A boy relieves himself in a bucket toilet system that is still being used in Soul City, Duduza, near Nigel. Photo: Boxer Ngwenya

Johannesburg - Bucket toilets will be with us for many more years to come, says Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale, as inadequately equipped municipalities struggle with the massive backlog.

Municipalities have proved to be the weakest link in the mess, said Sexwale, a situation considered a basic human rights violation by the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).

He was responding to a parliamentary question from DA MP Stevens Mokgalapa on the bucket system.

Sexwale revealed that the current national sanitation backlog stood at 2.278 million households. He attributed the high number to an influx of migrant labourers from rural areas and foreigners who are flocking to informal settlements across the country.

Mokgalapa had asked Sexwale what the current sanitation backlog was and what the reasons were for the backlog. He also asked by what date the backlog would be cleared.

“The reasons attributed to the current backlog are the combination of an exceptionally large backlog that was inherited by the democratic government in 1994.

“The number of households has increased; rural-urban migration, as well as the influx of foreigners into informal settlements, particularly in urban areas,” said Sexwale.

He said insufficient budget allocations by municipalities for the sanitation programme was another hindrance.

“The target date to eradicate the basic sanitation services backlog is December 2014. However, this target may not be met due to insufficient financial resources and a lack of technical and financial management skills at municipal level.”

Sexwale said it was not clear when the bucket system would be eradicated completely, specifically in rural areas.

The ANC parliamentary caucus has also had lengthy discussions on the eradication of the bucket system at its recent lekgotla, when it discussed matters regarding social transformation.

ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga said after the March caucus lekgotla: “Parliament must ensure that the process of eradicating the bucket system in provinces where they still exist is accelerated. Attention must also be given to areas still facing challenges of water provision.

“Where there are pipes with no running water, urgent steps should be taken to ensure water reticulation is undertaken.”

In February, the SAHRC raised concerns about sanitation in RDP homes, when its head, Lawrence Mushwana, said recommendations made to the Department of Human Settlements had been ignored. One recommendation was that the bucket system be eradicated.

Mushwana said the department had failed to make any progress, with the system still prevalent in the Eastern, Northern and Western Cape.

According to a report released in January by the SA Institute of Race Relations, Gauteng had eradicated the bucket system, with about 2 percent of Western Cape households still making use of it.

Another area still grappling with the bucket system is the Moqhaka municipality in the Free State. DA Free State leader Patricia Kopane said two orders from the SAHRC “to respect the dignity of residents” and build proper toilets were being ignored by the municipality.

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The Star