Mpumelelo Gantsho and his family have been using the bucket toilet system since 2000, which is when they moved to Aloes Village in Missionvale, Port Elizabeth.
City Press visited Gantsho (41) and his family. They have to contend with the unpleasant smell coming from the bucket toilets, especially when the containers go uncollected for weeks, or even a month.
According to Stats SA’s annual nonfinancial census of municipalities in 2015, the number of people using the bucket toilet system is increasing.
The census found that between 2012 and 2013, the number of people who receive basic municipal services has risen – sewerage and sanitation has gone up by 6.2%, solid waste management has increased by 5.1%, electricity by 2.3% and water provision by 3.3%.
But the use of the bucket toilet system went up in the Eastern Cape, North West and KwaZulu-Natal, while there was a decrease reported in Gauteng, the Western Cape, the Northern Cape and the Free State.
A truck from the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro collects the buckets in Gantsho’s area every Wednesday or Thursday.
“But when it rains, or there is a strike, the buckets are not collected for two weeks, or even a month. The situation becomes so desperate that we pay people R20 to take the bucket and dispose of the waste somewhere in the middle of the night to protect our young children from diseases,” he said.
In 2014, Gantsho and his neighbours moved into decent houses.
“When the municipality built us these two-bedroom houses, we thought this was the end of using the disgusting bucket toilet system. But when we moved into the house, we were disappointed to find the bucket toilets,” he said.
Despite the fact that the new houses, which have two bedrooms, a kitchen and lounge, a bathroom with a bath, a toilet and a basin, there is no water.
When City Press visited the Gantshos, their bucket was empty because the municipal truck had just made a collection run.
“The bucket toilet is the most dehumanising system I know. Even socially, you cannot be respected by people who live in better-off places. They will insult you by saying you are using a bucket toilet, and there is nothing you can tell them,” Gantsho said.
An operator at Clover, Gantsho, who lives with his unemployed wife and three children – aged three, six, and 18 – believes the eradication of bucket toilets in the entire Nelson Mandela Bay Metro would bring much-needed dignity and respect to the community.
The metro said it had 18 000 bucket toilets in the area – down from more than 32 000 in 2005. But the DA said the number was closer to 30 000.
Andile Mfunda, mayoral committee member responsible for infrastructure and engineering, said the influx of unemployed people looking for work in the area – people who invariably ended up living in shacks – worked against the municipality’s efforts to eradicate the system.
In the ANC-run metro, the bucket system is still in place in Walmer, Missionvale, Kleinskool and parts of Veeplaas.
Mfunda said the municipality had set aside R30 million in the current financial year in a bid to eradicate the bucket toilet system, which it viewed as a priority project for
“We are not only investing in putting in sanitation services, we are also investing in improving our treatment works stations. More than R500 million has been invested in this project. This investment into our treatment works stations proactively deals with the load brought in by the increasing number of households connected into the system as we continue to eradicate the bucket system across the metro,” he said.
The DA, which is the official opposition in the metro, has called Nelson Mandela Bay South Africa’s capital city of the bucket toilet system, and has accused the metro of ignoring the crisis.
“I have written to the chairperson of the SA Human Rights Commission to request his update on the sign-off and release of the commission’s report into the more than 30 000 bucket toilets in Walmer Township,” said Athol Trollip, the DA’s Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality mayoral candidate.
Trollip this week set out to campaign for the metro, and Walmer Township was one of his stops.
“It has now been 18 months since the SA Human Rights Commission began investigating this continued assault on the dignity of our people at the hands of the ANC government. I understand that the report is complete, and is only awaiting the signature of chairperson Lawrence Mushwana,” Trollip said.
Isaac Mangena, the spokesperson for the commission, said the investigation was on track and was being finalised.
“The matter originally related to the bucket toilet system, and the lack of water in Walmer township and various sections thereof. We conducted two on-site inspections in the areas, and managed to get information and submissions from various people that helped in our investigation,” he said.
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