Youths grab toilets meant for people with disabilities

Two bucket toilets shared by 22 “disabled households” in Vastrap informal settlement

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Photo of a toilet
Youths appropriated 21 toilets meant for elderly and disabled people in Vastrap. Photo: Mkhuseli Sizani

Toilets intended for dozens of elderly residents and people with disabilities were stolen by youths on Wednesday, shortly after being delivered by the municipality to Vastrap informal settlement in Port Elizabeth.

There are 22 “disabled households” living in shipping containers who share two bucket system toilets. The stench of piles of rubbish and uncovered faeces chokes the air around the containers. Wires for illegal electricity connections lie on the ground where children play.

Eleven years ago, Maria Petersen, 77, was the first person to be relocated to the area. “Since then I have been sharing this one bucket system toilet with other nine households … I am no longer relieving myself on it because it causes infections. I relieve myself in a 20-litre bucket then throw it in the toilet. The bucket fills up quickly because there are many of us using it, including our children. Every week, the municipal truck collects it.

“When it’s full we throw the poo and urine in the uncollected rubbish next to our containers. But that causes a huge stink especially on windy and hot days. All that smell comes inside these containers,” she said.

An area committee leader, Thomas Tukulu, said they hadn’t been informed about the delivery of the 21 chemical toilets. “We just saw the toilets being offloaded in an open field … While we [area committee members] were busy discussing how to distribute these toilets for the elderly and disabled, a group of about 20 young men and women arrived. They told us that these toilets belonged to them.

“A female committee member tried to explain to them who are the beneficiaries of these toilets. But one of them, a male, assaulted her and she retaliated. While we were busy trying to stop the fight the group started to grab the toilets and walked away with them,” he said.

Vastrap community leader Daniel Makeleni blamed the ward councillor for the chaos. “The councillor knows very well that we have gangs here who want to do things their own way. But when we try to address these issues we are regarded as people who are creating divisions between Xhosa and coloured communities,” said Makeleni.

But Ward 29 Councillor Vukile Dyele (ANC) said: “I had asked the area committee members to distribute the toilets … Also I had ordered them to give the disabled people living in the containers six toilets.”

“I will make sure that before the end of Thursday, 20 additional toilets are delivered in the area and six of them will be for container households.”

He said the relocation of the people living in the containers had been disrupted but it would start again next week. “They have no building materials and we will move them into Wendy houses with toilets,” said Dyele.

Late on Thursday, toilets were delivered to the container site.

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TOPICS:  Housing Sanitation

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