South Africa: 1,500 Families Share Three Toilets in Durban Informal Settlement

Nearly 40 blocked toilets have not been fixed after two years

  • Nearly 1,500 families in Kennedy Road informal settlement in Durban are using the bush as a toilet.
  • There are about 40 flush toilets, but all but three are blocked and have not been fixed for two years.
  • The municipality says it is tied up with bureaucratic processes.

Nearly 1,500 families in Kennedy Road informal settlement, Durban, have to share three working toilets. There are about 40 flush toilets in the settlement but almost all of them are blocked.

Ward 25 Councillor Themba Mkhize (ANC) said for the past two years the municipality has been promising to fix the toilets. At a council meeting held two months ago, a budget to fix the blocked toilets was approved, he said, but nothing has happened.

Mkhize said it was already an issue before the April 2022 floods.

“I’m not lying when I say I reported these blocked toilets two years ago,” he said.

“On many occasions the municipality has sent people to come and assess them but nothing was done. Each time when they visit, we calculate the number of blocked toilets; they take the number; then promise to come back to fix them. But that does not happen. Instead, we keep on calculating,” said Mkhize

“Most residents are using the bush, while others have decided to dig holes in their backyards. The bush is very dangerous, because there are live wires [illegal electricity connections]. It’s God’s grace that no one has died in those bushes,” said Mkhize.

Resident Sifiso Magwaza said they no longer bother reporting the blocked toilets.

“We are only relying on three toilets. The three toilets are in one container. We all queue in one line – kids, men and women … Some people are using buckets then throwing them in the drain but the majority are using the bushes,” he said.

Magwaza said the last time he was aware that the toilets were fixed was three years ago.

“In most cases, when fixed they would only work for a week or two. We would then be left with three or two toilets to share. It’s been years now waiting for the municipality to come fix them, and we are not protesting we are just waiting,” said Magwaza.

“The issue we are facing is that the municipality is not hiring the big contractors that can solve this problem from the roots,” said Mkhize. “In some informal settlements where blocked toilets were fixed before, they only lasted a week.”

EThekwini Municipality spokesperson Gugu Sisilana said the municipality is aware of the situation. She said the budget for maintenance was reallocated to prioritise storm damage projects, such as treatment works and pump stations, after the April or May floods in 2022.

She said a two-year tender aimed at addressing this issue is being processsed. In the interim, the municipality is busy with other paperwork to “allow us to start working”, she said.

“We urge communities to refrain from using foreign materials instead of toilet paper as this in turn impacts on the lifespan of the ablution facilities,” said Sisilana.


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