National

Love furore just 'toilet' politics

Vuvu Vena, Lynley Donnelly

HRC commissioner says attack motivated by unfavourable ruling.

Former ANC official Janet Love has hit back at Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille’s attack on her appointment to the South African Human Rights Commission (HRC), charging that it stems from the HRC’s unfavourable ruling on the Cape Town council’s handling of the Khayelitsha toilets imbroglio.

“This stems from the HRC’s report on the Makhaza (Khayelitsha) toilet situation.

“I think this is a veil for trivialising really important issues,” Love said in an interview.

Finding that the DA-led council had violated the dignity of Makhaza residents by erecting unenclosed toilets in the settlement, the HRC ordered it to re-install 55 toilets it had removed from Makhaza, with durable enclosures.

The DA described the finding as “incomprehensible” and has launched an appeal.

Zille has repeatedly argued that Love’s appointment is an example of ANC cadre deployment and that the practice threatens the independence of vital constitutional institutions such as the commission.

In a letter to the Mail & Guardian, she again refers to ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe’s statement at the ANC’s recent national general council that Love was deployed to the HRC, which he called a “strategic” institution.

She also criticizes academics and others who were signatories to a recent letter defending Love’s integrity, pointing out that one of the signatories, former ANC MP Andrew Feinstein, and former prosecutions chief Vusi Pikoli, were re-deployed by the ANC when “they allowed their respective constitutional duties to trump their obligations to the party”.

“It is common cause that when the ANC deploys cadres they are expected to put the party’s interests first,” Zille writes.

“As the ANC president [Jacob Zuma] himself declared: the ANC is more important than ‘even the Constitution of this country’.”

Asked in the interview whether she was still a member of the ANC, Love said: “That’s my own business, frankly speaking. I do not ask you who you vote for.” But she said that she was not an office bearer of the party or involved in any of its decision-making structures.

Love is a former ANC MP and member of the party’s national executive committee.

Zille’s suggestion that her membership of the ruling party compromised her appointment to the commission was “laughable”, she said.

“It was something that was raised during the interview process by a DA member and I indicated that if [my application] was successful, I wouldn’t remain in decision-making levels of the ANC.”

Commenting on Mantashe’s statement about her “strategic” deployment to the commission, she said she didn’t understand Zille’s point.

“If the ANC didn’t think I was going to be independent in the position, it would have seen me as not being able to fulfil that role. Seeing me as being able to fulfil that role is what I understand by the term ­‘strategic deployment’.”

Controversy over Love’s appointment continues to rage in the legal fraternity.

The latest development is an open letter from University of Cape Town law professor Anton Fagan to four colleagues who signed the open letter in defence of Love’s appointment, questioning their judgment.

The letter, a copy of which the Mail & Guardian has seen, went to well-known legal luminaries Halton Cheadle, Hugh Corder, Pierre de Vos and Richard Calland.

Fagan said that given the standing of the signatories, “it is bound to weaken a simple yet important principle, namely that persons with close ties to the governing party (and it does not get much closer than recently having been a member of the party’s national executive committee) should not be appointed to statutory or constitutional bodies obliged, in part, to adjudicate conflicts between the governing party and others”.

Welcoming continued debate on the matter, Corder and De Vos continued to express support for Love.
Calland applauded the debate, but said Fagan’s letter “has not swayed me one little jot”.

“Independence of mind is about character, judgment and integrity, not organisational affiliation,” he said.

Meanwhile, the City of Cape Town insisted that the Makhaza community had asked for unenclosed individual toilets and had agreed to enclose them themselves, writes Vuvu Vena.

But community members told the M&G they would never have agreed because they could not afford to undertake the enclosing of the toilets themselves.

Even before the community members made their request for individual toilets, the national norm of one toilet to every five households had been met in the Khayelitsha community, Cape Town mayor Dan Plato told the M&G after the release of the city’s internal report on the matter earlier this week.

The report found that “no minutes of meetings with the community could be provided”. But Plato told the M&G: “The report clearly shows that the city underwent an extensive community engagement process ­regarding the installation.”

Andiswa Ncani, a 35-year-old Makhaza community member who has been living in the area since 2006, said: “Yes, we wanted these new toilets, but we didn’t think they’d come in this shape and form. Now that they are here, we don’t see them as a solution to our problem because a toilet without cover is not a toilet, but oppression.”

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