De Lille unhappy over SAHRC toilet report

2014-07-17 18:58
Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille. (Picture: Sapa)

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille. (Picture: Sapa)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Cape Town - An SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) report into sanitation in Cape Town's informal settlements has numerous shortcomings, the city's Mayor Patricia de Lille said on Thursday.

In a weekly newsletter, De Lille said the SAHRC's recommendations showed it did not understand the practical realities of service delivery.

"It is particularly astounding that the HRC can argue that the city's provision of chemical toilets constitutes unfair discrimination," she said.

According to the recently-released report people's right to basic sanitation, equality and dignity had been violated.

Basic sanitation was defined as a toilet that was safe, reliable, easy to keep clean and kept smells to a minimum.

It recommended the city develop norms and standards for a basic sanitation plan for informal settlements within six months.

De Lille said these were recommendations, not instructions or rulings as claimed in recent media reports. She argued chemical toilets were used by municipalities across the country.

"Is the HRC arguing that their provision in every such instance constitutes unfair discrimination? Unless they do so, in these cases it will create the impression that they are deliberately targeting Cape Town."

The Social Justice Coalition (SJC) said the report was a "major victory" for the poor and working class.

SJC project manager Axolile Notywala said the SAHRC investigation was the result of an SJC complaint and social audit.

The audit last year looked at the state of chemical toilets in Khayelitsha provided and serviced by outsourced company Mshengu Services, under contract between 2010 and 2013.

The commission began its investigation soon after. It said the city often treated "basic" and "emergency" sanitation as interchangeable terms in its programme.

It found the city had been formulaic in its sanitation provision without considering changing socio-economic contexts.

"A reasonable programme to realise the rights of basic sanitation must treat all persons affected... with 'care and concern' rather than merely an exercise of statistical compliance or a cold problem-solving endeavour," the report stated.

Emergency ratio

The city treated the emergency ratio of one toilet per five households as a target or milestone, rather than as a ceiling not to be exceeded, the SAHRC stated.

"Of course, the city would like to provide full flush toilets on a 1:1 ratio, but this is simply not possible given very real practical constraints," De Lille responded.

She said no other municipality voluntarily imposed a higher standard for access to sanitation, with 94% of households served at this ratio.

The commission opined that the city's widespread use of chemical toilets as viable basic sanitation in the long-term was unsatisfactory and did not meet mandatory national and local criteria.

De Lille said chemical toilets were only provided as a last resort and that portable flush toilets were provided to any community that requested them on a 1:1 ratio.

On equality, the SAHRC found that over 80% of the chemical toilets were in overwhelmingly black informal settlements.

The SAHRC found that though the city may not have overtly intended to discriminate, the violation of the right to access basic sanitation fell disproportionately on blacks.

On dignity, it was the commission's opinion that the city had equated the "informal" in informal settlements with temporary, despite many being in existence for years.

It said the city's sanitation programme for informal settlements continually referred to guidelines for emergency situations.

"To conceive of life in informal settlements as equivalent to emergencies, constant state of crises, is a fundamental affront to the dignity of the residents of those areas."

De Lille said the commission had ignored the fact that it had improved the provision of sanitation in informal settlements from 14 000 in 2006 to over 44 500 this year.

She accused the SAHRC of playing the race card and linked it to the ANC's election campaign.

"Finally, while I respect the important role of Chapter Nine institutions, it needs to be understood that they are there to underpin our democracy, not to undermine elected governments and their electoral mandate," she said.

Read more on:    sjc  |  sahrc  |  patricia de lille  |  cape town  |  service delivery

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Competition regulation for a growing and inclusive economy

ADVERTORIAL: The Competition Commission of South Africa is conducting advocacy work in the South African automotive aftermarket industry and has gazetted a Draft Code of Conduct for public comment.

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.