Big stink over Makhaza loos lingers on

Despite the matter being the ANC’s major electioneering weapon against the DA, the City of Cape Town has not yet moved to comply with last week’s court judgment ordering it to enclose the open-air toilets in Khayelitsha’s impoverished Makhaza area.

Cape Town mayor Dan Plato said he had met lawyers on Wednesday to discuss the ruling, which followed an application by the ANC. In his judgment, Cape High Court Judge Nathan Erasmus ordered the city to enclose the 1316 toilets, saying its failure to do so had violated seven sections of the Constitution, including the right to dignity.

Residents of Makhaza said they are eagerly awaiting a resolution to the ongoing toilet saga. Although there were violent protests last year over the issue of open-air toilets, residents and newly elected ANC executive member Andile Lili said they would now “welcome the city and thank it” if it came and installed toilets and erected brick enclosures.

Residents would not accept zinc enclosures, which were flimsy and did not provide safe conditions, he said.

“We are about to issue a statement to urge the DA to come and urgently install toilets where they removed them and to enclose them.
Failure to do so will lead to protests,” he warned.

Lili was at the forefront of the protests that turned nasty last year when ANC Youth League members tore down the corrugated iron enclosures. He said that he had just turned 36 and had been “promoted” out of the youth league to an executive position.

“I led all those protests and I will continue to do so until the issue is resolved. Our people are suffering and definitely the city is racist to leave us living like this with no toilets,” he said. “What do they think of us if they can leave us here like this, with many residents having to go into the bush?”

Both Lili and Plato came under fire from Erasmus, who said in his judgment that it was unfortunate that the issue had become the subject of political contestation and patronage.

The two men had failed to rise above their political contest and do their duty to the poor and vulnerable, said the judge. Plato said the city was still studying the judgment and would comply with it. “But it does not appear to set out any definite time frame, so we have not set a date yet.”

In an apparent contradiction, he added that the city has also not decided whether to appeal against the judgment. Plato said the city had tried five times to enclose the toilets for residents, but had been prevented from doing so on each occasion. Zinc enclosures were pulled down after the city erected them.

“The judge was quite specific when he said that the toilets must be enclosed, but he is less specific about what type of structures we must erect. But we will take it to the community members and discuss it,” said Plato.

While the Makhaza toilet row has dented the DA’s image, party leader Helen Zille has said she accepted the ruling, including the judge’s order to enclose the toilets.

“We have tried to do this on several occasions and each time enclosures were destroyed by the ANC Youth League,” she pointed out. “We will, however, try again.” The council claims to have struck a deal with Makhaza residents in 2009 that it would install a toilet outside every informal dwelling, instead of the national government standard of one for every five homes.

In return, the residents had undertaken to enclose the toilets themselves, said Plato. Residents enclosed 1265 of the toilets, but 51 families left their toilets open, saying they could not afford to enclose them. This sparked the long-running controversy in the DA-run city.

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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