No agreement on who will clean Barcelona’s toilets

The informal settlement’s toilets are overflowing and unusable.

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Residents brought some of the dirty portable toilets to a community meeting in Barcelona. Photo by Masixole Feni.

The portable toilets used by the residents of Barcelona, an informal settlement near Gugulethu, have not been cleaned for weeks, perhaps months.

Residents and the ward councillor disagree on when last the toilets have been serviced. But it is clear from the state of them, that servicing is way overdue.

Nyanga Police Cluster Commander Phumzile Cetyana has appealed to residents of Barcelona near Gugulethu to stop blocking the N2 or throwing faeces on the national road when protesting. He appealed for residents to find alternative ways to voice out their anger.

This comes after chaos erupted on Monday morning when angry residents barricaded the N2 with stones and rubbish, while accusing the City of Cape Town and their ward councillor, Mzwakhe Qavashe, of failing to ensure their portable toilets are collected.

Cetyana was speaking last night at a meeting with residents that he had called. He had asked the Qavashe to attend as well, with the hope of finding an amicable solution, but the ward councillor left the community hall before the meeting started.

This sparked more anger from the residents, who accused the councillor of disrespecting the community.

Cetyana said he did not call the meeting to discuss issues relating to service delivery as that is not his field of expertise, but to urge the residents to stop blockading the road as that puts the lives of other people at risk.

“Three motorists have been admitted to Karl Bremer Hospital in Bellville after they sustained injuries during the protest. We as the police don’t like to arrest people and I don’t want my officers to arrest you because it is not a great feeling to arrest someone,” he said.

But the meeting attendants vowed to continue protesting if their demands are not met. Some encouraged the police to arrest them if need be.

Resident, Mawethu Thafani, said people are tired of putting up with portable toilets filled with faeces. He said the last time the toilets had been collected was the beginning of November. Maggots have started entering homes “and this has made their lives a living hell,” Thafani said.

The dispute is over who gets the cleaning jobs.

Qavashe denied the claims that the portable toilets were last collected in November. He said the contract of people employed by the City to collect the toilets ended on 31 December. He said the main reason why the toilets had not been collected is that there is a disagreement between him and the residents.

“People here are employed for a period of six months by the City to collect the toilets. And at the end of the six months, the City employs other people to collect the toilets,” he explained. He said his office selects people randomly from the Barcelona database. “But community leaders want to create their own database and select people themselves, and that is not how it works,” he said. Although residents did not say so explicitly at the meeting, it appears there is some scepticism over just how randomly people are selected from the database.

“My office is not able to select people from the database at the moment because the leaders have rejected the people who were selected. And this means that it is going to take some time for the toilets to be collected,” Qavashe said.

He said he left the meeting because the residents had brought portable toilets to the hall and immediately he felt uncomfortable. He also added that the meeting started late and he had to attend another meeting.

Mayoral Committee Member for Utility Services, Councillor Ernest Sonnenberg, said the City attempted to service the toilets, but community members prevented the staff from entering the area because they want to dictate who receives employment opportunities in the area. They have said that they will not allow the City to enter the area until this demand is met.

“The City is currently negotiating a mutually acceptable list of employment candidates with community leadership with a view to cleaning the toilets as soon as possible. We are hopeful that service can resume next week,” said Sonnenberg.

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