City to fix filthy Khayelitsha toilets

| Barbara Maregele
Stagnant water from leaking pipes at the toilets in PJS section. Photo by Barbara Maregele.

The foul smell of stagnant sewage water and the sight of vandalised toilet seats covered in faeces are part of the daily lives of residents of PJS section in Khayelitsha who live close to the toilets.

Full flush toilets were installed less than four years ago in PJS section but when GroundUp visited the area this week, some of the toilets were in poor condition and others were unusable.

Residents along Mew Way road were still using portable toilets as the full flush toilets installed in April were still not connected to the sewage system.

According to the City’s Mayco member for Utility Services Ernest Sonnenberg, there are 4,737 full flush toilets in Khayelitsha and of those, 194 are in PJS section.

Sonnenberg said the City was in the process of fixing the toilets in the area.

The Social Justice Coalition (SJC) has been conducting weekly visits to assess the condition and maintenance of flush and portable toilets in Khayelitsha.

During GroundUp’s visit on Wednesday, most of the toilet stalls were locked. Many of the cement walls and zinc doors of the stalls in PJS had been vandalised, and were dirty and broken.

Dirty seat and stall of one of the toilets in PJS section. Photo by Barbara Maregele.

Resident Thabisa Mfubesi has been working as one of the City’s 18 janitors in PJS section for the past six months.

Mfubesi, who is also secretary of the Siyazama Street Committee, said the toilets were often blocked because they were situated in a low-lying area.

“The problem is that the pipes are too small,” she said.

She said the city council should have built the toilets on an extra concrete slab to raise them off the ground. “The toilets are built on a wetland in muddy sand, especially when it rains. All the water comes down,” she said.

Another resident, Xolelwa Nthuntsha, said she was concerned for the health of the young children in the community as they often played near the toilets.

“I have a three-year-old and a 14-year-old. The small children play here and the toilets are dirty. The older children come and use the open toilets to smoke and it’s not safe for those who live here,” she said.

A mother who lives near the flush toilets is forced to walk her toddler through the soiled area where toilets often overflow. Photo by Barbara Maregele.

Nthuntsha said the toilets often were blocked because residents used newspapers instead of toilet paper.

“It’s a big problem people need to be educated about. But, people are poor and they can’t afford to buy [toilet paper],” she said.

SJC sanitation programme manager Axolile Notywala, said the SJC had found, during a site visit on 21 May, that the PJS section toilets were dirty and the pipes were leaking

“We’ve been visiting different areas where there are janitorial services to check the condition of the toilets. Here, we found some toilet seats were broken and others were just not working at all,” he said.

Asked about the condition of the newly installed toilets on Mew Way, Notywala said, “These toilets were installed in the beginning of April and they are still not connected to water.”

Notywala said the SJC was hoping to present its findings to the City once all the site visits had been completed next month.

Sonnenberg said there are 285 janitors in the Khayelitsha area, which included team leaders and supervisors.

“The janitorial programme is operational seven days a week. Each janitor works five days a week. The City has recently increased the provision of detergents from once a week to twice a week where necessary,” he said.

Sonnenberg said a decision had been made by the Informal Settlements Unit to prioritise the repairs of the full flush toilets and then to deal with the issues related to where they were situated.

“A contractor and a maintenance team have been tasked with the maintenance and repair work. The work is currently underway and is expected to be completed by Friday 6 June. The issues related to the toilets situated in low lying areas will be attended to once the repair works have been completed,” he said.

When asked about the situation at TR section in Mew Way, Sonnenberg said a project to construct sewer reticulation connecting the toilets to the existing network along the road was started last year.

“Once the sewer pipes were installed, top structures were placed at positions agreed by the community during the public consultation process. A service provider was then appointed to do the plumbing work and connect the cisterns to the water and sewer reticulation,” he said.

He said the City expected the project to be completed within the next few weeks.

Sonnenberg urged residents to notify their ward councillor of problems. Call Sharecall at 086 010 3089, SMS 31373 or email waterTOC [at]

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TOPICS:  Health Human Rights Sanitation

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