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‘A toilet is a basic right to dignity’ – SJC

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While many South Africans live in relative comfort, most South Africans continue to live in unsanitary conditions. Last week, the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) filed affidavits of female residents who reside in the Khayelitsha informal settlements. The females cited poor sanitation of the communal toilet facilities and the accompanying ailments and safety concerns. The SJC has subsequently taken the City of Cape Town to the Cape High Court and to the Equality Court. It says that it wants the City to present to the court, within three months, the measures it will take to implement permanent sanitation facilities in non-temporary informal settlements.

An additional affidavit was filed by the director of Cornerstone Economic Research Conrad Barberton. The company was hired in January, 2016, to develop a sanitation costing model for the City.

Member of Social Justice Coalition and a resident in the informal settlement, Nosiphelele Msesiwe explains that she is one of 66 applicants in the case who has first-hand experience of using, what she describes, as toilets with poor sanitation.

As a resident of the Khayelitsha since May, 2006, she says that since she has been forced to make use of make-shift toilets in bushes, she and other residents are demanding adequate facilities.

Since this method of relieving oneself did not provide the adequate privacy, Msesiwe was forced to use her neighbour’s toilet from 2006 to 2008.

In 2008, the City provided residents with ‘porta potties’, which is an approximately 25 litre drum with a built in seat that Msesiwe says had to be used indoors.

“In informal settlements, we have to live in two-room ‘hokkies’, there is no room for a toilet; your toilet is here, your bed is here, and your kitchen here. So, you have to relieve yourself in front of your children,” she adds.

She says that in 2011 the City installed chemical toilets within the settlement, where the ratio is one toilet per five households.

In light of varied household sizes, Msesiwe says that the chemical toilets proved chaotic as too many individuals shared one toilet.

As the closest toilet to her home is a five-minute walk, she further notes that since the toilets are communal, women and children lay prey to violent attacks and is, therefore, forced to constantly be accompanied to toilet.

Msesiwe says that the applicants are, therefore, requesting the city to construct permanent toilet structures for residents as they have been forced to use unsanitary and unsafe facilities for the past ten years.

“Using the toilet for us is a dangerous activity…They gave us temporary facilities, can it be temporary for more than ten years? We want the city to build us dignified toilets, since at least one of our basic rights of human dignity has been violated by the city,” Msesiwe continued.



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