City starts janitorial service in informal settlements

SJC representatives at the Civic Centre for the introduction of the janitorial service for flush toilets.

Mary-Anne Gontsana

17 May 2012

About 200 Social Justice Coalition (SJC) representatives in more than 10 taxis descended outside Cape Town’s Civic Centre on Wednesday afternoon to listen to the long awaited announcement of the launch of the janitorial service.

The service, proposed to the City of Cape Town by SJC, was for flush toilets and it would improve the quality of sanitation services in informal settlements in Cape Town.

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille said the programme would be implemented by June 30 this year. It would include daily cleaning of flush toilets, standpipes and surrounding areas, doing minor repairs of flush toilets and reporting all instances where more extensive repairs were needed.

“There’s still a lot of struggle to roll out the services to the whole of Cape Town,” said De Lille speaking through a loud hailer on the steps of the Civic Centre.

The announcement comes after the SJC marched to the Civic Centre in April last year, and handed over a memorandum which outlined their concerns regarding sanitation and water provision in informal settlements. They met De Lille on two separate occasions to discuss the memorandum.

On 12 October 2011 in a conversation with SJC member Zackie Achmat, De Lille requested that the SJC make a formal submission to the city on how a proposed janitorial service for permanent waterborne sanitation facilities might operate. A presentation was later made to Shehaam Sims, the city’s mayoral committee member for utility services. Sims who also addressed the crowd said the janitorial service would save money for the city through routine maintenance.

Smiles were all around the crowd after the announcement, Nofezekile Makhangela, 51, from Tsephe Tsephe in Khayelitsha said she was happy. Makhangela whose toilet and tap are about 25ft away from her shack, was held at gun point and almost robbed last year December while walking to the toilet at night. “They left me unharmed after one of the boys recognised who I was,” she said.

Makhangela said there was still a lot that needed to be done in Khayelitsha. “Living in shacks is not good, we are easy targets for fire and there are too many shacks as it is congested. We wish government could take us to a safer place with water and electricity.”

Another resident, Malwande Msongelwa, 29, from Khayelitsha’s Makhaza, was excited about the janitorial service. “Sanitation challenges are too much in Khayelitsha. With the implementation of the janitorial service the crime might decrease, there will be maintenance of toilets and even job opportunities. Toilets usually go weeks without being cleaned.”

“At times you have to walk for miles for a toilet or tap and it is risky because children get raped or mugged,” she continued.

SJC coordinator Gavin Silber said that even though the organising of people to attend the announcement was at short notice, the turnout was good. He said that although the janitorial service was a small step it would make a difference.

“Now begins the hard work. We have the commitment of the city. Now is the time to see whether that commitment will be honoured,” said Silber.