Forum to tackle sanitation issues

PHIRI CAWE

In a quest to curb sanitation protests and related matters, the national Department of Water and Sanitation has established the Khayelitsha Water and Sanitation Community Forum.

The forum was launched on Friday March 11, at the Khayelitsha Training Centre and is the first of its kind in the city.

The forum consists of different organisations, including the Social Justice Coalition (SJC), Khayelitsha Health Forum (KHF), Western Cape Water Caucus (WCWC), Khayelitsha Development Forum (KDF), Ses’Khona Peoples Rights Movement and others, including some government departments.

There is no limit to the number of people who can serve on the forum.

Organisations and community structures have the right to bring whoever they want and elect a chairperson.

Deputy director in the department, Mchumane Hlazo, said the government was forming these forums around the country, especially in areas where there had been sanitation protests, to give a voice to the people.

He said Minister Nomvula Mokonyane wanted the forums to come up with solutions and review the draft national bill policy on sanitation.

He said this forum would specifically deal with sanitation issues.

“Sanitation has been a thorny issue. If you recall there has not been a forum that deals with only sanitation. We always mix it with water or other things, and by so doing it was overshadowed by these things.

“This is now a chance to speak specifically about it. The government is giving a platform to people to voice their concerns, good or bad.

“We also want them to look at the Water and Sanitation Bill and whether it is still relevant for today. Remember it was last reviewed in 2001. There are now new developments. We want to know what are the gaps and how we can improve,” he said.

Mr Hlazo hopes the newly formed forum will reduce the number of protests.

“The community must guide us. They will have to tell us what is right or wrong. Now sanitation issues are given attention. The forum will definitely empower the communities,” he said.

Newly elected chairperson, Thulani Zondani said the forum would encourage everyone’s participation.

“This is as a results of protests we had before. There was no structure to deal with sanitation challenges. Before, it was everyone taking their protest to the City, but now we will have a concrete structure. We hope it will help with getting a positive response.

“The forum will also limit the number of protests. We hope the City will work with us,” he said.

He called on other organisations to work with the forum. He said working together would make things easier for everyone.

SST informal settlement ward forum member Noliyema Swaartbooi suggested organisations such as the community police forums join.

She said people should not think the forum would bring toilets closer to them.

“Sometimes we are to blame for our deeds. I know people will have ideas to bring the toilets closer, but that is a far-fetched dream, because of the way we are structured. Our shacks are built so close together that even police cannot patrol, because there is no way to go in. The forum has a huge challenge, but I hope it will deal with important sanitation issues,” she said.

KDF’s deputy chairperson Thandi Msutu said the forum should look at the services the government could bring to Khayelitsha. She said it should look at the risks people faced when simply trying to relieve themselves.

“The distances are just too far. Toilets are far from the people. The government should consult as to where to put services,” she said.