Residents of Duncan Village D-Section use buckets to relieve themselves because the communal toilets are blocked. They empty the buckets on surrounding fields. Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality says it has no money to fix the problem, at least not in this financial year.
One of the toilets, used by almost 30 households, has been blocked for almost two years. Smelly water, used condoms and human waste greet anyone who enters. Residents complain of the municipality's failure to provide sanitation services and remove refuse.
D-Section originally consisted of a hostel, but over time people have built shacks and houses in the area. The toilets are fixed standalone structures.
Lulama Mxako, who is responsible for cleaning the toilets, says she has given up the battle to have them maintained by the municipality. "At first I would receive the cleaning detergents and gloves to clean these toilets inside-out but this has changed over the years. I clean them with my bare hands, exposing myself to diseases because my job is to clean them. I have told the councillor and the municipality but no one hears my plight," said Mxako.
Since the blockage two years ago, residents have opened a drain located nearby which supports the toilets. However, it also gets blocked and residents pour the dirty water onto the surrounding grass, leaving the ground filthy and smelly.
"I just fear for the kids, who love playing around this area," said Mxako.
A resident, who asked not to be named, said that dirty water gets inside her shack. The smell is unbearable. She has raised the problem in community meetings but there has been no progress.
"We are exposed to the smell day and night but our municipality is failing us. Even at night, if I want to relieve myself I have to force it and travel a longer distance. Maybe if we protest and burn municipal offices, someone will do something. That is the language our government understands," she said.
"Maybe if we protest and burn municipal offices, someone will do something. That is the language our government understands."
The problem is not confined to D-Section. Nozibele Wolani, who cleans a communal toilet block at C-Section, said that the toilets there have been closed for four years. People have given up challenging the municipality to fix the problem.
"I tried to clean these toilets using my own money. However, they blocked again but no one wants to hear about it when I tell them," said Wolani.
Buffalo City response
Councillor Mkakutta Clara Morolong-Yekiso (ANC) said that during an Integrated Development Plan roadshow on Wednesday, she tried to raise the toilet problem with municipality officials but no one took her seriously.
Mkhuseli Nongogo, Engineering and Sanitation Programmes Manager for the municipality, told GroundUp, "There has been no budget in the municipality to maintain the toilets over the years. However, we are aware of the matter and will look into it in the coming financial year."
Bonisile Nombewu, who works on toilet maintenance for the municipality, said that people have been complaining to him but his hands are tied.
"Ever since the toilets were installed in 2009 by the municipality, sadly they have never been maintained. Hence the increasing blockages. Every single year I ask my superiors about this. They say there is no budget allocated for this purpose. To tell you the truth, the issue will not be attended to anytime soon and it's sad because people are inconvenienced," said Nombewu.