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Maggots, bodies and stench: what Khayelitsha residents say about their toilets

Mary-Anne Gontsana

29 April 2015

Wilfred Solomons from Mayor Patricia de Lille’s office accepts submissions from Khayelitsha residents outside the civic centre on 23 April. Photo by Mary-Anne Gontsana.

Last Thursday the Social Justice Coalition handed over 500 submissions, written by Khayelitsha residents, on the municipal budget to the City of Cape Town. GroundUp examined a sample of them to find out what residents are asking for.

Most of the submissions we examined ask for flush toilets and taps. Many residents ask the City to stop spending money on Mshengu toilets. Mshengu is the company that supplies the large blue plastic communal toilets to some of the city’s informal settlements.

Amongst these are also statements made by some residents about their experiences with portable toilets (pota-pota) and the distances they have to walk to a toilet or to a bush to relieve themselves.

Monwabisi Park resident, Banele Siga who is requesting a flush toilet in his area said in his submission: “The bush which I walk to to relieve myself is filthy. It is not safe because there are times where you come across dead bodies.”

Phumeza Diko from BM Section, said she had a ten-year-old child who because of feeling embarrassed to use a pota-pota, resorted to going all the way next to the N2 highway in the bushes. “I worry about the safety of my child and these pota-potas make us sick because they stink and they attract a lot of flies. I want government to get rid of Mshengu toilets and pota-potas and they must build us dignified flush toilets that will make it possible for us to clean them ourselves.”

Nkanini resident, Olwethu Mxoli, has been living in Nkanini since November 2003. She says ever since she started living there, she has had nothing but bad experiences with sanitation. “We did not have toilets. We had to go to another informal settlement to use toilets and we were charged R5. After two years Mshengu toilets were introduced. We were happy but not for long because after a day or two the toilets had an unbearable smell to the point that you couldn’t use them. We stopped using them and resorted to using the bush and open fields. After a few years, flush toilets were installed. We were told that five families had to share one toilet, and because some families did not get keys to lock the toilets, about 20 to 50 people would end up using one toilet. They started breaking, blocking and sewage pipes started leaking. Even now some of the toilets are not working. We are still using bushes and open fields which is very dangerous. Last year, I lost my six year old cousin who got hit by a car while crossing the freeway. I plead with the City to install more flush toilets and to maintain them, we do not need Mshengu or pota-potas.”

Asandiswa Manjongolo from Site B says in her area they use Mshengu toilets which is difficult because not only are they filthy, she also always struggles getting the key to use the toilets especially at night. “Sometimes I end up using an open space to relieve myself because I don’t have toilet keys. Mshengu toilets are dirty and they are filled with maggots. At night when you use the toilet, when getting up you find that the maggots are stuck to your bum. We can’t carry torches or cellphones because we are afraid to get robbed. I want government to provide us with flush toilets in our yard because the outside ones are dangerous. The Mayor must stop wasting our parents’ tax money on Mshengu toilets. They must build proper flush toilets”.

Simthembile Nako, Nwabisa Msebenzi and Thandazwa Macamba from Site B all complained that they were getting illnesses and infections caused by dirty toilets.

Last week, about 150 Social Justice Coalition (SJC) members, supported by Ndifuna Ukwazi, formed a queue behind a toilet outside the Civic Centre and chanted struggle songs, as they waited for their individual submissions on the City of Cape Town’s draft budget for the 2015/2016 financial year to be collected. Wilfred Solomons from Mayor Patricia de Lille’s office came to accept the submissions, many of which were handed to him one-by-one by the residents who wrote the submissions.


Published originally on GroundUp .
© 2016 GroundUp. Creative Commons License
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.