SAHRC calls for submissions to find solutions to eradicate pit toilets

Pupils continue to use the pit toilets after two learners died in 2008 at Hlalakahle Primary School, Hlalakahle village, Mpumalangs. Picture: Dumisani Dube

Pupils continue to use the pit toilets after two learners died in 2008 at Hlalakahle Primary School, Hlalakahle village, Mpumalangs. Picture: Dumisani Dube

Published Oct 2, 2022


Johannesburg: The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) says it has resolved to begin a process of collaboration and partnerships with various stakeholders to address the bucket toilet system.

The commission announced that it intended to, among others, call for submissions from stakeholders on finding solutions to the bucket system problem, collaborate with strategic stakeholders, solicit commitments from relevant state actors, conduct site visits to affected provinces and follow up with state actors to assess the pace and extent of the implementation of commitments

“28 years into democracy, access to safe and decent sanitation continues to be a huge challenge, which has a disproportionate impact on the lives of women, children and persons with disabilities. Additionally, the usage of the demeaning bucket toilet system, which is an affront to human dignity, continues in South Africa,” the SAHRC said.

According to the Statistics South Africa’s Non-Financial Census of Municipalities for the year ended June 30, 2020, several households continue to use the bucket toilet system.

The commission said that between 2004 and 2019 a gradual and steady decline in the use of the bucket toilet system was recorded; howeve, a sharp increase was noted, with 47 130 units being in use in 2020 compared to 42 434 units in 2019.

According to the SAHRC, the highest numbers of households using bucket toilets were recorded in Free-State, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and North West.

“Government has since the year 2003 made undertakings to address the bucket toilet system, but regrettably, those undertakings have not been realised. This is, in part, due to ever increasing levels of urban migration and the consequent increasing numbers of informal dwellings, and, in part, due to the government's own failures to take reasonable measures within its available resources to achieve the progressive realisation of the right to access sufficient water and sanitation,” the commission said.

It added that it has historically been concerned about the usage of the bucket toilet system and has been involved in advocating for an end to it. In 2014, after conducting comprehensive hearings, the commission recommended to the former Department of Water Affairs that the bucket toilet system be eradicated as soon as possible in all provinces and that the relevant government departments agree on plans, with time lines, for the eradication of bucket toilets in all existing settlements.

“The commission noting that a period of 8 years has passed since its 2014 report, as well as the developments that have taken place since the report was issued, including the growth in informal settlements hereby invites members of the public, civil society organisations and all interested parties with relevant information relating to: a) the reliance by communities on the bucket toilet system, b) any empirical or comparative studies in this regard and, c) any viable potential technological solutions suited to South African conditions, to make submissions which will assist the commission to fully appreciate the current situation on the ground and to formulate a strategic response to the growing trend of resort to the bucket system in both urban, peri-urban and rural areas in the country,” the SAHRC said.

Written submissions should be made to the commission by Friday, October 14, 2022.

The Star