Island’s toilet fight

One of the blocked toilets in Island informal settlement.

Residents of Island informal settlement in Site C are demanding immediate action from the officials to curb a possible outbreak and spread of diseases in the neighbourhood.

Some sections of the area, which is opposite the Site C fire station, is covered in raw sewage, from overflowing and leaking communal toilets.

When Vukani visited the area on Friday November 4, half of the toilets were blocked and in an unusable state and some of the doors were broken – and residents blame council for neglecting the toilets.

Siyabonga Nqulwana,whose house is situated next to the toilets, said they were last cleaned by the City of Cape Town almost a year ago.

He said there was a problematic sewer a few metres away from his yard which was often blocked, causing the human excrement to filter through to his yard.

He said people feared they might drink contaminated water and stressed that the situation posed a health hazard, particularly to children.

The 32-year-old said the residents had raised their concerns with the City, but nothing was done. In fact, he claimed workers had instructed him to fix the problem himself.

Residents said they have had to learn to live with the unbearable smell of faeces daily. “We inhale faeces every day. We cook in faeces, and we live in it,” he said. “We are neglected here. Sometimes when I’m at work I wish I did not have to come back to my house because of these toilets.”

Another resident, Nolubabalo Sixakwe, said some of the locks on the toilet doors no longer work and the toilets could be used by as hide-outs for criminals.

Ms Sixakwe has been living in the area for more than eight years. “My children developed skin rashes in the past because of these toilets, and I have banned them from playing next to the toilets. If I had money I would not be living here. The conditions we live under are inhumane. We suggested that the City should employ us rather to clean them,” she said.

Social Justice Coalition ( SJC) head of local government programmes, Axolile Notywala, said this was not the first time they had received complaints about toilets not being cleaned and lambasted the City’s janitorial service, accusing the City of poor administration and poor implementation of the janitorial service programme.

Mr Notywala said when they conducted their sanitation and service delivery audit last year, they discovered that there was no management accountability for the janitorial service programme. “The City should appoint people who would be held accountable for the programme and to ensure that it operates smoothly,” he said. “We will continue to campaign for better sanitation delivery in the black community.”

Mayoral committee member for utility services, Ernest Sonnenberg, told Vukani that the toilets in the settlement were blocked and overflowing due to the “rampant disposal of inappropriate objects” such as food, litter and rags into the sewerage system. He said with regard to the janitorial service, the City’s Water and Sanitation Department had been liaising with community leaders and the Sub-council 9 Expanded Public Works Programme recruitment office to identify candidates for these positions. He said candidates had been selected and would report for inoculations today (Thursday November 10).

“We call on residents to please stop disposing their food, litter and rags into sewerage system as it causes sewage spills, and reduces the number of toilets available for the community to use.The janitorial service will resume immediately after the vaccination process. We remind residents that they share in the responsibility to keep the toilets in a usable condition,” he said.