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Toilet breakdown in Masiphumelele

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“It’s like my house is a toilet” says resident

Photo of a toilet
A toilet in Masiphumelele that is shared by 15 households was damaged in a fire. Photo: Thembela Ntongana
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Since May, residents of TR section in Makhaya Ngoku, an informal settlement in Masiphumelele, have been living with blocked toilets and a terrible stench.

Resident Vuyo Tshongweni has sewage water flowing right in front of his house. He says for months he has been reporting the matter to the City. Tshongweni has a garden where he plants his vegetables and says sometimes the sewage water gets into his garden and home.

“Every time I report these toilets, calling and sending SMSs. Even when I see a municipality car from the City, I call them. They come and fix them. After two days, they’re back to being blocked again,” he said.

“They add more people, but do not add resources. We were supposed to be four families per toilet … There are not enough toilets,” said Tshongweni.

In his area, out of 16 toilets, only four are working.

Another resident, Andrew Variso, used to share a toilet with 15 households. That toilet has also stopped working.

Six toilets next to his home were demolished to make way for a road development. The toilets were not replaced and residents have ended up using one toilet. Then, in a fire last month, the toilet was damaged. Residents had to bring a cloth to cover the door for privacy to use the toilet.

“If you do not use toilets when you are at work, then you have to use the bush. How can 15 families use one tap and one toilet? It’s not right,” said Variso. 

Variso says the plumbing is at fault. “When one blocks, they all block. When you flush on one toilet, it comes out on another toilet. This is not safe, we have children and their health is at risk when we have open sewage in the community,” he said.

His neighbour, Nosihle Mashiya, complains she can smell the sewage from inside her home.

“There is no escaping this … It’s like my house is a toilet. It is not a way to live, but what can we do?” said Mashiya.

Her house is located directly opposite the blocked toilet. Her child has a rash; she doesn’t know whether or not it is caused by the sewage.

Councillor Benedicta van Minnen, the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements, said field officers from the City’s Human Settlements Directorate had visited the area and that the City would be engaging various stakeholders to determine a way forward.

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TOPICS:  Sanitation

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