Covid-19: Sanitation is a struggle in Kleinbegin in the winelands

People in Tulbagh informal settlement demand water tanks

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Photo of toilets

Living conditions at the informal settlement have only got worse over the years, says a resident who has lived in Kleinbegin for seven years. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

It is a Saturday afternoon in Kleinbegin informal settlement, Tulbagh, and people sit together outside their homes. A group of men huddle around a table playing cards. Children play in the road. Nobody is wearing a mask.

Winston Pietersen, coordinator of Tulbagh neighbourhood watch, says they are struggling to get the community to adhere to social distancing. “After 8pm there’s supposed to be no one in the streets, but the streets look the same as during the day. Children are out playing in the streets as if nothing is happening in Tulbagh.”

A stench of excrement hangs in the air. The portable toilets are clogged with human waste, and it streams down the street.

“There aren’t enough toilets for the number of people who live here. Our streets are a mess. It stinks in Kleinbegin; the whole informal settlement stinks,” says Mina Jantjies, who has lived here for seven years.

Home to nearly 400 people, Kleinbegin is one of seven informal settlements under Witzenberg Municipality: Pine Valley, Chris Hani, Mooiblom, Zibonele, Polo Cross and Die Gaatjie are the others.

One toilet serves about 21 people in the informal settlements, with an average shortfall of 37 toilets per settlement, according to the municipality’s 2019 Spatial Development Framework.

“The municipality hardly comes to clean the toilets. Last week, we had to clean it ourselves. It’s not our responsibility,” says Jantjies.

But municipal Director of Technical Services Joseph Barnard says the toilets are serviced weekly. “All toilets which are on-site are chemical toilets, are serviced twice weekly by the appointed service provider.”

“The municipality do not clean the toilets; they only empty them,” says Gerrit Koopman, a resident since 2012.

He says residents resort to using buckets at home and empty them into the toilets.

Residents said the municipality promised to deliver extra water tanks and sanitise the streets, but this has not been done.

“We asked the municipality to install water tanks throughout Witzenberg. They said there are enough water tanks for Nduli, Wolseley and Ceres and Tulbagh, but so far not one water tank has been delivered in Tulbagh,” says Pietersen, who is also vice-chairperson of the Community Police Forum and leader of the Witzenberg Justice Coalition in Tulbagh.

But Barnard says the municipality is compliant with the standards required by government regulations for RDP water and sanitation services. However, he said that plans are currently underway to install two water tanks in Jooste Street, Kleinbegin.

As at 18 May, there were 206 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Witzenberg. 70% of Witzenberg recorded cases had recovered, Premier Alan Winde said on Sunday.

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