Residents forced to find solutions to cope with full pit latrines

Residents forced to find solutions to cope with full pit latrinesPepesa Matabane and his right hand man, Sello Molutsi with the machine they use to drain toilets. Photo: Tehobo Setlofane/Health-e

“You can’t use that toilet when it’s warm, the smell sticks to your clothes so we go by timetable,” Ntshiuoa Chobane tells Health-e.

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FREE STATE – Residents of Thaba Nchu are finding ways to cope with full and spilling pit latrines as the municipality battles to deliver services due to a lack of funds. 

Moving the toilet 

Some residents have resorted to sharing toilets with neighbours in the hope that the “ventilated improved pit latrine” toilets would be drained sooner. 

Papi Ncamane says his toilet has hardly ever been drained. “They last drained my toilet in 2015 when I had a funeral at home.” He only has partial sight and depends on a social grant.   

Ncamane was forced to dig a new pit to move the toilet further from the house because the stench was unbearable. But walking a long distance to the loo is risky for him because he could trip and fall when he walks alone. 

Paying for the service 

Residents who can afford it, pay Pepesa Matabane at least R250 to drain their toilets. He uses a self-made suction machine that drains the liquid and flushes it either to the garden or into the stormwater drains built as part of road infrastructure. 

Pensioner Pulane Tsatsinyane, who lives in Mokwena, says municipality workers did a shoddy job when they drained her toilet, but Matabane drains all the water out. 

Matabane’s clients are aware of health risks associated with his work but they nonetheless use his services. “We know it’s not healthy. We know! But what can we do? He’s helping us,” a frustrated Tsatsinyane says. 

Other solutions 

Those who can’t afford Matabane’s services “stir” their toilets, like Chobane who maintains her pit latrine herself. “I pour a lot of water in the pit and then use a stick to stir so that the water can dissolve the faeces. It will subside and I can start using the toilet again,” she explains to Health-e

She does this once a month except when it rains because it overflows. 

Chobane only uses her toilet early in the morning or late afternoon when the stench isn’t so overpowering. “You can’t use that toilet when it’s warm, the smell sticks to your clothes so we go by timetable.”

Empty promises 

Patrick Monyakoane, a member of mayoral council in the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality previously promised residents that volunteers from the African National Congress — which he is a member of — would escort the municipal workers who drain toilets to make sure they don’t skip houses or take bribes. But, according to residents, the trucks have never shown up.

Through a written statement, the municipality says it will “relook at the financial recovery plan and assess the weaknesses” and will be “looking at revenue collection strategy and matters related to good governance”.

Meanwhile, executive mayor Olly Mlamleli says service delivery is a priority. 

“We are also ensuring that despite the challenges, mandatory services such as water, electricity and refuse removal are provided to residents of Mangaung and that these are services we will not [be] compromised,” she says. – Health-e News

An edited version of this story was published by Health24.