Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sexwale exposed as enclosed-toilet drive bogs down

BILLIONAIRE business success story Tokyo Sexwale has spent only 9% of this year’s budget to provide toilets for 2.2-million rural and semi-urban households, it emerged on Wednesday, underlining a missed opportunity to finally flush away the shame of South Africa’s toilets in the veld.

Politicians from both the African National Congress (ANC) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) were quick to make political capital out of the unenclosed toilets saga in the general election of 2009.

Unenclosed toilets were first discovered in Makhaza, in the DA-run municipality of Cape Town, and later in the ANC-run Moqhaka municipality in the Free State.

Last week, protests erupted in Moqhaka, and on Wednesday the South African Human Rights Commission subpoenaed the Moqhaka municipality for failing to enclose toilets in the area, as ordered to do in 2010.

However, in rural and semi-urban areas, millions of people live with no toilets at all and have to make use of the bush or rough home-made latrines.

The establishment of a special budget allocation — the rural household infrastructure grant — was initiated by the Treasury in 2010 to overcome the backlog.

Now the Treasury has cut this year’s budget for rural toilets by 28%, from R479m to R350m. But even this looks unlikely to be spent: with a month to go to the end of the financial year, the department has spent 26% of the reduced budget.

In total, of the 2.2-million target that the grant was established to eradicate, only a little more than 11,000 toilets have been built.

Asked to explain the failure of the programme, Mr Sexwale said the pace of delivery was "unacceptably slow" and was attributed to contracted service providers.

The contractors involved are development agencies Mvula Trust and the Independent Development Trust. Mr Sexwale said he had instructed that private sector companies be brought in to help.

From next year, the grant will be moved to the Presidency’s infrastructure commission. Mr Sexwale said he supported this move.

However, the performance of the past three years reflects poorly on Mr Sexwale, who since joining the Cabinet in 2009 has spoken out strongly on decent sanitation.

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