The truth behind the ‘toilet wars' - Zille

Helen Zille
04 June 2010

The DA leader says truth has been the first casualty of the controversy

The truth behind the so-called "toilet wars"

This week has been dominated by what the media have described as "toilet wars". And, as usual, in war of any kind, truth is always the first casualty.

This edition of SA Today sets out, for the record, the facts of this messy situation. The first fact is this: open toilets are a serious affront to human dignity and cannot be condoned.

So how did it happen that toilets without walls were provided to the residents of Silvertown, Makhaza, by the DA-controlled City of Cape Town?

The issue had its genesis under my watch as Mayor of Cape Town when the City began an ambitious programme to deliver services (such as water, sewerage, roads, storm water and electricity) to 223 informal settlements (home to around 650,000 shack dwellers) across the metropolitan area.  Most of these settlements are the consequence of land invasions. Densities, and lack of planning, make "retrofitting" services in these areas a technically complex task.

But the technical difficulties pale into insignificance compared to the social complexities of upgrading a densely populated informal settlement.  Inevitably, upgrading results in intense community conflict, as some people have to move to make way for service installation, and people vie for access to the jobs that upgrading offers.  Usually, community conflict stalls delivery for many months, and often stops it altogether.  Very few contractors wish to work on these projects because of the social conflict that inevitably arises, which is why they always cost more and take much longer than initially planned.

To facilitate these processes where possible, contractors usually employ a "community liaison officer" (CLO) to achieve consensus and minimise conflict. In Silvertown, the CLO was none other than ANC Youth League (ANCYL) regional secretary, Andile Lili, who achieved notoriety when he was one of the group smashing the toilet enclosures in pursuit of the ANCYL's call to destroy infrastructure and make the City "ungovernable".

In his paid position as CLO facilitating the Silvertown provision of services, Lili had played a key role in implementing an agreement that emerged from lengthy negotiations with the community about how to meet their priorities out of the available budget. The budget, based on the national norms for the upgrading of informal settlements, provides one flush toilet for every five families. But the community understandably wanted one flush toilet per family. The proposed way to achieve this was for the City to provide the toilets and plumbing connections, while the families themselves would make a contribution and enclose the toilets.

This seemed an ideal win-win solution.  It certainly was for the 97% (1,265) of Silvertown families who built their toilet enclosures, often in the most innovative "en-suite" arrangements attached to their dwellings. But it did not work for 51 families (less than 3% of total beneficiaries). For whatever reason, they did not enclose their toilets, and some even used their open air toilets under cover of blankets.

The City resolved to end this indignity and to build toilet enclosures for the 51 - but faced resistance from the 1,265 families who argued that if they had built their enclosures themselves, so could the remaining 51. After listening to these arguments, Mayor Plato concluded that it would be untenable to continue with the indignity of open toilets. The City would therefore enclose the remaining toilets.

By this time, the ANCYL had realised it was on to a good thing.  Photos of unenclosed toilets had appeared in the media. The ANCYL lost no time using this to "prove" the lie that the DA treats black people with indignity, and developed a keen interest in ensuring the toilets remained open.

Mayor Plato then personally walked around Silvertown, speaking to the 51 residents with unenclosed toilets. He received a signed agreement from each of them that the City would erect enclosures around their toilets.

The City then moved in and began doing so. But the ANC youth league broke down the enclosures as fast as they could be built - against the pleas of the owners to stop doing so.  The police did their job and arrested two perpetrators on charges of malicious damage to property.  But the community was largely intimidated into silence.

This left the City with only two options:  to leave the toilets unenclosed, or to remove them.

The first option remained untenable. It was therefore resolved that the toilets would be temporarily removed until enclosures were built. Then the toilets would be returned.  This could, theoretically, happen within a few days.  In the meantime, the community would continue to be serviced by toilets on the national standard ratio of 5 families to 1 toilet (with a concrete enclosure).

Even this is far better than what is available in most informal settlements in ANC-run metropolitan areas. A recent National Treasury report found that Cape Town was well ahead of other metro municipalities in dealing with infrastructure backlogs and delivery of services. And Cape Town's service delivery lead is growing, despite the fact that the City faces massive urbanisation - pro rata higher than any other City in the sub-continent.

Cape Town would be even further ahead if it were not for the vandalism of municipal infrastructure, such as the wanton destruction of toilets perpetrated by the ANCYL last week.

According to Alderman Clive Justus, Cape Town's Mayco member for Utility Services, the City last year spent more than R80 million on repairing or replacing stolen or vandalised basic services in informal settlements.

For every R3 that the City spends of its R125 million annual budget for water and sanitation facilities in informal settlements, R2 is spent on repairs and replacement of vandalized or stolen infrastructure. According to Justus, if it were not for this lawlessness, the City would be able to upgrade informal settlements at three times the current rate.

Justus said recently that in the past financial year, the City had installed 422 water stand pipes, but had to effect 5 482 repairs to sabotaged or stolen pipes and taps.

In the same year, the City's Utility Services installed 2 458 toilets, but had to make 4 302 repairs to cisterns, pans, pipes and ablutions damaged by criminals.

Last December, 300 out of 464 toilets installed in a Delft informal settlement were broken or had parts stolen. In Philippi, vandals destroyed 26 ablution blocks containing six toilets each. In RR Section of Khayelitsha, chemical toilets were burned to the ground. This all happened within weeks of installation.

To address the theft of copper cabling, brass valves, lead batteries, manhole covers and water meters, the City is now using only plastic or steel pipes, and concrete for toilets. Underground electricity cables are now covered with concrete so that they can't be dug out. Cape Town's ‘Copperheads' task team has also cracked down on dealers of stolen scrap metal. The City has even provided padlocks and chains to community leaders to keep toilet facilities secure overnight.

Justus warned that a new pattern is emerging, whereby plastic pipes are stolen, despite their minimal re-sale value, concrete toilets are smashed with axes, and even padlocks are being taken. This is pure vandalism.

City officials report that residents sometimes vandalise facilities to secure more jobs in the subsequent repair programmes on the basis of the City's "local employment" policies, creating a perverse incentive for people to destroy newly installed infrastructure, to secure employment in the repair work. When contractors employ other outside labour, local communities often drive them out of the area, delaying projects by months and years. This pushes up the cost of services in informal settlements.

We have come to the conclusion that the best way to instill a sense of ownership and an ethos of respecting property, is for each family to contribute to the construction and maintenance of their own toilet.  The perfect condition of the enclosed "en suite" toilets in Silvertown is evidence of this.

But this type of intervention which encourages self-reliance and initiative does not suit the ANC Youth League who would rather ensure that people remain passive and powerless recipients of government handouts. 

We have seen through the ANCYL's strategy and it is time for the community to do so too. Unless they stand up for their rights against the intimidation of the ANC Youth League, they will remain victims and forfeit the power to change their lives.

This article by Helen Zille first appeared in SA Today, the weekly online newsletter of the leader of the Democratic Alliance.

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 responses to this article

Urgent leadership urgently needed in Makhaza - SJC

Gavin Silber and Angy Peter
01 June 2010:
"Gavin Silber and Angy Peter says removal of 65 toilets was a regressive step..."

Now where do these to idiots get their ideas!

by Utter Confusion on June 04 2010, 15:02
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Both parties to blame for the mess
Madam Zille it was wrong of you (now that you have admited being in charge when the programmen started) to build unenclosed toilets. But, it is equally wrong for the ANC YL to destroy the attempt to correct the fault. For the DA this was either political . .more

by Gambu on June 04 2010, 15:55
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Political Party Funding
Madam. Please tell us who funds the DA?

by Che on June 04 2010, 16:39
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both parties?
Gambu: Did you actually read the article?

by The Truth on June 04 2010, 16:52
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Why not fine the ANCYL to pay for an equivelant of 1000 toilets

I am absolutely gob smacked that an organisation can phone the press to witness breaking down the structures(an organisation with plenty of money) is not held liable for paying for more than they have destroyed.

It is about time that people . .more

by didi on June 04 2010, 18:44
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Who funds the DA?

Your question pops up all over the place - what is wrong with you? You have been told again and again - The people who support the DA fund the DA!! How difficult is this to understand. Unlike the ANC being "the government" and in total . .more

by Magenta on June 04 2010, 19:35
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Sound thinking
As always, Helen Zille shows how well her head is screwed on. She is absolutely right in saying that by giving the people a real sense of ownership, through their own investment into the infrastructure, assists in assuring that facilities will be . .more

by Magenta on June 04 2010, 19:40
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@ arnaud

Your inferences are unacceptable , what are you saying???

by didi on June 04 2010, 21:44
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As my granpa used to say..
..dis 'n k@kspul.

@Arnaud. Eat a chilli pal and have an aangename ope lyfie. Which tree did you fall from?

by Bokdrol on June 04 2010, 22:39
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The truth will set you free
Amazing how a well explained article gives us a clear picture of exactly what went on. And it highlights the desperation of the the ANC in seizing upon 50 toilets as the worst ammo they can find to throw at the DA - and when the DA fix the problem (that . .more

by Sad Days on June 05 2010, 00:08
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These toilets seem to cause constipation not offer relief.

by Bokdrol on June 05 2010, 11:24
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This lady is pure class. May we be blessed with many more like her.

by Old Timer on June 05 2010, 11:28
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a suggestion
to Zille and the DA is to make sure all meetings and suchlike are videoed so that no party can later refute what had occured and decided upon.The lies and deception are only going to increase now so make sure you have all angles covered.

by kay on June 05 2010, 15:16
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Hey Che ,
Please tell us who eats all the tax payers money you Fekkin W*****. why are there service delivery protests going on all across the country in ANC ruled areas and not just the western cape?

by Living in exile on June 05 2010, 21:49
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Well done ma
Helen, the truth hurts them. but do me a favour an just build them an enclosed toilet and put the bloody toilet back. Compared to what Durban rate payers have to go through to give Land invaders 5 star accomadtion ( actually invited by the Mayor) your . .more

by living in Exile on June 05 2010, 21:57
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@ bokdrol
Like all South African politicians Vol K** and please increase my salary next year. In a real working democracy these mothers get voted out next election. Thank god i dont pay taxes to support these clowns and their life styles anymore.

by Living in exile on June 06 2010, 17:49
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Without order there is chaos - The law of the universe
The people in the ANCL are sub human. They must surely date back to a species prior to the cradle on mankind, when the ape converted to man.

All they are able to do is subvert and destroy. That is unless they are able to get some corruption to . .more

by Chaos rules on June 07 2010, 09:26
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Did you not read the article? I assume you are an advocate of government handouts which inevitably leads to a nation of lazy recipients not willing to be creators of their own destiny. There is ONLY one guilty party here- the ANCYL.

by Bruce on June 07 2010, 10:39
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P******* national standard ratio
The national standard ration of 1 toilet per 5 families is P*******, who came up wiith this national standard? Even those who are relying on it to provide sanitation are P******* as the standard itself. Rather, Is it not about de-valueing black human . .more

by Cuz on June 07 2010, 10:51
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Helen please come sort Durban out
Mike and his ANC cronies dont give a damn about us ratepayers, and just do as they will. All we can offer is great winter weather. If it wasnt for the winters I would come join you down there.

by Tom on June 07 2010, 11:22
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kwakwakwa kwikwikwi hehehehe
Ke service delivery, SAHRC ordered the BIG MOUTH lady to honour the Const duty in service delivery

by samsam on June 07 2010, 11:46
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If you build it they will come
The DA fully owns this mistake. Squatters are illegally occupying the land and should be chased off city property. By providing them with infrastructure they are merely inviting even more ANC supporters from elsewhere to come and squat in the city.

by Robard on June 07 2010, 12:31
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@ Cuz
The National Standards were developed by the ANC. Go to any informal settlement where the ANC has actually provided toilets and you will find 1 toilet per 5 shacks.

You just don't geddit, do you???


by Saffer on June 07 2010, 13:10
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I wonder ....
.... how those 1250 families who came to the party and enclosed their own toilets feel about the 51 lazy sods who sat on their backsides and played the political/race card because they didn't want to lift a finger to help themselves.


by Saffer on June 07 2010, 13:12
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No it a clasic case of what socialists like Che and others close their eyes to and that is the majority must always succumb to the lowest level.

by Mike on June 07 2010, 14:39
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Zille supporters = racists
Look at the type of people and responses in this forum. Most supporters of Zille are downright insulting and racist. When I think of Zille I think of responses from people like "Living in exile" and therefore Zille will never get my vote or support. Maybe . .more

by WAM on June 07 2010, 15:06
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By world standards ....
You build your own Fu*&&ing toilet with your own money from a job you earned by completing a degree your patents probably paid for.
This must be the only place in the universe where the tax payer is expected to foot the bill for your toilet if there . .more

by Fred on June 07 2010, 15:35
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Thank you Fred
Your comments prove my point that Zille supports are closet racists. If you are a Zille supporter, she will never get support from the people who have the power to vote her into power. Serves her right for encouraging supporters like you.

If you . .more

by WAM on June 07 2010, 16:47
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Delighted with your last sentence. You sounded way too clever to be distracted by 'supporters'. You have your own thoughts: follow them. We all want the best; vote for the best.

by UNICORN on June 07 2010, 19:31
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Shacks and sh*thouses
The "community" will never let the DA build enclosed toilets because they had to enclose their own. They are not prepared to let the lazy few, who did B***** all, get away with free enclosures, whether of corrugated iron or face-brick.
Have just . .more

by Jeff on June 07 2010, 19:32
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