News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Tuesday March 19th 2019

‘Insulting’ portable toilets spark Khayelitsha protest

Protesters make fires in Pama Road, Khayelitsha, to express their anger at news that the City will provide them with portable flush toilets instead of “proper”, private toilets. Photo: Nombulelo Damba


Information about receiving portable flush toilets has sparked a protest in the Khayelitsha YAB informal settlement on Sunday and Monday nights.

The protest started after residents had a general meeting on Sunday afternoon to discuss issues like crime, which they agree is escalating.

At the meeting one resident suggested that the community call the City of Cape Town to inform them of their living conditions. However, the tensions soared when one community leader pulled out a letter from the City of Cape Town addressed to residents, stating that the City will provide them with new portable flush toilets (PFTs).

Community leader Nokuthula Boqwane said residents see the information as an insult to them.

Boqwana said provision of ‘porta-potty’ toilets means they will spend another 27 years in the area.

City Mayoral Committee Councillor Ernest Sonnenberg confirmed the protest.

Sonnenberg said: “It is important to note that no-one is forced to use this service, the provision is dependent acceptance.”

But Boqwana said they are not given other options like proper flush toilets.

Resident Nomhle Nyaka said: “We do not want the porta-potty toilets. If the City of Cape Town thinks they are good and private then they must use it and build us proper toilets.”

Nyaka said they have written many letters to City of Cape Town asking to be removed from the area  because it is risky and close to the road. However, the pleas have thus far been ignored.

She said protest is the only language government understands.

Last year the same group of residents marched to Khayelitsha Police station, to open a case against Human Settlement Minister Bonginkosi Madikizela and City of Cape Town for neglecting their area. When police said they could not open the case, residents laid a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).

Earlier this month, SAHRC deputy chairperson Preg Govender and provincial manager Melanie Dugmere visited YAB and discovered that more than 2 000 people shared five taps and 11 flush toilets.

Boqwana said residents are tired of the living conditions in the area. She said burning tyres is only the start, while the finishing will be in provincial parliament.

“We are living in small shacks we can’t extend because we do not have space, [and] even if we try the anti-land invasion unit destroys our shacks. Eight people here are living in a one-room shack, where is the privacy in that? Now city is wants to give us porta-potty toilets to put inside our shacks. If the City does not come to us, then we will force our way into their offices and we are not scared to be arrested. They can lock us up like they did to those people who threw faeces at the airport,” she said.

But Sonnenberg said it must be borne in mind that the service provision to YABS is over and above what they already have.

He said according to City records there are 16 toilets serving 275 dwellings within the south west, over a distance of 175m.

“In order to improve access to sanitation the City will shortly be providing an additional five toilets and at least two additional standpipes. The City is also providing PFTs to all residents of the area who choose to accept this offer. It must also be noted that the area’s density poses severe limitations on the ability of the City to provide expanded services. However, the Victoria Mxenge settlement immediately adjacent to YAB has 578 toilets, which can also be accessed by residents of YAB,” said Sonnenberg.

He added that the service provision to YAB’s PFTs would be over and above this provision. –Nombulelo Damba

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