Youth league leader a potty pooper

Protests over toilets in Cape Town’s Khayelitsha township turned violent this week when the ANC Youth League tore down the corrugated-iron enclosures. The Mail & Guardian quizzed the Democratic Alliance’s Cape Town mayor, Dan Plato, about the council’s controversial handling of the issue.

Why did the city not provide concrete enclosures for the toilets in the first place?
The city intended to provide the national standard of one toilet for every five households, but the community stopped installation and requested individual toilets. This was done after an agreement with the community that individual households would enclose the toilets themselves, as the funding available according to national housing policies was not enough to provide individual concrete toilets.

Surely there’s enough money in the city’s coffers?
The city was the implementing agent and did not pay for the toilets itself.
They were provided as part of the upgrading of informal settlements programme, in turn part of the national housing subsidy programme. This is standard government policy for this kind of service delivery. The programme allowed funding for only one toilet for every five households.

Why draw up an agreement that residents would enclose the toilets? Aren’t most of them too poor to do this?
We decided in the spirit of service delivery to accommodate the community as best as we could. A total of 1265 out of 1316 residents—more than 96%—were able to put up their own structures. These were of a satisfactory standard and for the past three years the arrangement appeared to be working. The city also offered material to those families who did not have material to enclose their own toilets.

Some residents claim the corrugated iron enclosures erected by the city would have fallen down in winter.

I did a door-to-door survey of all the residents in Makhaza [in Khayelitsha] on May 12 to get a feeling from the community about what they thought. The residents were overwhelmingly supportive—of the 61 surveyed, four did not want the enclosures. We have signed letters to prove this fact.

How many toilets were erected without enclosures?
In the Silvertown Project, 1316.

Did you, as reported, call on Makhaza residents to burn tyres and protest against ANC Youth League “hooligans” and “thugs” who destroyed the enclosures?
I wanted the public to understand that the city is not to blame for the unenclosed toilets, because they remained unenclosed only due to intimidation by rogue members of the ANCYL.

The city removed 65 toilets from Makhaza this week. Why?
The city is concerned about the dignity of its residents and on two occasions attempted to enclose the toilets with corrugated sheeting. On both occasions the 65 structures were destroyed. The first attempt alone cost R165 000. As a result, we had no choice but to remove the toilets until an agreement with the beneficiaries could be reached. We wanted to ensure no further damage to council property. Until then communal toilets at the standard rate of one for every five households will stay in place for the affected families to use.

Why did the council, assisted by metro police, break down the toilets and load the remains on trucks instead of saving them for future use?
The toilets weren’t broken. They were removed, placed on a truck and taken to one of the city’s housing depots for further use. A small amount of damage was unavoidable in this process.

You say the youth league leader in Makhaza, Andile Lili, signed an agreement to erect unenclosed toilets while employed by the council. He says that’s a lie.
Lili was employed by the contractor as community liaison officer during the implementation period of the toilets. His responsibility was to inform the community about the implementation of all aspects of this project. He thus played an integral part in installing the toilets and people in his position are typically vocal in feeding back information from the community about the implementation. There’s no record of any comment from him that he disagreed with the process of installation of the toilets during the construction period.

Do you see a link between the toilet protest and the DA victory in last week’s Gugulethu-Heideveld by-election?
I think there’s definitely a link, as the ANCYL’s intimidation broke out on the eve of the by-election.

The labour minister, Membathisi Mdladlana, has accused the DA of racism over the toilet saga.
We have never and will never ­propagate racism.

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Bring back our toilets, or else—

The ANC Youth League has described the South African Human Rights Commission as “useless and incompetent” over its “failure” to release a report on Khayelitsha toilets.

Chumile Sali, deputy secretary of the league’s Dullah Omar region in Cape Town, said the league had lodged a complaint about the toilets in January.

After three days of violent protest over the corrugated-iron enclosures this week, the toilets in the Makhaza area of Khayelitsha were removed by the Cape Town council, assisted by metro police. Some were destroyed during the removal.

“The residents of Makhaza now have to go to the toilet in the bush,” said Sali. “How can this be, 16 years after democracy?” He said that the HRC’s failure to do its job had allowed emotions on the toilet issue to flare up.

Vincent Moaga, the HRC spokesperson, said that the commission had carried out site inspections and was finalising its report. “We’ve taken longer than usual because we want to come up with solutions that make a difference,” Moaga said. “We’ll be making recommendations.”

Makhaza residents barricaded the streets with burning tyres in protest over the removal of the toilets. Thirty-four people, including Dullah Omar youth league leaders Andile Lili and Loyiso Nkohla, were arrested.

Speaking after his appearance in the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court on a public violence charge, Lile said: “We told the magistrate that if he wants to stop the protests, he must get the city to bring back our toilets. Or else they must arrest us again.”— Glynnis Underhill

Glynnis Underhill

Glynnis Underhill

Glynnis Underhill has been in journalism for more years than she cares to remember. She loves a good story as much now as she did when she first started. The only difference is today she hopes she is giving something back to the country. Read more from Glynnis Underhill

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