Cleaners in a Durban township say they use their own money to fix broken toilets

The eThekwini Municipality says it will investigate claims that janitors don’t have materials and that most of the toilets in the settlement are broken

By Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

4 April 2023

Janitors at the Foreman Road informal settlement in Durban accuse the eThekwini Municipality of failing to blocked and broken toilets in the area. Photos: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

Janitors who clean toilets at the Foreman Road informal settlement in Durban say they have had to dig into their own pockets to fix blocked and broken toilets. They accuse the eThekwini Municipality of failing to adequately fix blocked and broken toilets.

Foreman Road informal settlement has eight ablution containers of which only two have working toilets. These are shared by about 1,500 people, according to residents.

The toilet cleaners work under the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) and earn about R3,000 per month. They are employed to work three days per week, but they said they end up working every day to maintain the few operational toilets.

The janitors said they had not received cleaning materials or protective gloves and masks for eight months. They said they bought materials themselves and paid people about R150 to fix the toilets.

Zizile Ngidi said she was assigned to clean six toilets but three of them are broken. “When the municipality sends someone, I open for him and he checks and then writes down the damage. The last time he was here he told me that the damage was above 60%, I didn’t even know what he meant,” said Ngidi.

Many of the toilets GroundUp was shown are badly vandalised and had broken pipes. None of the showers work and only five of the 30 toilets, according to the janitors.

These are some of the blocked and broken communal toilets.

“That is why I end up using my own money to fix the remaining toilets. Otherwise, we will end up with no toilets. As you can see, there’s a leak so I must buy a pipe for R200 and pay R150 for someone to install it.

“As for cleaning material, I just buy what I can afford, even if it means I must only use water and soap,” said Ngidi.

In response to our questions about the janitors’ allegations, eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Lindiwe Khuzwayo told GroundUp that they were not aware of broken toilets. She added that they were also not aware of the complaints raised by the janitors but promised that the municipality would investigate these issues.