Residents of Kosovo informal settlement in Philippi have destroyed container toilets provided by the City of Cape Town. Picture: COURTNEY AFRICA

Cape Town - The city has spent R13 million in six months on repairing vandalised toilets in informal settlements – money which could have been better spent on improving services in townships, the city says.

Between July and December the city spent more than R13m on repairing toilets and standpipes, a figure which is substantially more than it spent in previous years.

Mayoral committee member for utilities Ernest Sonnenberg said the R13m was part of the department’s overall operational budget and that spending the money on repairing vandalised infrastructure prevented the city from making much needed improvements in townships.

Last year the city was rocked by numerous protests over sanitation and toilet provision with the ANC slamming the DA-led city for not delivering basic services to informal settlements.

Groups from informal settlements marched to the provincial legislature in October, staging a protest which later turned violent with widespread looting and damage of private property.

The N2 was also blocked off several times with residents from informal settlements throwing human waste across the highway in protest against the portable flush toilets which the city started providing in a bid to eradicate the bucket system.

Residents have demanded full flush toilets in all informal settlements, with community leaders calling the portable flush toilets “undignified”.

The city has, however, said that because of the topography of some of the land where residents live it is unable to install full flush toilets in all informal settlements.

Sonnenberg said vandalism of water and sanitation infrastructure was a problem in all informal settlements across the metro.

“These repairs are the result of vandalism or theft and are therefore entirely avoidable.

The over R13m spent has been on, among others, replacing and repairing stolen taps, broken taps, stolen handles, broken standpipes, stolen handbasins, blocked toilets and damaged toilet structures.”

Despite the challenges, the city was committed to increasing the provision of full flush toilets in informal settlements. “When a few destructive individuals illegally and selfishly destroy city infrastructure, they not only place a huge demand on the department’s budget which could be avoided, but most importantly obstruct the provision of basic service to the broader community,” Sonnenberg said.

In this financial year, the city planned to install 1 300 full flush toilets in various informal settlements including Imizamo Yethu, France, RR Section, Dunoon, Rasta Camp and Lansdowne Road.

“These installations exemplify the city’s ongoing commitment to improving sanitation services. Since 2006 the total number of toilets provided has increased from 14 591 to over 40 700,” Sonnenberg said.

Since 2006, the budget for water and sanitation services to informal settlements had increased more than fourfold from approximately R123m to over R521m.

Sonnenberg said the R13m spent was only on repairs to infrastructure above the ground.

He said the city had also spent money repairing vandalised infrastructure below the ground.

“This money is spent because people wilfully go and vandalise services when there are other areas where the money could be put to better use for improvements. We also hope with our janitorial programme with city staff on the ground that this will assist us to try to curb vandalism and also repair infrastructure before the situation becomes worse,” Sonnenberg said.

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Cape Times