Maybe I should introduce Anne Fisher of Rondebosch to Errol Bosman of Bellville. Both have been my informants, over several years, on the state of the ladies toilets in the Cape Town City Hall.
Mrs Fisher, now aged 91, was at first an unwitting informant – so much so that at a Remembrance Day meeting I addressed earlier this month, she accosted me by brandishing the cutting of a column I had written about her toilet complaint when she was still a sprightly 85.
“I’m furious,” she said. “Absolutely furious.”
“Because you mentioned me by name.” That didn’t stop her keeping the column and showing it to all her friends.
“Actually I’m delighted to meet you.”
It was in 2005 that she wrote a letter to the city council on the “abysmal” state of the toilets: “Only one toilet was working properly, one was out of order, and the other one had no light. With the door shut one was in total darkness. There was no toilet paper and the antiquated chain to flush didn’t seem to be in existence at all.”
I had extracted her letter out of the council documents, and published it with excerpts from the reply of SJA Oranzie, central district superviser of community facilities. He accused her of bad faith, said her toilet experience was “an isolated incident”, and promised that “every endeavour will be spared to make your next visit an unforgettable or rather a splendid one”.
But Mrs Fisher’s visit had already been pretty unforgettable, and if all future endeavours were to be spared, she was hesitant about repeating the experience, which had been something less than splendid.
Then Errol Bosman, a regular concert-goer, wrote to me a little while ago to say that in July the upstairs ladies toilets “still had no lights or locks on the doors”, but a few weeks later these defects had at last been rectified. It had only taken six years.
Other repairs had also been effected: “In the downstairs gents toilet the urinal looks very shabby still, as if it came from a scrap heap, but at least it is now connected and flushes when the buttons are pressed – this took over a year to fix.”
Clearly, things at the City Hall are speeding up.
Errol had other complaints. The whole door to the upstairs men’s toilet “should be replaced, it’s a wreck”.
Also, on occasion, the most expensive seats in the bays are either “all jumbled around” or, as at the first performance of the orchestra’s winter season this year, they had been “removed (borrowed or stolen) and replaced with cheap plastic chairs”.
That was the same evening the concert was punctuated by the City Hall clock “gonging” every quarter-hour.
No one present knew how to stop |this regular addition to the orchestral percussion.
Errol seems to think it may all be the fault of mayoral executive committee member Brett Herron who had pamphlets handed out to concert-goers one evening, telling them how wonderful the City Hall and its toilets looked after the so-called renovations, “when the renovations had stalled and were far from complete. I assume he had never been to the City Hall”.
But the City Hall problems began long before Herron assumed responsibility. Ask Anne Fisher.
And now Herron has moved on to roads, which are apparently a lot easier to fix than ladies’ toilets.