Cape Town - Kosovo residents destroyed about 100 toilets the City of Cape Town provided because they were of the bucket type already there, which they had rejected in favour of sanitary flush toilets.
About 150 people, mostly residents of Kosovo informal settlement in Philippi, used steel pipes to tear down the concrete toilet enclosure while others pushed it to the ground.
Some of the people dismantling the structures wore Ses’khona People’s Rights Movement T-shirts, with the organisation’s Andile Lili declaring support for the residents. In the hour and a half that the Cape Times was in the informal settlement, about 100 structures were torn down.
Community leader Alpheus Ndima said the council started erecting the concrete structures over a week ago. The Cape Times also noticed some structures which appeared to have been installed months ago and had 100-litre used buckets had also been demolished.
Ndima said residents thought they were flush toilets, but after discovering they were buckets the community called for a meeting.
“We wanted to meet with the councillor so that he can explain to us what the situation was with those toilets because we were never consulted about these toilets. But since Friday we have not been able to get hold of him. So when they were tired, the people decided to demolish these structures,” Ndima said.
“We did say from last year and before we went to the elections that we don’t want these toilets any more. People will not accept anything less than flush toilets.”
A row of communal toilets in front of Nontando Mshweza’s home were the first to be demolished by the group. She was in agreement with other residents that they must be taken down. Behind the recently erected structures was a row of toilets with used buckets.
“You see we already have bucket toilets. Why would we need more bucket toilets? We don’t want them. We have already said that we want flush toilets,” said Mshweza, who has lived in Kosovo for 14 years.
Another resident, Nosiphiwo Ntakana, said:
“I thought they were flush toilets and I was happy because we have been fighting for a long time to get them. But we saw the contractors placing the buckets inside and some of us were surprised.
“They can’t be putting in bucket toilets on top of other bucket toilets. The ones we have are already dirty and not good for the health. We don’t need more,” Ntakana said.
The informal settlement has flush toilets, but buckets provide the bulk of sanitation in the area.
It had been in the news last year after buckets were not emptied for three months.
Lili said: “We support whatever action the residents take against anything that undermines their dignity. This bucket system undermines their dignity. The city knows that people have rejected this inhumane system, but it continues to provide it for the people. What does this show? It shows that they don’t have respect for these people.”
Asked whether destruction of city-owned property was a proper way of people voicing their demands, Lili said the community had a right to show its concerns.
Mayco member for utility services Ernest Sonnenberg condemned the destruction of the toilets. “It is very unfortunate that this grouping is not able to engage reasonably with the city on these matters and has sought to scupper the city’s efforts to improve the lives of this community.”
He said over 500 “container toilets” had been installed since February, with 250 to follow. He claimed the city had met residents and was given permission for the buckets.
“While we understand there is a preference for water-borne sanitations, both engineering and budget constraints often either delay its provision, or prevent it entirely. In these instances, the provision of alternative forms of sanitation must be explored.”
He said the city had advised the contractor to lodge a complaint of vandalism.