leaders.

Over 60 toilets were to be delivered to homes in Masiphumelele, but were “forcibly removed” from recipients’ homes,” says Xanthea Limberg, Mayco member for informal settlements, water, waste services and energy. “This latest impasse has led to City officials and the service provider being threatened and intimidated to the degree that a case has been opened with the police by the officials.”

Limberg says one objection from some community leaders is that the toilets “are considered to be undignified”.“We understand the preference for flush toilets, but we are unable to provide the necessary infrastructure to install flush toilets due to high density and wetland conditions, with some structures in places being a mere 100cm above the water table. One portion of the settlement is built on land that is not owned by the City, and by law the City is unable to install infrastructure on privately owned land – in this case, Sanparks.”

Residents sometimes relieve themselves into containers at night due to safety concerns. These are then emptied into canals, Limberg explains.

“The distribution of PFTs will divert sewage away from the canals. PFTs also provide a safer option for women, the elderly and children who have to walk to the communal toilets at night. PFTs store waste in sealed tanks which are regularly and safely emptied by the City.”

Community activist Rosemary Milbank says community leaders and members had not been informed that PFTS were going to be delivered, and had in the past vetoed them. She says the toilets offer “no privacy and no dignity”.

“The cylinders are small and will need to be emptied at least daily. With toilet paper the cylinder will be full in no time.”

Milbank says the community “is demanding one proper toilet to five shacks”. “We have 15 000 people living in the area known as the wetlands and only 264 toilets. Ninety-nine percent of these toilets are locked by the council and five families are each given a key. Thousands more do not have keys and have to use the one or two unlocked toilets. These block and break quickly and are not cleaned and repaired as promised.”

Limberg counters that numerous meetings were held with the community leadership. “It must be noted that only a small group of leaders in the community are actively preventing the most vulnerable members of the community from accessing the PFTs on offer,” she says.

Several alternative sanitation methodologies were presented to the community, who indicated a preference for PFTs, Limberg says, and the PFTS are emptied and serviced three times a week by a City service provider.


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