Sewage from blocked toilets flows between shacks in Ethembeni informal settlement in Dunoon near Milnerton where thousands of people are having to live in extremely unhealthy, squalid conditions.
Combined with overcrowding and a lack of sanitary facilities, the conditions are ripe for the spread of disease in the informal settlement.
In addition to overflowing sewage, the shipping containers, placed behind the rows of communal toilets, in which refuse is stored, are a breeding ground for rats which irate residents say are terrorising them by eating everything and anything, including nibbling at babies’ feet during the night.
During a visit to the informal settlement West Cape News saw blocked toilets overflowing with sewage which spilled out past a standpipe where residents collect water for drinking and cooking. A number of residents displayed rashes and wounds which they said were a result of the unhealthy living conditions.
“We are very frustrated. Back home in the Eastern Cape our families say we are in Cape Town living a good healthy life but we live in raw sewage. Shit is piling up in the blocked toilets all the time and when they come to clean they only clean outside and do not unblock the toilets,” said Lindiwe Dumbo (40), a mother of three children.
Zukiswa Wayi, a wife and mother of three children, lives in a shack downshill from the communal toiltes and says the sewage overflow runs past her home constantly and the smell is unbearable.
“Our bodies have developed itchy rashes. Because the toilets are full some residents shit in buckets then drain the shit outside the toilets near the water tap,” said Wayi.
“Enough is enough,” she said.
Wayi and fellow residents who gathered outside the toilets to detail the filthy living conditions threatened to boycott the unpcoming local government elections as they see no benefit in voting when service delivery is almost non existent in their area.
They claimed they started reporting the problem to the City in October last year and the issue has still not been addressed.
During the course of the interview, women could be seen tip toeing through sewage to collect water from the standpipe and a vendor could be seen plucking chickens right behind the filthy toilets. The appalling smell was omnipresent.
“We’re sharing our food with rats. They invade our homes after stepping on sewage and eat our food which we later eat as well,” said Dumbo.
Dumbo, who served some time in Pollsmoor Prison for assaulting her boyfriend and was released in October last year, said living conditions were better in Pollsmoor.
Wayi pleaded to the City to move the toilets and shipping containers from the middle of the informal settlement to the edge so that when the sewage overflowed, it would not run into their homes.
City mayco member for utility services, Ernest Sonnenberg, confirmed he City has received complaints and said these were attended to.
Ernest claimed that in most cases the toilets were cleaned with a jet spray the day after complaints were received.
“We are in the process of upgrading existing toilets in the Ethembeni area. Currently we are in the process of appointing a service provider to remove existing structures,” stated Sonnenberg.
“Once service providers have been appointed, planning will be able to commence on the upgrades of the existing toilet blocks (there are 60 full flush toilets in total). The upgrades will involve condemnation of the existing structures, casting of new concrete slabs, and installation of new toilet structures and taps.”
He said he would like to remind residents that it was important to ensure only toilet paper and human waste entered the sewerage system. The ingress of rubble, litter, rags and cooking fats is the cause of 99% of all sewage overflows.
Regarding problematic rats, City mayco member for health, Siyabulela Mamkeli, said the City has an ongoing rodent control programme and Ethembeni squatter camp was cleaned and major block baiting was done twice in 2015, over and above the routine baiting done on a monthly basis.
“Block baiting for 2016 will start on 23 February 2016. In addition, the City’s Solid Waste Management Department is in the process of repairing all shipping containers in the informal settlement, including lifting the containers approximately 30 centimetres off the ground through the use of concrete slabs. The main purpose for this is to deprive the rodents of breeding space,” said Mamkeli. – Peter Luhanga