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
24 March 2010

Stand for Sanitation, Safety and Dignity

STAND FOR SANITATION, SAFETY & DIGNITY!

Hundreds to Queue Outside Sea Point Public Toilet to Draw Attention to

Poor Sanitation Services in Informal Settlements

Last year, Ntombentsha Beja – a 75 year old resident of Makhaza, Khayelitsha was stabbed in the chest while walking to a toilet ten minutes from her home.  She is not alone – men, women, and children risk robbery, assault, rape and murder daily in attempts to use a toilet.

Access to clean and safe sanitation facilities – which affects both personal health and exposure to crime and violence – is one of the primary concerns of residents of informal settlements. There are insufficient clean and functioning toilets, whilst safe water sources are extremely limited; drainage is non-existent; and refuse collection is irregular. As a result, waterborne diseases and parasites – including gastroenteritis, worms and diarrhoea – are increasingly rampant. These illnesses intensify the effects of HIV/AIDS, particularly amongst young children. At the same time, residents are often forced to walk long distances down unlit ‘pathways’ that wind between shacks, through backyards and sometimes across busy roads; they are frequently robbed, hit by cars, beaten and raped. In many cases toilets are wholly absent – forcing residents to relieve themselves in bushes on the outskirts of the community – increasing their vulnerability to crime and exposure to disease.

The law stipulates that there should be no more than 5 households per toilet in informal settlements, yet the city average currently stands at 12.6 households per toilet (City of Cape Town, 2009) – of which many are dysfunctional. A recent study (Water Dialogues South Africa, 2009) shows that 500 000 people in the City of Cape Town’s informal settlements have no access to basic sanitation (non-bucket toilets), and just under half of those have no access to sanitation whatsoever. The City’s informal settlements are grossly understaffed and resourced – although at least 20% of the City’s population reside in these under-developed areas only 2.6% of the city’s Water and Sanitation personnel work in these areas, which directly receive only 1.7% of water services revenue.

The Social Justice Coalition is committed to realising the rights of all people in South Africa to be free from all forms of violence whether from public or private sources. The first step is to demand safe, clean, hygienic and private sanitation facilities for people in Khayelitsha and informal settlements across the country.

An international campaign is being held from 20 – 22 March 2010 during which participants at various events around the world will symbolically queue for a toilet in solidarity with the 2.5 billion people globally who do not have access to a safe and clean toilet (End Water Poverty; 2009). In doing so, participants will attempt to set an official Guinness world record for the world’s longest toilet queue.

Coinciding with National Water Week and the Human Rights Day weekend, the SJC will be hosting a Cape Town Queue to draw attention to both the international initiative and the challenges faced by residents in South Africa’s informal settlements. Participants from across the city will join a ‘queue’ outside a designated public toilet in Sea Point. Public toilets in this affluent area are cleaned and maintained regularly by a dedicated caretaker, are well lit, and often provide security personnel for safety. This is in stark contrast to Khayelitsha’s public toilets, which are sparsely located, never cleaned, or provided with neither the luxuries of toilet paper nor a simple toilet seat. On display will be a photographic exhibit of sanitation facilities in Khayelitsha, as well as mock ups of existing sanitation facilities in informal settlements. It is hoped that the event will create awareness amongst people who are generally unfamiliar with the poor level of sanitation services in informal settlements, as well as provide an opportunity for City residents to call on the local government to address the issue.

We will encourage participants to sign a petition demanding from the mayor:

  1. A commitment, reasonable plan and budget to ensure that every household in Khayelitsha’s informal settlements has access to basic sanitation and access to water by October 2011.
  2. A public consultation of no longer than 6 weeks across the City of Cape Town to redefine minimum norms and standards and where necessary, to create regulations to ensure that toilets are safe, clean and maintained regularly, water points are hygienic, adequate drainage is provided and communities are educated on the use and maintenance thereof.

Where: Sea Point Promenade (opposite SABC studios), Cape Town

When: 10h00 – 12h30, Saturday 20 March

For more information please visit www.socialjusticecoalition.org , www.worldtoiletqueue.org , or the Facebook event titled “The Queue for Sanitation, Safety & Dignity”.  For press comment please contact gavinsilber@gmail.com

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