By Bev Mortimer:
Kouga ratepayer associations and residents have expressed horror that Kouga Municipality is reducing the number of sanitised toilets by half in informal settlements right across Kouga this month.
Fears have been expressed that residents could revert to the bucket system or use the bush and this is against the national trend of providing more toilets. Widespread concern about the health situation and probable diseases arising – as has happened elsewhere in the country owing to poor sanitation – is expected to grow.
About 15 sanitised toilets were removed from Sea Vista on 5 May and by the end of the month all Kouga areas (see below) will have had half their toilets taken away. There are now only 15 sanitised units for about 6 000 squatters in Sea Vista. Other areas’s also face long queues if they wish to use the sanitised toilets.
“Ons moet nok k#k in die ope veld!”
A Sea Vista resident said in broken Afrikaans: “Hulle het nie gese nie!” .”Ons moet nou k#k in die ope veld!” (They didn’t say; we must now poop in the open bush.”)
“Toilets and proper sewerage removal are basic services,” one outraged resident told this paper. Another said: “Taking away toilets and forcing people to use the bush threatens the hygiene of not only those areas where the loos have been cut back but neighbouring areas as well since raw, exposed sewage gets into the water supply and causes cholera* and typhoid.”
The municipality was asked by St Francis Chronicle what replacement toilet facilities would be supplied, whether this was a cost cutting exercise and whether residents in those areas had been informed in time to make alternative toilet arrangements. This newspaper did not receive a reply to these specific questions. The municipal statement simply read: “The municipality is removing those toilets that are seldom used. We pay the service provider per toilet, consequently, it was decided to remove those toilets that were not really being used so that the money could be put towards other services.
“We do not expect this to have an adverse effect on health conditions since the removed toilets were not really being used in the first place. The municipality’s Health section will, however, monitor the situation so that any threats that might arise, can be addressed immediately.”
Paul Hjul of Jeffreys Bay Residents’ Association, says the removal is “simply disgusting and of grave concern”.
The St Francis Bay Residents Association (SFBRA) says it is concerned about the possibility of this becoming a health problem and will monitor the situation, adding that it has established that many toilets are not being used as they are not easily accessible and some have been vandalised.
Sea Vista Residents’ Association chairman, Peet Leens, said he is also worried about the health situation worsening. He claims dozens of residents are already going for treatment of diarrhoea at the local clinic. But he points out that shack dwellers do not pay for water and sewerage removal.
”These people cannot complain about toilets as they have homes elsewhere, such as in King Williams Town. They came here looking for jobs and set up shacks, knowing there were no toilet facilities. “Us permanent residents have to pay for services,” Leens said, “and have to live with the consequences of bad sanitation in the area.”
The supplier of the sanitised toilets, Sanitech, confirmed the removal of toilets but declined to comment. The company has been supplying and servicing toilets to Kouga’s township and informal settlements for the past two years.
St Francis Chronicle has since learned that each toilet costs around R400 p/m and 220 have been supplied by Sanitech to the municipality. The hired units are in the following areas: 10 units Oyster Bay; 15 Thornhill; 10 Loerie; 32 Patenise; 20 Tokyo Sexwale; Ocean View 40; 10 Humansdorp; Kruisfontein 25; 30 Sea Vista; 21 Kwanozama; 3 Humansdorp taxi rank; 2 Patensie school. Half of these are being removed.
Hjul says it may be that the monthly amount charged under the contract does impose a heavy burden on the fiscus. “However, the +-R88000 per month (220 toilets at R400 p/m) should probably be extracted from certain councillors and managers salaries before undercutting basic human service.
“Even as a cost cutting exercise the action makes no sense as prevention is significantly better than cure and “monitoring the health” situation is likely to cost as much as simply having properly deployed sanitation facilities. Quite honestly it appears necessary to me for Kouga to have access to portable toilets as a bridging measure for sanitation and for disaster management.
“It simply seems to be a desperate attempt to make trimmings on the budget without annoying those with political power. If we ignore the blatant disregard for the rights of the poor the threat to the wealthy similarly exists as the effects of dysentery are of a global reach.”
It has been nationally reported that the Free State and the Eastern Cape have the highest number of households using the bucket system. The Eastern Cape also reportedly has the highest number of households with no toilet facilities at all. In addition it has been reported that diarrhoea kills more children than HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria combined – and its main cause is food and water contaminated with human waste.
The failure to deliver basic services has been government’s Achilles heel in the past few years, resulting in wide spread protests and violence, a recent SABC report said. “One of the key delivery targets that will have to be met in order to reinstate public trust will be the removal of the bucket system,” the report said..
The national target set by government was that the bucket system was to have been completely eradicated by 2007.Some concerned St Francis Bay residents have pointed out that the lessons of the sewerage and typhoid scandal at Diepsloot and Delmas should be learned.
On its website Sanitech makes the following remarks about sanitation in informal settlements: “The government has made the extension of basic services to those previously denied access a priority. Among the most basic and critical of these is the access to clean water and sanitation services by citizens.
“However, not everyone has even this minimum of access, and there are many people without water and sanitation services in the informal settlements across the country.
“Chemical toilets can be installed, removed or repaired quickly; they are serviced and cleaned at least once a week. Chemicals control odour.”
Last year residents in Sea Vista complained about the lack of sufficient toilets. They wanted more as they had to use the bush when in a hurry. In response then, the municipality told this paper that this informal settlement is illegal and on land that belongs to the Department of Public Works. “It is a challenge servicing informal settlements”, a statement said.
“The location and number of toilets and taps was decided on by the municipality in conjunction with the community but superintendent for the area, Pieter Felix, will investigate the possibility of providing more.
“The long-term solution to these families’ plight is proper housing. The municipality has already received approval from the Department of Human Settlements to build 2 000 RDP houses in this area.
“The main hold-up has been ownership of the land. The municipality has for the past five years or so been trying to secure the rights to the land so that proper houses and facilities can be developed for those who live there. There is no other land nearby on which to accommodate these families. There have been many obstacles but the municipality is hopeful that it will be able to finalise the land matter by the latest next year (2012),” the municipal statement said.
It was widely reported in 2004 that 738 people were diagnosed with cholera in the Eastern Cape, four of whom died
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I do understand the plight of the township people needing more sanitation and refuse removal BUT its about time the people also start making an effort to keeping their township clean and stop vandalising the amenities given to them which ultimately come out of our pockets. When we first moved here my daughter of six turned to me and said “why are they killing mother earth mom” when she kept seeing the refuse dumped on the side of the road. Now if a six year old can understand that concept why can the township people not??? Stricter measures can be taken by the schools and municipality to enforce that the township people also start cleaning rather than always just expecting someone else to do it. I’m sure if they had to be fined or charged rates and taxes as we are then maybe they would be more aware of not just dumping in and around their areas. The recycling project is a great way of clearing the recycling goods – maybe they could implement the same system with refuse removal. Something to ponder over!!!!