Durban - Residents of Bester in KwaMashu, north of Durban, have been living with the overwhelming stench of overflowing toilets for many years - and the situation is becoming worse.
The blocks of pit toilets were constructed at different times, with some dating back before the advent of democracy in 1994 and others built as recently as just ahead of the last local government elections in 2016.
The toilets used to be cleaned and cleared every couple of years, but have not been emptied for the past five years. Most of them are situated close to people's houses, kitchens and front doors, leading to an overpowering stench.
Busi Mhlongo-Moloi, 26, who has lived in the area all her life, said: "Our mothers have lived like this, and we have lived like this, and so will our children. Nothing has been done. It’s indeed very sad and depressing that we have to live like this.
“Pit toilets must just be eradicated, that's all," said Mhlongo-Moloi angrily.
Councillor Nicole Graham, who is a member of the Executive Committee (Exco) in Ethekwini Municipality, and who is also concerned about the toilet situation, told Health-e-News that it was a disgrace for people to be living on top of toilets.
"The municipality is doing nothing, yet they know about this situation… I was so shocked when I saw the condition these people live in,” said Graham, explaining that she had reported the matter to deputy Democratic Alliance leader Emmanuel Mhlongo in order for him to report it to the Human Rights Commission.
“I believe that the condition of the toilets in Bester undermines people's dignity and right to decent sanitation," said Graham.
Bonga Ngwane, who has lived in the area for 24 years, said: "The municipality was surveying the area in 1992 to plan for the installation of sewage pipes. But our parents did not want to be removed from here to the field of Mooreland, which is where Bridge City Mall is now. That all resulted in this situation we live in, and it looks like we are still going to live like this for the next 10 years. Every mayor, councillor and municipal manager who comes into office after the
elections become aware of these toilets and they promise to deal with them, but no one seems to keep their promise."
Most people in this area say they are not going to vote in the 2019 general election if government does not fix the problem.
Sanelisiwe Zungu said: "We keep on raising this issue of toilets to the Ethekwini Municipality. But they keep on telling us that fixing the Bester toilets is on the municipal negotiation table under Project 2020. By that, I assume we have to live for another three years with this stink. I don't see any need for me and my family to vote next year."
Ethekwini acting Head of Communication Mandla Nsele said the municipality was aware of the Bester toilet issue and was trying to resolve the matter.
"We are aware and trying our best to deal with the situation of Bester," Nsele said.