Janitors struggle to cope with Wallacedene’s filthy toilets

City promises immunisation shots for workers and that all necessary equipment and chemicals will be delivered

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Photo of two women and a dirty toilet
Standing outside one of the toilets to be cleaned are team leader Siyasanga Ntenzi and janitor Lungelwa Qukuva.
Photo: Vincent Lali

It has been a difficult first two weeks for janitors recently hired to clean toilets in Wallacedene. They claim they lack the necessary chemicals and gloves to do their job, and they have not received immunisation shots.

Team leader Siyasanga Ntenzi said: “Our supervisor told us the City of Cape Town can’t give us gloves and chemicals because they are not available for now.”

The janitors use spades, masks, fork spades, scrubbing brushes and buckets provided by the City.

Janitor Gcinikhaya Bhekezantsi said that without chemicals they resorted to pouring buckets of water over the toilets. “Pure water can’t clean the toilets properly or kill germs, but we have no choice,” she said.

They use spades to remove the excrement. They dig holes and bury it.

“Because the toilets are so dirty, kids and sometimes adults defecate outside,” said Bhekezants.

Community leader Sibusiso Gibson said that since the cleaners are only 21 in total, they struggle to clean the 136 toilets. “To employ just a few people to clean toilets in the whole informal settlement won’t help residents who are forced to relieve themselves in dirty toilets everyday.”

Janitor Lungelwa Qukuva said she worked seven days a week. “I need to get time off to do laundry and cook for my kids,” she said.

The janitors said they had drawn up a list of the toilets that are damaged or blocked and had handed it to their supervisor.

Last week, Thursday, the mayoral committee member for the area, Suzette Little, said: “The City can confirm that tetanus vaccinations are being provided, but of course employees cannot be sent all at once on their first day of work … Due to the necessary outsourcing of vaccinations, there is a general backlog and delay from when a person is employed to when they can get vaccinated.”

She said: “The 21 janitors are split into two teams to ensure that services are provided seven days a week. Ideally, one janitor should ensure that 25 toilets are cleaned and remain in a hygienic state daily … 21 janitors should be in a position to clean all the toilets in the Wallacedene Temporary Relocation Area.”

She said janitors should not work more than 80 hours per fortnight and should not be working seven days a week.

Little said the City recruitment process for janitors started in July. Since then 800 janitors as well as supervisor and drivers had been recruited. “Now that the bulk recruitment has been completed, and we have the necessary supervisors and drivers appointed, we are able to deliver the chemicals to the sites.”

TOPICS:  Labour Sanitation

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