Where are the bucket toilets?

* 85% of the households using bucket toilets live in just two provinces: the Eastern Cape and the Free State.

* Two municipalities account for 71% of the additional households using the bucket system in 2013: Nelson Mandela Bay Metro and Kouga municipality.

* Six municipalities that managed to eradicate the system in 2012 reported that they were using it again a year later.

* But six other municipalites managed to eradicate bucket toilets in 2013.

Six years ago, the government set 2014 as the target for eradicating the bucket toilet system, which is variously described as offensive, humiliating and an assault on people’s dignity. But it looks like that dream will have to be deferred - again.

The number of households using bucket toilets rose by 10% between 2012 and 2013, according to Statistics South Africa’s Non-financial Census of Municipalities report, which meant that by June 30 2013 there were 99 000 South African households without access to acceptable forms of sanitation.

Yet the use of the unpopular system is not uniformly spread throughout the country. Only 47 of a total of 278 municipalities (which includes district, local and metros) reported the use of bucket toilets in 2013, according to data published on StatsSA’s website.

Those municipalities are shown on the map below. The ones shaded blue reported a drop in the number of households using bucket toilets between 2012 and 2013, the red ones reported an increase and the yellow ones stayed the same.

Municipalities where the bucket toilet system is used

Note: This map shows only the local municipalities. Joe Gqabi district municipality in the Eastern Cape, which was the only district municipality that reported the use of bucket toilets in 2013, is not included.

Municipalities that slipped

Two municipalities in the Eastern Cape accounted for 71% of all the additional households using bucket toilets recorded in 2013. Nelson Mandela Bay Metro and Kouga local municipality together were responsible for just under 13 000 of the new new households.

Altogether, 12 local municipalities (out of a total of 234) and 1 district municipality (out of 44) reported an increase in the number of households using bucket toilets. These 13 municipalities accounted for 18 133 more households.

Sadly, six of these municipalities had eradicated the bucket system in 2012, so their 2013 numbers are a big step backwards in their progress towards service delivery targets. They are:

Kouga local municipality (Eastern Cape)

Joe Gqabi district municipality (Eastern Cape)

Msunduzi local municipality (KwaZulu-Natal)

Kou-Kamma local municipality (Eastern Cape)

Lekwa-Teemane local municipality (North West)

Naledi local municipality (Free State)

Municipalities that improved

Eighteen local municipalities reported that they had reduced the number of households using the bucket system. Six managed to eradicate the system entirely. They are:

Mohokare (Free State)

Senqu (Eastern Cape)

Phumelela (Free State)

Merafong (Gauteng)

George (Western Cape)

Ikwezi (Eastern Cape)

Municipalities that remained the same

Twenty-two local municipalities recorded exactly the same number of households using bucket toilets in 2013 and 2012. Hover over the yellow areas on the map to see which municipalities they are.

How are the provinces doing?

The use of bucket toilets increased in three provinces: KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape and North West. When this news broke it set off a spate of hand-wringing from the Democratic Alliance in the Eastern Cape and the KwaZulu-Natal premier.

The Eastern Cape reported the biggest increase: nearly 53 000 households used the bucket system in 2013 compared with just under 39 000 the year before. An increase of about 14 000 households or 37%.

Kwazulu-Natal showed the next biggest increase, jumping from 0 in 2012 to 1 585.

North West reported an additional 269 households using buckets, bringing the number of households in the province to 1 750.

“It is shocking that the problem persists on such a large scale in the Eastern Cape,” a DA MP was reported as saying. The party would identify hotspots in the province, which showed the biggest increase, and report them to the Human Rights Commission, he said.

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu also expressed concern about the return of bucket toilets to his province and said an infrastructure co-ordinating committee would help to speed their eradication.

The fact that all the new households reported are in one municipality - Msunduzi - may make it easier for the premier to sort out the problem.

The Eastern Cape seems to be losing the battle to eradicate buckets, though. In 2013 it shot ahead of its once-close rival in unsavoury sanitation, the Free State. Together these two provinces are home to nearly 85% of the households using the bucket system.

The Northern Cape comes in a long way behind in third place with 8 000 households, compared with the Free State’s 31 000 and the Eastern Cape’s 53 000.

But even in the Eastern Cape there appear to be success stories. Thirty of the province’s 39 local municipalities reported no bucket toilets. In fact, the problem sees to lie in two municipalities - 82% of all the households in the province using buckets live in Nelson Mandela Bay Metro and Intsika Yethu local municipality, whose seat is Cofimvaba.

Only seven of the Free State’s 20 local municipalities have managed to eradicate bucket toilets. In his state of the nation speech in February 2014, President Jacob Zuma, singled out the Moqhaka municipality, saying it would get government support to eradicate the bucket system and open toilets. That municipality is only 12th on the list in the province.

Twelve of the 27 municipalities in the Northern Cape reported households using bucket toilets, but none of them reported an increase in 2013.

In the Western Cape five municipalities reported households using bucket toilets out of a total of 25.

In Gauteng only Lesedi municipality reported that it had households using bucket toilets; in KwaZulu-Natal it was only Msunduzi; in Mpumalanga it was only Victor Khanye; and in North West there were four: Tswaing, Lekwa-Teemane, City of Matlosana and Namusa.

Note: Stats SA uses the term “consumer units” rather than households in its Non-financial Census of Municipalities report. It defines consumer units are billing units or delivery points - the term is used rather than households because most municipalities cannot identify multiple households served by one billing unit or delivery point. This article uses the term households to refer to consumer units.

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