22 people share a toilet in Ekurhuleni

bucket toilet
Pic: Ramatamo Sehoai
Ekurhuleni, Gauteng, South Africa

After years battling to get basic services, residents of L&J (Lloyd and Johan) an informal settlement near St Georges Hotel in Ekurhuleni, east of Johannesburg, said they went  to the street in protest to vent their frustrations. They are demanding better roads, streets lights, electricity, clinic, water and sanitation.

“It seems protest is the only way to get government’s attention. We have been here for a very long time without services. Imagine at some stage, 22 people were using one bucket toilet. This cannot be right,” said one of the residents, Climax Ngubeni who has been staying at L&J since 1990.

“However with regard to toilets the situation has since improved after the protests but there are a lot of outstanding service delivery issues. Chief among our demands was the land. This is private land. We gave government officials a memorandum that they find us land where they can build us proper houses with services,” he said and added that L&J belongs to farmers, Lloyd and Johan and was established in 1981. The place has since grown to 7000 residents now.

Another resident, Selby Thekisho emphasised that they are staying there at the mercy of the farmers who can change their minds and decide to evict them. He appealed to the government to fulfil their promises and get them land.

“We also wish to have a meeting with our councillor. Ever since the August municipal election we haven’t met him,” he said.

Responding to these issues, Gregory Malebo, the councillor for Ward 89 in which L&J falls, alluded to the challenges of land as an impediment to deliver long lasting services. “It’s quite difficult to install permanent infrastructure on a private property but while we are looking for a long-term solution, we’ll do everything in our power to make the environment conducive. There are water tanks; we have given the residents solar panels. Mobile toilets have been delivered. And very soon I’ll have a meeting with them to update them on other developments,” he said.

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Chairman of the residents’ committee, Thomas Mokwena, said the provision of primary healthcare is also a huge problem. The mobile clinic that comes to their area once every week is not enough because it cannot accommodate everybody.

“It can only attend to less than 20 people. Those who are left are sent home and will have to come next week. We feel this is not enough. Some people can’t wait for a week for their treatment,” he said.

Meanwhile the Democratic Alliance has threaten to file a complaint at the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) if nothing is done to improve the lives of the people and change the face of L&J.

“We call for urgent intervention by the SAHRC as the basic sanitary needs of an entire community is being entirely ignored. The DA will continue to do all it can to realise the constitutional rights to access to basic services such as water and sanitation,” writes DA MPL, Graham Gersbach.

The Social Justice Coalition (SJC), a lobby group for basic human rights, also condemned the living conditions of the community of L&J as inhumane, especially the use of bucket toilets.

“The use of a bucket toilet, regardless of the number of people using it, is an undignified way for people to relieve themselves. Many of the types of bucket toilets provided are usually outsourced and therefore receive inadequate servicing. This means that toilets are left unserviced and uncleaned which then poses health and safety risks to residents,” said Axolile Notywala, Head of the Local Government Program for SJC.

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He further added that no one should be protesting for any services. Water, sanitation, electricity and health services are all guaranteed for everyone in the national Constitution.

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