R740m needed to end bucket toilets, 11 years after deadline

A bucket toilet.
A bucket toilet.

The government is still struggling to eradicate the bucket system and is unlikely to do so soon because of a lack of money.

A recent answer to a Parliamentary question from ANC member of Parliament Hlomani Chauke to Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane about the challenges her department faced in eradicating the bucket system and “restoring the dignity of persons nationwide” painted a shocking picture.

According to the minister, the remaining bucket toilets were limited to the Free State and Northern Cape. The figures were based on bucket toilets in formal areas only. They exclude informal settlements.

In 2016 all bucket toilets in formal areas in the Eastern Cape and North West provinces were eradicated.

The definition of a bucket toilet the department uses is a bucket or a similar container placed under a toilet seat and the contents disposed of by municipal services.

“In the current financial year (2017-2018) the department did not receive an allocation from the National Treasury towards the eradication of outstanding buckets,” she said. “[This] has led the department to reprioritise internally from other grants, such as the water sector infrastructure grant and accelerated community infrastructure programme to the value of R409 million, which was insufficient to conclude the programme.”

Mokonyane said about R741 million was needed to eradicate the remaining buckets in the Northern Cape and Free State. Of this, R458 million is needed for the Free State alone. The department recently told members of the Free State legislature that it will have to approach the province and the department for human settlements for financial help.

The department said in its presentation to the public accounts and finance committee in the Free State legislature it aimed to remove 22 085 bucket toilets by March next year. This has now been extended to June. It also revealed that nearly 17 000 toilets were built but were not in use.

DA chief whip in the Free State legislature, David van Vuuren, said the department “has built 16 823 toilet top structures across the Free State at a cost of about R252 million (R15 000 a toilet). But sadly, “not a single toilet is in working order since the bulk water reticulation, and sewerage infrastructure has not yet been established”.

Van Vuuren said it was “illogical” to build toilets without first establishing the bulk infrastructure needed for it to perform its function. He said thousands of families across the Free State had to “look at toilets they are unable to use”.

Responding to Van Vuuren, spokesperson for the department of water and sanitation, Sputnik Ratau, said it was easier to provide toilet top structures first while funds are secured for bulk infrastructure to support it.

“It is essentially about money and having to regularise the appointment of the service provider for it. It is important to understand this is a process. The target was about 22 000 toilets and at least 5 000 are flushing.”

The government has set several target dates for eradicating bucket toilets over the years.

In 2003 Cabinet approved the strategic framework for water services aimed at eradicating the bucket system by 2006. The government missed this deadline. Target dates have also been set for 2015 and missed. – GroundUp

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