Toilets go on sale

THE ANC is set to be rocked by another toilet scandal, as details emerge of how a Free State municipality erected more than 1000 lavatories that they are now selling to the poor.

Following the party's open-toilet controversy in Viljoenskroon's Moqhaka municipality, the ANC-led Maluti-a-Phufong municipality in Harrismith is charging the poor up to R5,000 for a plot of land with a flushing toilet on it.

Despite numerous enquiries, those in charge of the municipality were not able to explain how more than 1000 toilets were erected in one field across the road from Tshiame township almost three years ago.

Ward councillor Moeketsi Mafana refused to reveal what they were charging for toilets and their stands, but Sowetan understands that they are being sold for between R1,000 and R5,000 depending on the size of the land.

The municipality's actions appear to fly in the face of government policy, which stipulates that those who earn less than R3,000 a month qualify for free, low-cost houses. These houses should come with all necessary services, including water, electricity and a toilet.

Mafana confirmed that the toilets were now being sold.

"We are selling them. I'm not sure about the prices, it will depend on the size of the stand.

"They have to be sold. The money used to develop the site has to be recouped.

"Those who can build for themselves will buy and build," he said. "For now there are no (low-cost houses) in the pipeline."

The municipality started selling the toilets on Friday.

Maluti-A-Phufong municipal manager Stephen Kau insisted that questions be e-mailed to him and said he would respond "as soon as I can".

Local government spokesperson Vuyelwa Qinga and Free State local government head of department Kopung Ralikontsane declined to comment, saying Kau was better placed to respond.

Department of Human Settlements spokesperson Mandulo Maphumulo failed to respond to questions.

Metsing Mpakathe, a DA councillor at the municipality, said the toilets cost at least R3 million and that the plan was to build houses but the project "went wrong".

Thandiwe Mazibuko, who lives in a mud hut with seven other people in Tshiame, and whose own makeshift toilet does not have a door, said on Friday that the community held a meeting to discuss the toilets.

"What we want is houses," she said, adding she would not be able raise the money she needed to buy a toilet, let alone build a house.

"We were told they will cost between R1000 and R5000. They are messing around with us, where will the money come from?"

Of her own toilet, she said: "The door fell off.

"We just go in there and do our thing, what can we do? We are poor."

Resident Frida Gwala, who does not have a toilet and uses her neighbour's, said all she ever wanted was a house, a toilet and a tap with water in it, "just like everybody else".

DA housing spokesperson Butch Steyn said it was wrong for the municipality to sell toilets without houses to the poor.

"If they put infrastructure there it means the land was earmarked for development," he said.

Steyn said more affluent residents now had an opportunity to buy up stands at the expense of the poor.

The toilet became the symbol of the local government elections in May, with politicians using it as a campaigning tool.

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