Public toilets access in some towns in the Eastern Cape

It's common to see toilet cleaners collecting money from users in Eastern Cape towns. Photo by Manqulo Nyakombi

There are towns in the Eastern Cape that one needs to avoid when having a running stomach. This is because these towns lack public toilets and in some you have to pay before using them. To use a clean toilet in these towns you must be willing to pay at least R2.

Cofimvaba, South Africa

There are towns in the Eastern Cape that one needs to avoid when having a running stomach. This is because these towns lack public toilets and in some you have to pay before using a public toilet. To use a clean toilet in these town you must be willing to pay at least R2.

Elitsha visited different towns around the Eastern Cape to assess the accessibility and availability of public toilets.

In some towns like Cofimvaba and Ngcobo we had to struggle to find public toilets. In our research in Cofimvaba, we could not find any public toilets, except those inside the municipal offices and they are not readily accessible.

Sekelwa Matshaya from Cofimvaba St Marks village told the Elitsha reporter that for the past three years she’s been visiting the Cofimvaba town, she has gone to the KFC to use the toilet.

This was confirmed by the queue we found inside the fried chicken outlet on the main road of Cofimvaba. However, those who did not have slips to prove that they bought something at the take-away were turned away.

Even though it was a rainy day in Cofimvaba, you would think that ice cream was on special, but we were told that people had to buy at least ice cream before they could use the toilet.

On our way out of the shop we met a Cofimvaba highschool student who identified herself as Amanda. She was waiting for a slip from her friend who was inside using the toilets and planning to do the same, not knowing that the friend was not going to get the slip back. Her face crumpled in pained frustration when her friend came back with no slip to share.

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“I don’t think I was going to reach home. Usually when I come to town I always make sure that I go to the toilet first so that I won’t struggle looking for a toilet here,” she said. She’s never seen a public toilet in Cofimvaba.

It was a similar experience in Ngcobo. Public toilets are found inside the Ngcobo Magistrate’s Court for which R2 is payable for the convenience. We had to jump the effluent from a leaking toilet.

Leaking toilets inside the magistrate’s court in Engcobo. Photo by Manqulo Nyakombi

Other toilets are at the Shell garage; again, R2 is needed before one can use the toilet. The way the money is demanded in these toilets you would think you will get a clean toilet, but be prepared to close your eyes and block your nose once inside. Don’t expect the previous users to have had the courtesy to flush.

Queenstown is the town with the most expensive public toilet. Inside the malls the price is not bad but next to the taxi rank, you must prepare to fork out up to R5 to use a toilet.

One toilet we used was inside a salon next to Whittlesea taxi rank. At first the owner asked for R3. This was upped to R5 when we returned a little later.

Another town we visited in our survey was East London. There are some public toilets but these close at 5p.m., leaving people with no other place to relieve themselves. In such a big town, the problem one is then faced with is the lack of open space to retreat to.

In an email response, the Intsika Yethu Municipality spokesperson, Zuko Tshangana said that the municipality does have public toilets in three different areas around Cofimvaba Town. “There are toilets in the old taxi rank in Main Street, also there are toilets in the Boxer Taxi Rank and there were public toilets in the Town Hall but these were recently closed for maintenance. The municipality has recently built new public toilets that are expected to be used very soon”.

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This is despite the fact that the people Elitsha spoke to insisted that there are no public toilets in the town centre.

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