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Civil society groups urges prioritising of water and sanitation in election campaigns

Residents in Europe informal settlement in Khayelitsha share a communal tap with more than 20 other households which takes almost 10 minutes to get to the tap and have to stand in a queue for 5 minutes or more. Picture: Facebook

Residents in Europe informal settlement in Khayelitsha share a communal tap with more than 20 other households which takes almost 10 minutes to get to the tap and have to stand in a queue for 5 minutes or more. Picture: Facebook

Published Sep 27, 2021

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Cape Town - Asivikelane, an NGO that amplifies the voices of informal settlement residents, said their plight should be central to the election campaigns of every political party.

Afesis-Corplan programme officer Zimasa Mpemnyama said about 10 million people in South Africa lived in informal settlements, which was equivalent to about two-thirds of the voter turnout in the 2016 municipal elections. She said if political parties wanted to win local elections they must fix informal settlement taps and toilets.

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A report recently released by Asivikelane revealed that since April sanitation and traffic lights had worsened in Cape Town.

The research, which was conducted on 92 residents across seven municipal areas, eight wards and 24 informal settlements in the province, showed that poor service delivery and maintenance exposed women to numerous risks and vulnerabilities. In the report, an average of 59.5% of women reported being responsible for water collection and were also primarily responsible for the washing, caregiving, and cooking needs of their families.

The report further revealed that women across all informal settlements were too scared to visit communal toilets after dark, with 64.87% of female residents reporting feeling unsafe using municipal toilets at night and 40.8% feeling unsafe doing so during the day.

Social Justice Coalition community organiser Bonga Zamisa said the state of basic service delivery in the informal settlements had deteriorated and worsened.

“The majority of residents of informal settlements have lost hope in voting due to promises made by politicians that never materialise. But with that being said there is a minority in these communities who continue to participate in the electoral system with hope that service delivery will improve.

“Toilets that are located far away have broken or have no doors and the lack of sufficient lighting all contribute to women being unsafe and at risk. This can start by increasing the number of communal taps and toilets provided, fixing broken ones and improving lighting,” said Zamisa.

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Khayelitsha Development Forum Ndithini Tyhido said it gave a political party credibility to speak politics that were practical to the electorate.

“Anything that is not in a particular party’s manifesto is not going to be fixed. Political parties can say anything and everything. In this case they must first have this as an issue in their manifesto and detail practical plans for the deteriorating underground water and sanitation infrastructure in the city, especially in the Cape Flats and townships,” he said.

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