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A daily life of stench for 500 poor families

By Katlego Moeng | Jan 18, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

IT'S a hot summer's day at Harry Gwala informal settlement. The place is abuzz with activity and people going about with their daily lives.

Bright orange containers line the streets. These are communal toilets, each shared by about 10 families.

Even before you enter one, the foul smell hits you.

If you are brave enough to enter one of them, you are greeted by mosquitoes and flies.

The 50-litre buckets are almost full with seven days' of human excrement. On average, 40 people share one toilet.

The people of this sprawling settlement in Wattville, near Benoni, took the Ekurhuleni municipality and the provincial and national departments of human settlements to the Constitutional Court late last year to provide them with proper sanitation.

This was after an unsatisfactory Johannesburg high court judgment that the community felt had fallen short of what they needed.

The new toilets were supposed to replace the bucket and long-drop systems. Instead, 50 orange toilets were erected by themunicipality.

These orange toilets serve more than 500 households and are a serious health hazard.

There is not much privacy as well. Most doors do not lock. And the toilets have no ventilation.

Community members told Sowetan that they did not want these toilets. They are demanding Ventilation Improved Pit (VIP) toilets.

Thembeka Mendu and Nobesotho Mtshubungu said they did not understand why the municipality didn't install decent toilets in the first place.

"We are against the idea of sharing a toilet with nine families."

"This is what is making us sick. Having to leave the yard to use the toilet at night is also not safe," said Mendu.

Another frustration for them is that there are still no street lights, which increases the security risk.

There is also no refuse removal. The community shares two communal water taps.

Gauteng MEC for local government and housing Kgaogelo Lekgoro was ordered to make a final decision within 14 months on the application by the Ekurhuleni municipality to upgrade the settlement to a township, with all the amenities - electricity, running water and proper sanitation.

The Ekurhuleni municipality says it does not have the money to provide more than one toilet for 10 families.

In 2008 poverty in the area stood at 24,2 percent and unemployment at 34,3 percent. No more analyses have been done since then.

Ekurhuleni has more than 22000 indigents on its register.

The settlement sprung up in the 1980s during political violence between the Inkatha Freedom Party and ANC andmany of the people now living there escaped from the nearby hostels.


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