17 July 2018

South Africa: Community Installs Its Own Toilets After Crowdfunded Campaign

Photo: Zoë Postman/GroundUp
Construction of nine flushing toilets begins in Mzondi informal settlement, Johannesburg.

After living for years with one toilet for every hundred people, the community of Mzondi informal settlement raised R67,000 in a crowdfunded campaign in March to build toilets. Construction of nine flushing toilets has now started in the settlement in Ivory Park, East of Johannesburg.

The ThundaFund campaign was set up for the community with the help of Grassroots, a community mobilising project. Katlego Mohlabane of Grassroots, said the project was initially supposed to build 30 pit toilets, but after consultation, residents agreed that they would rather have flushing toilets. "It also meant that we needed to hire a construction company," says Mohlabane.

Community leader Lesley Mashao said the project is not without its challenges. They are struggling to get access to an underground sewer pipe, which is beneath the backyards of a neighbouring community.

He said some community leaders, together with Grassroots, had approached the Ekurhuleni Municipality for assistance but to no avail.

"This is the only thing that will delay our project ... We tried speaking to them [the municipality] at imbizos. We tried sending messages and emails, but they keep promising to come, but they never show up," said Mashao. "It will cause a fight if we go to the neighbours and ask to break down their wall ... It has to come from the municipality, but they don't want to recognise us."

In March, the municipality told GroundUp it had a court order to demolish the shacks.

Thandekile Mahintsho moved to Mzondi in January. She is looking forward to the new toilets. She lives in a shack with her husband. Her children still stay with her mother because she worries about sanitation in the informal settlement.

"Every day we worry about children falling in those pit toilets, but now we don't have to worry anymore," said Mahintsho.

Another community member, Busisiwe Radebe, said flushing toilets would assist in getting rid of the foul smell that came from the pit latrines. "We are so grateful because we can finally live like human beings," she said.

Mohlabane said the project was a first for Grassroots. "One thing we would have done differently is getting the quotes before setting up the ThundaFund, so that we had an accurate representation of how much is needed to fund the project," he said.

Mohlabane said the project was set to take two weeks but the lack of response from the municipality about the sewer pipe may delay things.

Ekurhuleni Municipality had not responded to GroundUp's questions at the time of publication.

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