A – Z of toilets

A-Z of toilets

The standard minimum sanitation requirements specified by the Water Services Act (Act 108 of 1997), is at least a ventilated improved pit latrine (VIP) or equivalent.

But VIP toilets are not suitable for most areas within the municipal area of Cape Town due to   sandy conditions and the high water table. Thus alternative sanitation options have been sought.

There are four main types of sanitation service currently provided to Cape Town’€™s informal settlements.

The first is waterborne sanitation that is directly linked to the sewerage network. This includes pour-flush (without a cistern, where people have to pour water from a bucket into the toilet bowel) and full-flush systems. These are only provided on a communal basis. The municipality is supposed to service and maintain these systems, including dealing with blockages, leaks and breakages.

The second type of sanitation service includes permanent structures with conservancy tanks, where the raw sewage is periodically removed by means of large vacuum tankers. The City is in charge of the installation of infrastructure, while private contractors are used to remove the waste.

The third type of sanitation includes systems where removal of human waste is not necessary, as it either soaks away in a controlled manner (anaerobic toilet) or decomposes on site (composting toilets or dry sanitation).
These have not been very successful  primarily because  these toilets are communal, and the use of newspaper creates blockages very quickly.

The final type of sanitation technologies are the portable ‘€œbucket technologies’€: black buckets, container toilets, chemical toilets and Porta-Pottis. In the case of container toilets, and in some cases the bucket toilets, a concrete structure is installed by the City (or private contractors) to provide privacy. With the exception of chemical toilets, the toilets themselves are provided by the City.

However, there are very few chemical toilets and Porta Pottis in Cape Town – 1089 out of approximately 24 000.

The following questions were sent to Mayor Dan Plato’€™s office, he failed to respond. His spokesperson Rulleska Singh indicated that they were exceptionally busy with the World Cup.

1.           How many people in Cape Town’€™s informal settlements have access to basic sanitation?

2.           Please can you give me the City’€™s definition of basic sanitation?

3.           Several groups are claiming that 100 000 people in the city do not have access to basic sanitation. Do you agree with this figure? If not, can you please explain and give me the figure you have.

4.           Is the City infrastructure (specifically sanitation) keeping up with the influx of people into the informal settlements? Please explain.

5.           How much of a priority are sanitation services in Cape Town? Can you give me information to back your answer?

6.           Please can you furnish me with details on how much of the budget is dedicated to building of sanitation in informal settlements as well as its maintenance?

7.           How have you liaised with communities in terms of the types of sanitation they would like to have in their community? Please explain how this liaison takes place and how is included?

8.           Do you agree that poor access to basic sanitation is detracting from attempts to reach the MDGs?

9.           Do you sometimes feel the City is being unfairly targeted in terms of its efforts to establish sanitation services?

10.   How much revenue is allocated to sanitation in informal settlements?

11.   Has a call centre been established? How have you gone about making sure communities are aware of it and can you give me statistics on how many calls it receives? Is it a toll-free number?

12.   How are the working conditions of sanitation contract workers monitored?

13.   How does the city ensure that outsourced contractors deliver services?

14.   Is the city going to continue outsourcing  the servicing of sanitation contracts despite the higher cost (as opposed to the city taking care of it)?

15.   Which sanitation options are the most cost effective and preferred options for the city?

16.   Do you agree that the chemical toilets are becoming long-term options as opposed to emergency options, despite the high cost?

17.   Would you agree that the container toilets are in fact bucket toilets?

Toilet  timeline

Prior to October 31, 2007

Meetings are held where Makhaza residents agree that the council can build 1316 toilets with the residents building the enclosures themselves. 1265 of the toilets were subsequently enclosed.

October 31, 2007

At a meeting between the city, the ANC Youth League and ward developers, it is agreed to install the toilets. The Mayor’€™s office claims it has the minutes.

March 2008

Social Justice Coalition formed in response to xenophobic attacks.   Its main aim at the time was to provide material relief and legal support.  

Members decided that one of root causes of attacks was lack of safety in poor informal settlements.  

May 6, 2009

Another meeting between the City, ward councilors and the ANCYL regarding the toilets. Minutes have not been released.

September 2009

SJC  consulted with the community about the primary challenges to safety.   Their number one concern was access to toilets.

January 2010

ANCYL asks the Human Rights Commission to investigate the Makhaza situation.

Cape Town mayor Dan Plato says the plan is to build houses for the Makhaza residents: ‘€œThis is only a temporary measure until the RDP houses are built’€¦These toilets were rejected by the community and after negotiations [where] it was agreed’€¦that the community would build their own enclosures. Once the houses are built, these toilets will become redundant. Individuals agreed to build their own enclosure.”

January 2010

The ‘€œClean & Safe Toilets Campaign’€ is adopted at the SJC AGM as its primary campaign

February 2010

Makhaza Part 1:   The SJC urges the City to consult with the community about resolving the Makhaza impasse

March 2, 2010

In discussions between the city and community leaders mediated by the Human Rights Commission,

March 17, 2010

Western Cape premier Helen Zille apologises: ‘€œIt is an episode we greatly regret, and from which we have learnt’€¦we have now reverted back to the national guidelines for upgrading unserviced informal settlements, which provides for one toilet for every five families, rather than one toilet per family which they agree to enclose themselves’€¦we cannot risk the unintended consequence whereby people face the indignity of relieving themselves in public.’€

March 20, 2010

SJC stages a Toilet Queue protest in Sea Point.

April 1, 2010

The SJC meets with the Mayor and heads of department

May 24, 2010

The City returns to Makhaza and builds the enclosures out of corrugated iron. ANCYL members and community leaders destroy the enclosures.

May 25, 2010

Loyiso Nkohle   of the ANCYL says, “We are going to destroy everything and make the city ungovernable”.

May 31, 2010

The city dismantles 65 unenclosed toilets in Makhaza despite protests from the community.

‘€œThose minutes [of previous meetings] are wrong. They are lying. When the City said they would put them up, it was only supposed to be for three months and then they would build us houses. We agreed on that basis so Dan Plato is lying,’€  said Andile Lili, Ward 95.

Dan Plato says, ‘€œI want to throw it back to the community that you need to tell those rude hooligans, those thugs, that you must march and burn tyres against those hooligans.’€

June 1, 2010

Residents of Makhaza burn tyres and protest on Baden Powell Drive, Walter Sisulu Drive and the R300 ramp over the N2.

Protestors are arrested including Loyiso Nkohla and Andile Lili, Ward 95 Development Forum Leader.

Rulleska Singh, the mayor’€™s spokesperson says, ‘€œWe can’€™t lay down concrete foundations because that would impede the housing development’€

June 2, 2010

Protests continue against the removal of toilets. According to the Captain Van der Vyver quoted in the Cape Times, ‘€œDuring the night there were sporadic incidents with big underground concrete pipes and containers rolled into Lansdowne road.”


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