Khayelitsha toilet audit finds “dire” results

GroundUp staff
Open toilets in Makhaza. Archive photo by Masixole Feni.
GroundUp staff

One in four of the Khayelitsha public toilets, which are supposed to be cleaned by the City of Cape Town’s janitorial services, is not working, a social audit by the Social Justice Coalition has found.

Janitors are supposed to repair minor faults to the toilets and to report bigger faults to the City’s call centre and to their supervisors.

But of the 528 toilets inspected during the audit, 26% did not work. In total, 15% were blocked, 15% did not flush, 12% had no water and 6% had no sewage pipe.

The audit was conducted over a week in July in BM Section, PJS, Nkanini and BT section, with about 90 participants interviewing 193 residents and 31 janitors.

In terms of the procedures for the R60 million-a-year janitorial service launched in 2012, janitors are supposed to clean the communal flush toilets and the areas around the toilets daily, including weekends. But only 188 of the toilets inspected were found to be clean. The rest were either dirty (149) or very dirty (109).

The findings are “dire”, say the SJC and its partners, Ndifuna Ukwazi and the International Budget Partnership, in the report released today.

“Due to a lack of planning and poor management, the implementation of the janitorial service remains inconsistent and haphazard. The result is that residents, many of whom rely on communal toilets, are left without access to clean, safe and dignified toilets, posing life-threatening risks to the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the city.


Photo courtesy of SJC Social Audit report.

“Every day that this continues, the rights to life, equality, dignity, safety and environmental health of informal settlement residents are violated”.

The audit found:

  • A third of residents say janitors clean their toilet only one day a week, not every day
  • Janitors say they work on weekends but more than 58 % of residents say they don’t
  • Some residents clean the communal toilets themselves
  • The fault reporting system did not work effectively
  • About half of residents interviewed were unsatisfied with the service.

The cleanliness of the inside of each toilet was measured using photographs of “clean”, “dirty” and “very dirty” toilets. Though the City’s operating procedures stipulate that the toilet pan, floor, cisterns, walls and area outside the toilet must be cleaned, only 36 % of toilets inspected were found to be clean inside and only 27 % were found to be clean outside. One quarter of toilets were found to be very dirty outside.

“Children play on the grounds around the toilets and people must access the area to use the toilets,” says the report. “All too often the grounds are littered with rubbish and in many cases raw sewerage or leaking water creates pools of water which residents have to negotiate to enter the toilets.”

Most toilets (75%) were kept locked by residents, and though 75% of residents said they had access to a key, janitors usually did not. Some janitors left the locked toilets uncleaned, others tried to call a resident or returned later but some toilets were never cleaned, the audit found. A system of master keys being tried out by the City in other areas might be an encouraging start, the report says.

Officially, there is one janitor for every 25 toilets, but though in BM section the ratio was better - one janitor for 15 toilets - in other areas it was much worse. In PJS section there were no janitors at all.

The audit also found that most janitors were not being inoculated against disease and some did not have the necessary protective clothing.

The SJC and Ndifuna Ukwazi called on the City to take immediate action to make sure that all janitors get the necessary protective clothing, tools and equipment and are inoculated, and that all toilets in the four areas are repaired. They also called on the City to release the janitorial implementation plan within four weeks, and immediately release a timeline for the development of a plan for sanitation in informal settlements.


Photo courtesy of SJC Social Audit report.

The janitorial services study follows an audit by the SJC of the chemical toilets serviced by private contractor Mshengu. That audit, in 2013, found that half the toilets were damaged, inaccessible or in a state of “extreme uncleanliness”. Residents reported that about a third of the toilets had not been emptied in the week before the audit. The findings led to an S A Human Rights Commission investigation which concluded that the City’s roll out of chemical toilets violated the rights to basic sanitation and dignity of informal settlement residents.

The City has appealed against the Human Rights Commission findings and the Commission is assessing the appeal, communications coordinator Isaac Mangena said.

Meanwhile, the Mshengu contract, worth R200 million, has been renewed this year.

The audit can be downloaded from the SJC website.

The response of the City of Cape Town to the report can be read here.

Read about the difficulties the SJC had in getting information to compile the report.

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TOPICS:  Health Housing Sanitation Social Audit

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