Friday, October 28, 2016

Dying for a pee

Endlovisi, a vast sprawl of more than 6,600 corrugated iron shacks perched precariously over the sand dunes on the southeastern edge of Cape Town. One of the world's five biggest slumS, the townships of Khayelitsha stretch for miles, a sea of ramshackle wood and iron shacks. The townships are home to nearly 400,000 residents, 99 percent of them black. Part of Khayelitsha, Endlovisi is home to an estimated 20,000 people who share just 380 or so communal toilets.

"Using a toilet in informal settlements is one of the most dangerous activities for residents and women and the children have the biggest problems," said Axolile Notywala, of the Social Justice Coalition (SJO), a campaign group fighting for better sanitation in Cape Town's informal settlements. In 2012 a local man was convicted of multiple counts of child rape and one count of murder between April 2010 and September 2011. The court heard he had lured his victims to the bushes around the settlement before attacking them. The same court will begin a pre-trial hearing of the case against two cousins accused of the murder of Sinoxolo Mafevuka, a Khayelitsha teenager who was found strangled in a communal toilet near her home.

Meaning 'new home', Khayelitsha was established in the mid-1980s during the apartheid era as a vast dormitory for the thousands of workers who moved to Cape Town in search of jobs. When restrictions on the movement of blacks were lifted with the end of apartheid in 1994, hundreds of thousands more Xhosa people from the Eastern Cape poured into the city. Endlovini was born a few years later, in 1997, taking over a swathe of unoccupied hillside land that had been both a nature reserve and public landfill. The community's refusal to be evicted gave the place its name: in the Xhosa language it means both elephant and fierce strength and is officially known as Monwabisi Park.

Khayelitsha's residents' push for better sanitation and security, led by the SJC, has been built on tiny steps - from numbering existing toilets to identify them to the creation of services to clean and maintain them. Padlocks were issued to encourage a sense of ownership of existing toilets but new facilities are desperately needed.

"The city's budget for water and sanitation has decreased again this year...21 per cent of Cape Town's households are informal but they only get one percent of the city's total capital allocation for water and sanitation," the SJO's Notywala said. "The city still relies on offering undignified, inferior, temporary toilets meant for emergencies as long term solutions."

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