While many were enjoying the easing of lockdown regulations to level four by jogging in the streets during the permitted exercise time slot of 6am to 9am, residents of AT informal settlement in Site C were queuing to relieve themselves in the only toilet they have access to.
The toilet is used by more than 150 people, according to the residents.
Nolusindiso Khaka is the custodian of the toilet. From her home in AT informal settlement, she watched a group of people queuing.
She talks to them about many issues relating to health and safety although she knows little about the prevention of diseases.
Ms Khaka said residents constantly knock on her door to ask for the key and even toilet paper to use the toilet. They sometimes break the padlock to gain entry.
The hundreds of shack dwellers have shared the one toilet for almost a decade now.
They also get water from it because the one communal tap they have was broken a long time ago.
After everyone is done, Ms Khaka has to inspect the toilet and clean it if necessary.
She said with the coronavirus and the need for physical distancing, her work is cut out for her.
She has to use Madubula disinfectant or vinegar as a hand sanitiser for residents.
“I have a responsibility to see to it that that toilet is clean and people wash their hands and sanitise. But I have never seen what sanitiser looks like so I use vinegar or Madubula or at times put salt in water and spray them with that. If it works or not, I do not know,” she told Vukani, showing the growing queue early in the morning.
The queue started very slowly but soon grew.
Ms Khaka’s plea is for more toilets to be built for residents of the AT informal settlement.
“Maybe if the health department can come here and see our plight the government will have a better view about us. Many other people are using the bush across the road. Bear in mind that that road has killed so many young and old. It is too dangerous to cross there,” she told Vukani.
Ntombozuko Mbengo said this has been the case since 1993. According to her waiting in the queue to use the toilet is normal for people of the area.
“Every morning and evening we form a queue here. When the queue is long I move and cross the road to the field there. That too is too dangerous. I lost an eight-year-old boy there. He was hit by a car. I also escaped two rapes and at some point was helped by a passing car. The driver saw the boys and quickly stopped and rescued me. That is our life here,” she said.
She said queues start as early as 5am. She added that on busy days, the open field offered a solution to those who desperately need to relieve themselves.
“The increase in the demand for toilets means people must make another alternative and go there. Even men have to swallow their pride to show their bums in the field with women,” she said.
Ward 18 councillor Ntomboxolo Kopman said one of the reasons that there was only one toilet in that area was that residents did not want to move their shacks to make space for toilets.
She said the area needed reblocking and most shacks were on the road reserve.
But she also said campaigning for the 2021 local government elections had started.
“I had numerous meetings with the residents and their leadership there. I even had a meeting with them and the officials of water and sanitation department. Those officials from that department can attest to that. However, I understand this because we have started the campaign for 2021,” she said.
Ms Kopman appealed to residents not to be used by campaigners. She also warned those she accused of campaigning about bad mouthing her. “People are free to contest me and campaign. But be warned not to promise things that even if you are elected you cannot do. That what you are doing will come to haunt you one day.”
She said there is an area near the stadium that has been identified for tanks that are coming.