City of eThekwini pays millions for a handful of useless toilets and showers

A private company is charging the City R250,000 a month for 12 toilets and 12 showers at homeless shelters and hardly any of them are working

| By and

Martin Gomez, one of the Molyneaux Road shelter residents, stands next to one of the useless showers which are not connected to the water supply. Photo: Tsoanelo Sefoloko

  • The City of eThekwini has spent more than R9-million on the hire of toilets and showers most of which do not work.
  • The toilets and showers were supplied by a private company, Msaly Trading, for two shelters for homeless people set up during Covid.
  • The contract was due to come to an end after the epidemic but was extended by the head of the Safer Cities programme, Martin Xaba, who said the department had been monitoring and was satisfied with the work.
  • A probe by the City in 2023 found the toilets and showers “in a bad state” and recommended disciplinary action against Xaba.
  • But according to Msaly Trading, the City is still paying the company.

The eThekwini municipality is paying a private company about R250,000 a month for a dozen overflowing toilets and useless showers at two homeless shelters.

The portable toilets and showers were installed early in 2020 at two tented shelters set up by the City of eThekwini at Molyneux Road and Durban Station during the Covid lockdown.

So far, the City has paid at least R9-million to a company, Msaly Trading. The contract specifies 12 chemical toilets and 12 portable showers. However, a GroundUp investigation found that only eight showers had been installed, and none of them are working. The showers are not even connected to the water supply. We found 20 toilets in the two shelters, most of them overflowing.

In terms of Msaly’s contract, the toilets are meant to be serviced twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

GroundUp reported earlier this year on the plight of the roughly 270 residents of the Molyneux Road shelter, who live in cramped and unhygienic conditions. We found only four showers, none of them working, and 12 chemical toilets, four of them lying on the ground and eight overflowing.

At the Durban Station shelter, which houses more than 220 people, we found four showers, none of them working, and eight overflowing toilets. Some of the doors for the toilets and the showers were lying on the ground. There was a stench of raw sewage coming from an overflowing sewer behind the tents.

Several residents, who asked not to be identified as they feared they might be victimised for speaking to the media, said that this had been the situation “for months”.

But Msaly Trading continues to bill the municipality between R244,800 and R252,900 monthly, depending on the number of days in a month, at a daily cost of R340 for each toilet and shower.

Msaly is a private company registered at a private residence in Verulam, about 30 kilometres from Durban. The company has no website, Facebook page or any other online presence.

Samukelisiwe Dlamini, Msaly’s sole director, failed to respond to earlier written questions about the contract, but last week told GroundUp during a brief telephone conversation, that it was still in force.

“Yes, we still have a contract with the eThekwini municipality and they are paying all of our invoices,” she said. Dlamini asked the GroundUp reporter to call her “later” to discuss the matter further but then blocked his number.

The company was awarded the homeless shelters contract in March 2020, in terms of a National Treasury Covid-19 State of Disaster exemption, which allowed municipalities to award emergency contracts without having to put them out to tender. It expired in March 2022 when the State of Disaster ended.

The shelters were meant to be temporary but remained open after a public outcry when the City tried to shut them down after Covid restrictions were lifted. The City’s Safer Cities programme asked for Msaly’s contract to be extended.

In a December 2022 report to the City’s Bid Adjudication Committee, the head of the Safer Cities programme Martin Xaba applied for the regularisation of R2,496,960 paid to Msaly between April 2022 and January 2023. He said the department had been monitoring Msaly’s work and “value for money had been attained”.

However, according to an October 2023 report by eThekwini’s Financial Misconduct Disciplinary Board, based on an investigation by the City’s Integrity and Investigations Unit, in terms of supply chain management rules the contract for the hire of the toilets and showers should have been put out to tender once the Covid State of Disaster was lifted.

The Unit found that Xaba had breached supply chain management policy and a section of the Municipal Finance Management Act “for a failure to take steps to prevent unauthorised or fruitless and wasteful expenditure”.

The Durban Station shelter houses more than 220 people. Photo: Tsoanelo Sefoloko

The investigators visited the shelters and found that the” toilets and showers were in a bad state”. They were cleaned twice a week instead of being cleaned twice a day.

The unit recommended that Xaba and acting City manager Musa Gumede be disciplined. The board agreed with the recommendation on Xaba but recommended Gumede be referred to the City Council.

It is unclear whether Xaba was disciplined or what the Council decided to do about Gumede.

eThekwini municipality spokesperson Gugu Sisilana told GroundUp that the municipality “does not discuss internal employer-employee labour-related matters with a third party”.

Sisilana said that the municipality paid Msaly a total of R9,084,250 between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2023. She said that no further payments were made between 31 March 2023 and 31 April 2024.

But an invoice, dated 31 October, shows that Msaly billed the municipality for a further six months, from April to September 2023, which would bring the total paid to Msaly to at least R10.5-million.

When GroundUp posed follow-up questions seeking clarification, Sisilana responded by saying: “We have already spoon-fed you information pertaining to this contract in our previous responses and the Media Relations team will not be spoon-feeding you anymore. I am saying this because the onus is on you as a journalist to obtain the Committee reports.” These reports were available at the municipal printing office at the Durban City Hall, she said, adding: “Simply provide them with dates of the report you are requesting, and they have no reason not to furnish you with the report.”

She did not say which committee reports she was referring to.

When GroundUp tried to get the information we were referred back to Sisilana, “who is the only person allowed to deal with media queries”.

Alan Beesley, a former Action SA councillor who has since been elected as a Member of Parliament, has been investigating Msaly’s contract for some time.

He said that a senior eThekwini official had confirmed during a municipal public accounts committee meeting on 4 April this year that the contract was still in force.

“It is deplorable that questionable procurement policies can enrich a few at the expense of the most vulnerable in society,” Beesley said. “Those involved must hang their heads in shame.”

Improvement on 2024-07-02 17:17

This caption on the first photograph has been amended to add the full name of the resident.

TOPICS:  Local government Sanitation

Next:  Khayelitsha women want to start a clothing factory

Previous:  Court asked to stop Shell’s seismic tests once and for all

© 2024 GroundUp. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and GroundUp, and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.

We put an invisible pixel in the article so that we can count traffic to republishers. All analytics tools are solely on our servers. We do not give our logs to any third party. Logs are deleted after two weeks. We do not use any IP address identifying information except to count regional traffic. We are solely interested in counting hits, not tracking users. If you republish, please do not delete the invisible pixel.