NEWS | EAST LONDON 

No cleaning materials or protective clothing for Duncan Village janitors

Workers use their salaries to buy cleaning products

Photo of toilets
Toilet cleaners in Duncan Village say they are working without protective clothingand are forced to clean blocked toilets using their own funds. Photo: Manqulo Nyakombi
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Toilet cleaners in Duncan Village Informal Settlement in East London say they have been servicing the area without protective clothing, cleaning materials and are yet to get their health vaccination.

The workers from Holomisa, Khayelitsha, Florence said they are forced to use their salaries to buy cleaning materials. The cleaners have reported the shortage of cleaning materials to municipal officials and ward councillors. They believe their pleas are “falling on deaf ears.”

These workers are employed under the municipality’s Expanded Public Works Programme.

In 2015 GroundUp visited janitors in Duncan Village who raised similar concerns. When we returned to the area earlier this month, the workers said that nothing had changed.

The workers have been earning R2,400 a month.

They said that they used R200 from their wages to buy cleaning products like Handy Andy, power soap, Domestos, and a mop and broom. They also buy their own gloves for R200, which they say only last for about two months.

Each area has ten toilets with two cleaners. Some areas like Holomisa have as many as 1,000 people sharing the 10 toilets. Many of the toilets have been vandalised and are often blocked.

A cleaner in Holomisa, who asked not to be named, said she was contracted to work 14 days a month. She has been a janitor in the area for three years.

“To make things easy for [ourselves], we decided to work everyday,” she said. “We asked them for salary increases because we are using our own money to buy cleaning material, but our supervisor made it very clear that we will not get an increase,” she said.

Another cleaner who only identified herself as Mabatane from Florence Informal Settlement said that she was no longer concerned about her own health.“The only thing that matters is to put food on my table for my two children. We are not happy with these working conditions, but we accept that they will never change,” she said.

Ward councillor Ntombizandile Mhlola said toilet cleaners have been working without protective clothing and cleaning materials for years. She said she had raised the matter with the Buffalo City municipality.

The South African Municipal Workers’ Union Buffalo City chairperson Foulata Lomberg said: “Our members are hired directly by BCMM and we have made sure that they have all the working material and safety clothes.” She said the cleaners interviewed by GroundUp were not Union members.

BCMM spokesperson Sibusiso Cindi refused to give the name of the contracted company employing the cleaners.

“I can not answer this. You need to find the company the cleaners are working for,” he said.

In response to questions from GroundUp, spokesperson for Buffalo City Metro Mayor Xola Phakathi, Ayabulela Ngoqo said: “We were not aware of it. We will investigate the matter and take action against those responsible even if it’s a manager or supervisor.”

Ngoqo said that in the meantime they would ask their Engineering and Sanitation Department to provide protective clothing and cleaning materials to the cleaners.

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