/ 29 April 2011

Court to rule in Cape Town open-toilet saga

Judgement was expected in the so-called open-toilet saga in Khayelitsha in the Cape High Court on Friday.

The Democratic Alliance-led City of Cape Town stands accused of violating residents’ rights to human dignity after 51 toilets were erected without enclosures in Makhaza, Khayelitsha, in December 2009.

African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) president Julius Malema has repeatedly used this against the opposition party in his campaigning ahead of local government elections on May 18. Malema arrived at the court on Friday morning wearing jeans and a black jacket. He walked up the steps without speaking to reporters gathered around him.

The ANCYL, on behalf of community members, lodged a complaint about the open toilets with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) in January last year.

The SAHRC investigated the matter, said spokesperson Vincent Moaga, and found that the city had violated section 10 of the Constitution, the fundamental right to human dignity. He said it had also not implemented its housing project in a reasonable manner as required by section 26 of the Constitution.

The City of Cape Town said the installation of 1 316 toilets in Makhaza and other informal settlements in 2009 was done on condition that residents would erect their own structures around the toilets for privacy.

Of these toilets, 1 265 were enclosed by residents, leaving many toilets without enclosures.

After a public outcry in May 2010, the City of Cape Town decided to enclose the remaining open toilets with corrugated metal sheets.

But ANCYL members protested and broke down the structures, causing the city to remove all unenclosed toilets.

The SAHRC recommended to the city that it reinstall these 51 toilets that had been removed, but the city appealed against the SAHRC finding.

This was when the ANCYL decided to launch a court application on behalf of the residents.

Moaga said the applicants wanted the court to find the conduct of the City of Cape Town as well as the province’s premier, mayor and minister of human settlements in violation of the Constitution.

“They also want the court to declare any written or oral agreement purported to have been entered between the city and individual members of the Makhaza community… to be unlawful, and inconsistent with the constitutional duties of the city,” he said. — Sapa