The library was meant to enable access to books and the internet for residents of the small communities of Lebaleng and Makwassie about 15 kms south of Wolmaransstad. Once valued at R3.2 million, the library has now fallen into a shock state of disrepairs and is filled with the odour of faeces.
When librarians need to use the toilet, they have to ask patrons to leave the library before locking it to use toilets in neighbouring houses.
“If I want to go to the toilet, I have to find someone to sit in my place, or I have to ask everyone to leave the library,” said librarian Shamaima Setlolamathe. “I have to lock the doors and then I have to walk to the neighbours to ask if I can use their toilets.”
“This all takes time, and is almost virtually impossible on days when I have a runny stomach,” she added.
Library patrons however do not always have the luxury of using good Samaritans’ toilets and are sometimes forced to relieve themselves wherever they can.
Sephamandla Kunene often visits the library to access the Internet and a few weeks ago said he noticed the library smelled of fresh faeces.[quote float= left]I realised that one of the people using the library had not been able to get to a neighbour’s toilet, or the outside area, in time and had defecated on himself”
“I realised that one of the people using the library had not been able to get to a neighbour’s toilet, or the outside area, in time and had defecated on himself,” Kunene said. “This is inhumane.”
He said he is disappointed at the library’s deterioration.
“The toilets are not working, computers are broken and this is the only library our community has access to,” he told OurHealth. “I, at times, have to wait more than three hours for people to finish using the Internet so that I can get a chance to use it.”
Broken toilets are nothing new for the communities of Lebaleng and Makwassie, which have struggled with poor sanitation and frequent sewage spills. The Maquassi Hills Local Municipality has partly blamed residents for sanitation woes, alleging that poor communities’ inability to purchase toilet paper led them to throw other harder-to-flush items down toilets, blocking the system.
Library manager Motshidisi Sanna said there was a programme in place to upgrade the local library, particularly pertaining to toilets.
“We are waiting for budget to be finalised from the municipality so that we can renovate the library,” Sanna said. “It is highly embarrassing that an educational institution lacks facilities such as toilets, even only one toilets, especially for the children.”
“I promise the community of Lebaleng that before next year, a functioning of toilet will be part of library,” she added.
An edited version of this story was also published on the Independent Online