Toilet activist on Cape metro council

Cape Town’s long-running toilet saga will come under the spotlight again after the leader of the ANC’s Dullah Omar region, Andile Lili, who has been at the forefront of the toilet protests in Makhaza in Khayelitsha, moves into the metro council as a proportional representative.

In training at the civic centre this week in preparation for his new part-time job as a councillor, Lili said the “dehumanising toilets” would top his agenda.

He said he was shocked to hear that the Democratic Alliance-controlled City of Cape Town had asked for leave to appeal against parts of a recent judgment by Western Cape High Court Judge Nathan Erasmus, who last month ordered the city to enclose 1 316 toilets in Makhaza. “We still don’t have any enclosed toilets,” he said.

“I live in Makhaza and I know what I am talking about when I say it is utterly dehumanising for the residents.”

Lili and the ANC took the city to court over the toilets and won a victory for residents.
However, two days after the DA was voted in to run the council with its first outright majority, the city applied for leave to appeal against parts of the judgment. It is still awaiting a response from Erasmus.

Mayor-elect Patricia de Lille has said that she will make it one of her priorities after she is officially elected to the position on June 1 to see that the residents of Makhaza receive closed toilets. Exiting mayor Dan Plato, who is widely expected to fill De Lille’s post of social development minister in the Western Cape cabinet, said the city was still unclear about which materials to use to enclose the toilets.

But Lili said there could be no confusion because residents had already stated they wanted concrete enclosures. Lili said that the city had removed most of the open toilets in the area following repeated protests. Besides those that residents had enclosed themselves, “there are now only two or three open toilets left in Makhaza,” he said. Lili also said the DA should never have won Cape Town.

“I was shocked to see our coloured neighbours in Mitchells Plain, who we thought were fighting alongside us, voting in the DA,” he said. “The ANC didn’t win one ward in Mitchells Plain. Why have these people sold us out to this racist regime?” Plato had always insisted that the city had negotiated a deal with residents, who decided they would enclose their own toilets if each household received one instead of the national government norm of one toilet per five households.

Council spokesperson Kylie Hatton said the city was not appealing against the judgment itself but wanted clarity on some issues, including whether it had to consult each Makhaza resident. Erasmus found that the municipality had not consulted the community adequately.

But he also found that Lili did not negotiate in good faith with residents because he was being paid as a community liaison officer. Although Plato has alleged that Lili was hired by the city at the outset to negotiate the installation of the toilets, Lili insisted this week that he was never paid by the city. The city is also challenging Erasmus’s finding that it had infringed several rights enshrined in the Constitution by building unenclosed toilets.

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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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