Bucket toilets not cleaned since April in East London informal settlement

Residents say the toilets were last cleaned in April before the company that was cleaning them disappeared without a trace. All photos by Mandla Mnyakama

The unhygienic situation is a sign of an uncaring government.

The bucket system toilets at Khwezi Park 2 temporary relocation area has attracted much criticism of the Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality (BCMM) from local residents. They complain that the continued use of bucket toilets is reckless amidst the ongoing covid-19 pandemic.

This small community of over 100 residents occupied the government temporary residential units (TRU) along Potsdam Road near Mdantsane since last June after their relocation from a nearby plot to make way for a RDP housing development. 

Concerned residents complained that the toilets have been filthy for four months since a cleaning company contracted by BCMM discontinued its services. The toilets were last cleaned by the company in April before it disappeared without informing residents.

Local community members claimed that their efforts to find a solution to the problem have been in vain as their ward councillor, Zameka Kodwa-Gajula, was unreachable on her phone and that her offices are always found shut.

Elitsha found the bucket system toilets in a terrible state, overflowing with faeces and filthy papers. A group of residents said they prefer to relieve themselves in the nearby bushes because the toilets pose a health risk.

They also highlighted fear for their children’s wellbeing. Yvonne Moyakhe (54), a mother of three who is also on chronic medication, complained that the toilets are too close to her home and they have to bear with an appalling stink.

 “You can never eat again if you can enter those toilets. They are not just overflowing, but their walls and seats are sometimes covered with maggots.

“Here we also suffer an immense uncomfortability because the stench from the toilets penetrates our shacks especially in the morning. And on sunny days they smell as if the raw sewage down there is boiling from the heat.

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 “This is absolutely shocking because the government officials and general media regularly preach loudly that (as the country’s citizens) we should always maintain good hygiene standards by washing our hands, and keeping our homes and toilets clean.

 “But our existence here is just an opposite of that. And no one cares to attend to it because our ward councillor has apparently forgotten about us even though she was the one who brought us here. There’s also no one from the authorities who pitches up to attend to this problem. We do not know what is going on,” said Moyakhe, 54.

She claimed that councillor Kodwa-Gajula was never available on her phone and that her offices in Mdantsane were always shut when residents tried to locate her.

Moyakhe grumbled that the issue has aggrieved her as a sickly person and her health has deteriorated as a result. The unhygienic situation, especially the stench of raw sewage, makes her feel pity for her nearly two-year-old granddaughter’s wellbeing. “I can’t understand why they can cut-off such an essential service,” she complained.

The residents say that the unhygienic toilets cause them health problems.

Nokwanda Moyeni (52) said the situation they live in frightens her as she feels vulnerable to infection by unknown illnesses such as covid-19. “I believe some drastic steps should be taken against those responsible for this blunder in the midst of the ongoing deadly coronavirus. This is a clear indication that the BCMM has undermined the covid- 19 protocol,” said Moyeni.

She said that it was the second time the toilets have been left filthy; the service was first stopped between last November and January this year. “They cleaned them again in February after we embarked in a violent protest. Our grievances at the time also included lack of running water taps because we previously had to walk more than 300 meter distance to access running water taps. Then the BCMM got water ferried to us by mobile water tankers. The empty promise they made in March to install permanent water tanks never materialised.

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“This is a big misery to us. We find no clarity from the authorities and the toilet cleaning company just disappeared without making any announcement. Hence we prefer that the authorities should install flush toilets to alleviate our situation ,” Moyeni said.

Spokazi Ntswabi (26) said she continued to use the toilets despite the state they are in because of her fear of snakes in the bushes. She regularly experiences an itching body after using them. “This issue makes me a serious headache because I fear that any infection I can get there will make my 10-months twins suffer.

“It could be better if the municipality installed a running water tap for us because sometimes it is difficult to consume the water from the mobile tankers. Last week it smelled too much bleach, as a result it became difficult to drink it and I had to dump a pot of mielie pap I had cooked with it. It was inconsumable, it just had a strong smell of Jik,”said Ntswabi.

Ward 24 councillor, Zameka Kodwa-Gajula, and the BCMM were unavailable for comment.    

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