"Izinduna' are said to give paying families exclusive use
Residents allegedly forced to pay R500 to use toilets
'Izinduna' are said to give paying families exclusive use
Communal toilets at a Gauteng informal settlement have been hijacked mafia-style and sold for R500, giving exclusive use to some families.
This leaves the community at Emandleni Section I in Ekurhuleni with only a few toilets, which were provided by the municipality, to share and residents are forced to use the bushes to relieve themselves.
Residents said there is a group of people who refer to themselves as izinduna (chiefs) who have sold some of these toilets for R500.
Community leader Sipho Kunene, who revealed that he is among residents who paid for the toilet, said the practice started two years ago when the municipality rolled out chemical toilets.
“We have brought this to the attention of the municipality, but nothing has been done. There are only a few communal toilets per street. In fact, some streets do not even have toilets at all, forcing people to go to the bush to relieve themselves,” said Kunene.
He said this has led to a shortage of toilets and people also use buckets.
“We [Kunene and his neighbour who share the same yard] do not lock out toilet but I do not believe that it is a service I had to pay for when the municipality is giving it to us for free. But out of desperation and to increase availability to the community, I had to pay the R500.
“The toilets are serviced but because of another element of invasion where people just set up their shacks allegedly with deals they make with izinduna, service providers are unable to access certain homes to clean the toilets.”
A response in the provincial legislature in October has revealed that five municipalities, including Ekurhuleni, Joburg and Tshwane have spent a combined R3.3bn to hire chemical toilets in hundreds of informal settlements over a period of five years. Ekurhuleni was the biggest spender with R2.3bn over the period under review. Joburg spent R518m while Mogale City and Emfuleni forked out R253m and R11.5m, respectively.
Solomon Thobakgale from Emandleni said when night falls, residents have to walk in the dark in search for an available toilet.
“I pass many locked toilets because people feel that if they have paid for them, they now own them. I have to walk to find an unlocked toilet or go to the bush,” he said.
“I have a partner and I have to accompany her to the toilet when she needs to go because it’s not safe. I cannot let her walk alone. You must understand that going to the toilet is an urgent situation.”
Thobakgale said the elderly were suffering the most.
Ntombenhle Shongwe told Sowetan that children and women at the informal settlement were faced with unhygienic conditions.
“If they could at least bring us additional toilets and make sure that we get them because as it stands they are under the impression that we have toilets, meanwhile, there is a group of people controlling them,” she said.
City of Ekurhuleni spokesperson Zweli Dlamini refuted claims that there weren’t enough toilets in Emandleni, saying the ratio of toilets for all its 119 recognised informal settlements was 1:5 (one toilet per five families) an improvement from 1:10.
“We are not aware of any councillors owning chemical toilets as we are dealing with the companies that were appointed as per the Supply Chain Management Processes of the city.
“There are probably many views about this issue. The city is looking at more sustainable options at this stage. However, what is more important right now is to provide dignity to the people living in the informal settlements.”
In Tshwane, the municipality has spent more than R190m on hiring chemical toilets for its 105 informal settlements over five years.
But in Soul City informal settlement in Mamelodi East, residents have not been provided with facilities and have resorted to digging pit toilets.
Residents say they have been waiting for toilets since the establishment of the settlement in 2016.
Their pit toilets are full.
Harrison Mahlanga said residents dug their own toilets in 2019 when they realised that the municipality was failing on its promise to provide.
“We used to hire chemical toilets for R1,200 for each toilet and paid from our own pockets after the municipality pleaded with us not to dig and they would supply them to us soon. We collected money among residents to be able to hire these toilets for years but we could not afford to pay anymore and dug pit toilets,” he said.
“The difficulty is when it gets full. One needs to close it up and look for a different spot in the yard to dig. But at this rate, we are going to run out of yard space.”
Bongi Mahlangu said she has opted to use a bucket to avoid the filled toilets.
“The situation is so bad for us as women because these toilets get full to a point where you can feel splatter when you sit to help yourself. When we get our period, it's even worse because we frequent the toilet,” she said.
“At what point are we ever going to be heard? We were promised that we would be moved to permanent stands but that has not happened, and we are here still without even the basics.”
Tshwane spokesperson Selby Bokaba said the informal settlement was recently invaded and the city doesn’t have the money to provide residents with toilets.
“... the budget for the provision of chemical toilets is not demand driven rather budget driven.
“Towards the 2016 local government elections, many residents invaded the area along the Moretele River and it was communicated to them [invaders] that they must not invade the land, especially the land along rivers, streams or floodlines. This included the Soul City residents. The rampant invasions took place during the period when the City did not have a service provider for the prevention of the land invasion.”
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