“Poo protests” turn violent in Gqeberha

Toilets have not been cleaned for weeks in a number of informal settlements according to the protesters

By Mkhuseli Sizani

31 January 2023

A Nelson Mandela Bay truck was torched in Mission Road in Westville during a poo protest on Monday morning. Photo: Mkhuseli Sizani

Hundreds of Westville and Rolihlahla informal settlement residents in Gqeberha protested on Monday morning, claiming that their bucket toilets have not been cleaned for weeks.

A municipal truck from the water and sanitation department and a delivery vehicle transporting medicine were torched in Mission Road, Westville. The drivers were forced out and the trucks looted. Several vehicles were also stoned.

In Rolihlahla, about 5km away, residents blocked the R75 Uitenhage Road and Old Uitenhage Road with burning tyres and rocks from 3am. Public Order Police dispersed the road blocks, but residents continued to protest in the area.

Protesters, who were mostly women, threatened to empty buckets of poo at the office or home of ward 31 Councillor Teslin Booysen (DA).

Booysen told GroundUp: “The Rolihlahla (Vistarus) residents burnt the tyres because they want to be put in municipal serviced sites. They say I built them roads first but they want houses and it has been 23 years living in this area. But I told them that the road was badly constructed before I became the ward councillor last year. The road has to be reconstructed and be newly built. Then the repositioning of their shacks into the municipal sites can take place. “

He said the toilets are cleaned every week. “A new contractor for cleaning these chemical toilets could not come in because of the protest. But tomorrow the toilets will be cleaned,” he said.

Earlier this month residents of Govan Mbeki Village, where toilets used to be cleaned by Bahluping Consultant, protested over their toilets not being cleaned.

The company says it has not been paid for five months and its contract has not been renewed.

Sipho Ntsondwa, chairperson of the Nelson Mandela Bay Informal Settlements Forum and a community leader for Westville, says their toilets have not been cleaned for three weeks.

“About 400 residents decided to protest today because they are sitting with overflowing buckets that have maggots,” he said.

Ntsondwa said no one from the City has explained to them what was happening.

“We have 1,600 households and we share 300 toilets. Out of 54 standpipes only 15 are working,” he said. “We cannot raise our children under these filthy conditions.”

Nontle Gushumpu, of Rolihlahla, said, “We have 581 households here and we share 80 toilets. For a month these toilets have not been cleaned. Elderly and disabled people also depend on these toilets.”

She said she started renting an old pit toilet from her neighbour but she has run out of money. “Why should going to the toilet be an everyday struggle?”

Ncumisa Ngqoko said, “For how long should we relieve ourselves in buckets and throw our poo and pee next to our shacks? Not a single municipal official can relieve himself or herself in a toilet which is full of crawling maggots. But our municipality is doing that to us.”

Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality spokesperson Mamela Ndamase said, “The municipality has appointed a service provider to do the servicing work. Supply chain processes are still underway in order for us to be able to pay the old service provider that we had.”