South Africa: After Three Generations, Kliptown Shack Dwellers Are Still Using Communal Toilets

Photo: Chris Gilili/GroundUp
"These toilets don’t reflect a democratic South Africa," says Kliptown resident Justice Kunene.

Miriam Ramaite has lived in her Vaalkamers, Kliptown shack for 33 years. Her daughter grew up here, and her grandchildren are growing up here too, using one of the three chemical toilets shared by seven households.

Kliptown is where the Freedom Charter was adopted in 1955.

Ramaite says residents have asked the City of Johannesburg for more toilets, without success.

"They told us they cannot provide each household with a toilet. These toilets fill quickly, and are cleaned only two days a week. As you sit, you poo on top of other people's waste. Flies run as they please on your private parts," said Miriam.

"The worst is that there is no water to wash our hands after using the toilet. We would prefer flushing toilets over this. We live in a dump here, in Vaalkamers. Our children play close to these toilets"

Resident Mamsy Motaung works as a janitor on Mondays and Thursdays, when the truck comes to empty the toilets. She earns R240 a week and is provided only with gloves and cleaning fluids.

"I do this job because it is the only thing available for me. When the truck comes, the smell engulfs our shacks. We eat and breathe with that smell around. I wish they could upgrade these toilets or bring new ones," she said.

Most of the toilet doors are broken. Residents lock them when they can, says Motaung.

"We keep these toilets locked for safety. Because people come from elsewhere, create a mess and leave it as it is. Criminals use them to smoke drugs at night. There are very few toilets to cater for everyone. The community needs more than this."

"We need new toilets, these toilets don't reflect a democratic South Africa. They are very old," said resident Justice Kunene.

Ward 17 councillor, Peter Rafferty (DA) said, "I am aware of the challenges faced by the people in that area. Yes, the toilets are over 20 years old. However we are currently planning to upgrade all the sanitation infrastructure in Kliptown. We will install flushing toilets with taps in the whole area."

Asked several times, he did not give details about when this would happen or why it had taken so long.

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