Government is 11 years past deadline to end bucket system

About 17,000 toilets, each costing R15,000, built in Free State and none in use

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Photo of Parliament
Parliament of South Africa. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

A recent answer to a parliamentary question has revealed that government is still struggling to eradicate the bucket system and is unlikely to do so soon because of a lack of money.

ANC MP Hlomani Chauke asked water and sanitation minister Nomvula Mokonyane about the challenges her department faced in eradicating the bucket system and “restoring the dignity of persons nationwide”.

According to the minister the remaining bucket toilets are limited to the Free State and Northern Cape provinces. The figures were based on bucket toilets in formal areas only. They exclude informal settlements. (In 2016 all bucket toilets in formal areas in the Eastern Cape and North West provinces were eradicated.)

The definition of a bucket toilet the department uses is a bucket or a similar container placed under a toilet seat and the contents disposed of by municipal services.

“In the current financial year (2017-18) the department did not receive an allocation from the National Treasury towards the eradication of outstanding buckets,” she said. “[This] has led the department to reprioritise internally from other grants such as the Water Sector Infrastructure Grant and Accelerated Community Infrastructure Programme to the value of R409 million which was insufficient to conclude the programme.”

Mokonyane said an estimated R741 million is needed to eradicate the remaining buckets in the Northern Cape and Free State. Of this R458 million is needed for the Free State alone.

The department recently told members of the Free State legislature it will have to approach the province and the department for Human Settlements for financial help.

The department said in its presentation to the Public Accounts and Finance Committee in the Free State legislature it aimed to remove 22,085 bucket toilets by March next year, but this has now been extended to June.

It also revealed that nearly 17,000 toilets were built but are not in use.

In a statement, DA Chief Whip in the Free State legislature David van Vuuren said the department “has built 16,823 toilet top structures across the Free State at a cost of about R252 million (R15,000 per toilet), but sadly, not a single toilet is in working order since the bulk water reticulation and sewerage infrastructure has not yet been established”.

Van Vuuren said it is “illogical” to build toilets without first establishing the bulk infrastructure needed for it to perform its function. He said that thousands of families across the Free State have to “look at toilets they are unable to use.”

Responding to van Vuuren, spokesperson for the Department of Water and Sanitation, Sputnik Ratau said it was easier to provide toilet top structures first while funds are secured for bulk infrastructure to support it. “It is essentially about money and having to regularise the appointment of the service provider for it. It is important to understand this is a process. The target was about 22,000 toilets and at least 5,000 are flushing.”

Government has set several target dates for eradicating bucket toilets over the years. In 2003 Cabinet approved the Strategic Framework for water services aimed at eradicating the bucket system by 2006. Government missed this deadline. Target dates have also been set for 2015 and missed.

TOPICS:  Sanitation

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