Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
20 October 2010

SJC picket demanding City of Cape Town release “secret” Makhaza toilet report

SJC to Deliver Legal Application to City of Cape Town Demanding Release of Secret Makhaza Toilet Report

1. The Social Justice Coalition (SJC) is staging a picket outside the Cape Town Civic Centre on Wednesday 20 October 2010 at 12h00, to hand over a memorandum and legal application to the Mayor. We will demand the release of a report from an internal investigation into the construction of toilets without walls and roofs in Makhaza. The City has refused to release this report. We feel that the release of the report’s findings is very much in the public interest, and that the City is legally obligated to release it.

2. On 24 August 2010 Councillor Grant Pascoe called for an investigation by the City Council into the construction of the toilets, stating that he felt the “city’s decision to build toilets without proper enclosures was unlawful”. On 27 September 2010 the SJC requested the report from this investigation. On 6 October 2010 Acting City Manager Mike Richardson responded. He noted that “the investigation found that the officials concerned who had engaged in negotiations with the residents and concluded the agreements did so with the best of intentions, but that such agreements would not be acceptable again. In future, national standards were to be strictly adhered to”. He went on to say that the City has “no intention or requirement to make this report public”.

3. Richardson’s response suggests that the investigation produced findings which are crucial to understanding what went wrong with the Makhaza toilet process and indeed how the delivery, maintenance, and coordination of sanitation services should be addressed more broadly. At present, 500 000 people in the City of Cape Town do not have access to basic sanitation, which negatively impacts on their health and safety (Water Dialogues: 2009). Residents of informal settlements are routinely assaulted, robbed, raped and murdered on the often long and arduous walk to the nearest functioning toilet. People often become sick with diahorrea, gastroenteritis, and other illnesses as a result of stagnant and polluted water which is often left to gather outside their homes. Sewerage spills are often left unattended for days, weeks and even months. The SJC is working in Khayelitsha to ensure the realisation of resident’s rights to safety, health, and dignity through calling for the improvement of sanitation services.

4. The Public Access to Information Act (PAIA) states that any member of the public has the right to access State held information, required for the exercise or protection of any rights. On Wednesday, we will hand over a PAIA application to the Mayor’s office. We hope that the City will choose to provide the report immediately, instead of spending taxpayer’s money to contest our request in court. We feel that this is especially important given current attempts to stifle access to information, and the City and DA’s principled stance on the matter to date.

Venue: Cape Town Civic Centre, West Entrance to Main Hall (Artscape Side) Time & Date: 12h00, Wednesday 20 October 2010
For more information please contact Gavin Silber on 083 777 99 81 or gavin@sjc.org,za

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