Toilets stand as symbol of disconnect

Goverment build toilets in Daveyton which allegedly cost the Housing Department R20 million.
Goverment build toilets in Daveyton which allegedly cost the Housing Department R20 million.
Image: Thulani Mbele

It was the kind of picture we would have hoped to have last seen in the apartheid years - row upon row of unused toilets in the veld.

Such images became synonymous with the arrogant power of the type that arrogated itself the right to tell people where to live and how to live.

One way, more than any other that, the evil that was apartheid manifested itself was in where and how people were designated to live.

Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, are still barracked in townships far removed from their places of work today, a fact of life that has stubbornly proven to be something that will not be wished away with some magic wand.

Despite building millions of free houses to address the matter bequeathed the democratic order by apartheid, the housing backlog is nowhere near being sorted. The government has since abandoned the idea of building free houses in the form of RDPs for the poor, and has - largely on the strength of the wishes of the people - moved towards empowering the needy in other ways to help them help themselves.

Of that was born the idea of providing people with serviced stands - with water and sanitation - and letting aspirant homeowners build themselves houses.

Indeed, many new settlements, especially on the peripheries of old townships, have developed into viable neighbourhoods once people were empowered in this way.

But we reported in Sowetan yesterday of the obvious wastage of tens of millions of rand in Ekurhuleni in what is clearly a plan that has gone horribly wrong.

Backyard dwellers, a feature of many a township today, have refused to move into stands cut out for settlement in Daveyton, Tsakane and Springs. They complain that they were not consulted ahead of the building of the toilets, which they reckon will only serve to help move them from shacks into other shacks.

As evidenced in the photos we published, the space allocated to would-be new homeowners wouldn't allow for construction of proper houses - the toilets are almost on top of each other.

Now the toilets in the veld stand, many vandalised, as a monument to arrogant power disconnected to those meant to be beneficiaries of a government of the people by the people.