19 April 2022
In the main road of Burundi informal settlement in Mfuleni, Cape Town, there are two “Mshengu” chemical toilets, one of them shared by 12 families. When the toilets are full, the families use the canal behind the shacks.
Not far from there, six communal flush toilets are full and blocked.
Resident Sikholise Mathe said, “At least the Mshengu toilets do not get blocked but they get full. When they are full we go to the river behind the shacks while waiting for the City of Cape Town to empty them.”
“It is unfortunate for women because they can’t go to the river to relieve themselves, meaning they are stuck using the Mshengu toilets, full or not. This one toilet is used by 12 families or more. Sometimes people from the other side come to our house to ask for the keys, we cannot deny them using government toilets,” he said.
“This is not healthy for women and children but these are the only toilets we have. Some of the people relieve themselves in buckets then throw it in the canal,” he said.
Mkeleng Tsekwa lives in a three-room shack with six children and two grandchildren. She says the six flush toilets she used to share with her 15 neighbours have been blocked for two years. “If you pass there, believe me you won’t eat. The stinking smell coming out of those blocked toilets is so unbearable, I don’t know how those people who live closer survive that bad smell,” she said.
Just a few metres from her shack, there used to be six other flush toilets but residents destroyed them early this year, Tsekwa said, because they had not been fixed for years and children played in them.
She has dug a hole outside her shack. “There are no working toilets near my shack, that is why I relieve myself on a bucket inside the house then go throw it on the hole outside,” she said.
Community leader Ayanda Mteto said in total about 12 blocked flush toilets had been destroyed by residents. He said that years they had reported them broken to the City years ago but they remained broken.
Mayco Member for Water and Sanitation, Zahid Badrondien said City officials had not received any complaint regarding the blocked toilets in the area. “There are janitors in the area. The City will look into this,” he said.
We counted about 13 blocked flush toilets and 11 that were working - each shared by at least ten families.
Mteto said, “This side with the 11 working toilets has more than 400 shacks, that tells you these toilets are not enough.” He said the City had promised to supply 20 more chemical toilets to the area.
Emma Mehlo’s shack was built back in 2004. Inside her yard, there’s a Mshengu toilet she shares with six other families. Mehlo said they clean the toilet on their own, and a municipal truck comes three days a week to empty the waste.
“We used to be many using this toilet, but other people are now using the river at the back to relieve themselves,” she said.
Badroodien said the City is currently busy with the project of upgrading the toilets.