Cape Town - Members of Ses’khona People’s Rights Movement got the proverbial cold shoulder in Constantia on Monday as they set out on a door-to-door campaign, questioning locals about their view of the city’s “porta-potties”.
Armed with empty “porta-potties” in the one hand and a questionnaire in the other, Ses’khona volunteers, mostly women, soon found out that it was near impossible to get residents to open their doors.
The group hardly had any face-time with locals, as their overtures were rejected over gate intercoms, with many indicating they were either too busy or not interested.
The exercise was aimed at getting the views of residents living in Cape Town’s affluent areas, by asking three pertinent questions:
* Do you agree with the type of toilets distributed in poor areas by the City of Cape Town?
* Do you agree that people from informal settlements and backyard dwellers should be integrated in areas like Constantia?
* What is your view on the living conditions of the poor in disadvantaged communities?
And while only one Constantia resident, a teenage girl opened the door, she seemed okay with the idea of having the portable system in her home, adding that it seems like a “temporary solution”.
Leading the group, Anelisa Njara, 25, from Kanini said for a first attempt the initiative was a success.
“What I’ve noticed as we walked down the road, is that there’s no rubble or waste or even porta-potties standing outside on the streets. The pavements are clean, not like where we stay in Khayelitsha where you can see the porta-potties standing in the road,” she said.
Conceding that it was challenging to get people to open their doors, she said: “It was a challenge because all the houses were inaccessible. They were not interested.”
An agitated motorist who was stopped, told the group: “You guys are being stupid and childish.
Are your animals? I don’t walk around with pee in my hand… what is in there?”
The group also visited Constantia Village shopping centre where some sat on top of their “porta-potties” in the middle of a traffic island leading into the mall, with toilet paper in hand while others approached motorists in the car park.
Yanga Mjingwana demonstrated to Cheryl-Ann and Ivan Attenborough how the portable system worked. Cheryl-Ann couldn’t believe her ears when told that the toilets were only cleared every two days.
“What, it’s just laying there and nobody comes to clean it up? It is not right for the children or anybody else to be around it,” she said.
The Attenboroughs remarked that while the system was suitable for camping it was not suitable for one-roomed informal settlement dwellings where you have to use it in full view of the rest of your family.
And the pair were shocked that residents had to live with the stench and toilets piling up in the street.
“I cannot agree with this. I don’t think it’s healthy and I don’t think it’s right going to the bathroom in front of your husband and children. I wouldn’t like that if my husband had to see me sitting there, or my son or daughter,” she said.
Ivan Attenborough said sanitation in jail was probably better.
Mjingwana agreed as he explained having been arrested during an earlier poo-protest.
“We had better services in prison when we were locked up than where we are staying now.
“People think we are just playing around, we want to show other people what we have to endure. We are not happy and we assume white people would also not be happy if they had these services. This is what the government is giving our people,” Mjingwana added.
Thulani Zondani wanted to find out if Constantia residents thought the system was dignified.
“The toilets are not collected daily and residents have to leave it outside in the street where the children play with it. Currently it’s almost been six months and nobody has collected these toilets from our homes,” he said.