archbishop takes up cape loo fight

ANGLICAN Archbishop Thabo Makgoba says Cape Town mayor Dan Plato must obey the Human Rights Commission and return the 55 toilets he removed from Makhaza in Khayelitsha.

The Archbishop of Cape Town yesterday sent a strongly worded letter to Plato and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille.

A copy of the letter was also sent to Water Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica and Cooperative Governance Minister Sicelo Shiceka urging them to act on thematter.

Makgoba said he wanted to meet all four politicians at his headquarters next week. He called on them to have "cool heads" and get together to solve the toilet problem.

"I was saddened when toilets provided by the city were demolished by community members. However, the photographs taken last week of armed policemen - in action reminiscent of the dark days in our history - demolishing the remaining toilet structures, leaving the poorest even more destitute, upset me greatly," Makgoba wrote.

"I was further distressed to learn that the city not only removed the toilets, but the standpipes, leaving affected residents without access to water."

Makgoba sent the letter after he inspected the Makhaza area on Tuesday evening.

Sowetan accompanied him on his inspection. He told Sowetan: "The poorest of the poor need to be assisted before this becomes a national disaster."

He met 76-year-old Nthombenthasa Beja, who showed him a stab wound she sustained while using a communal toilet at night, far from her shack.

"Sanitation does not only affect you when you do a number two, but it affects people's health and safety," Makgoba said after meeting Beja.

After entering a toilet enclosed by cardboard, with a sandy floor and windy gaps in the walls, Makgoba said he had seen, smelt and tasted the problems of the community.

The city installed more than 1000 outside toilets in Makhaza some years ago, but left it up to their owners to enclose them. About 55 families could not afford to do so and were forced to use them as open-air toilets.

After a media outcry the city set up zinc and wood enclosures. But the ANC Youth League demolished these, demanding proper concrete enclosures. The city then removed the toilets.

Mayor Plato vowed not to bring the toilets back until people had erected their own enclosures.

But last Friday the HRC ruled that the city must return about 50 toilets it removed, and enclose them with "bricks and mortar".

So far the city has not complied with the ruling.