Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille will file complaints against municipalities that have "bigger" sanitation problems than the Cape. File photo: Henk Kruger

Cape Town - The City of Cape Town has lashed out at the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), saying it has played the “race card” by accusing the metro of discriminatory service delivery.

In a “special edition” of her newsletter, mayor Patricia de Lille suggested that the SAHRC’s damning report was part of the ANC’s election campaign, and that the findings were based on misunderstandings.

“It is clear that the ANC’s election campaign has started in earnest on all fronts; this just makes us more determined than ever to provide the best level of service possible to all residents… unlike the ANC and the SAHRC who seemingly only have the race card to play.”

De Lille added that she had expected “this level of lack of understanding of how government functions” from the Social Justice Coalition (SJC), the NGO that first lodged a complaint with the SAHRC about the condition of chemical toilets in Khayelitsha, and Ses’Khona, which was part of the ANC’s campaign to make the city ungovernable.

“The SAHRC’s argument that there is discrimination based on the provision of chemical toilets is completely exposed when it is considered that, for example, there are over four times the number of full-flush than chemical toilets provided in Khayelitsha.”

The report, which comes after site visits and community meetings held last year to assess the condition of chemical toilets in particular, in four areas of Khayelitsha, found that the city had indirectly discriminated against black, African people living in informal settlements; had violated these residents’ right to dignity by providing inadequate basic sanitation and had failed to engage with the community about where the services would be provided.

But De Lille said she was “astounded” by the commission’s suggestion that the provision of chemical toilets constituted discrimination. “The city only provides chemical toilets in Khayelitsha and other informal settlements as a last resort.”

Although the SAHRC has recommended that the city come up with a sanitation plan within six months, De Lille said this was not a ruling against the city. She cautioned the SAHRC against making recommendations that undermined elected governments.

But Axolile Notywala of the SJC said on Thursday that residents would hold the city to the six-month deadline.

“We will not back down. We will fight them with whatever we have.”

The NGO is busy with a social audit of flush toilets in informal settlements.

De Lille defended the city’s strategy, saying it had provided 44 500 toilets in informal settlements this year.

* The headlines on page 1 of the Cape Argus on Thursday, “Porta-pottie policy is racist” and on IOL “Porta potties are racist – HRC”, were misleading. The City of Cape Town has pointed out that the toilets are chemical toilets in fixed cubicles.

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