Friday, September 13, 2013

Activists question toilet policy document

Cape Town - The Social Justice Coalition (SJC) and the City of Cape Town are engaged in a war of words over sanitation provision in Khayelitsha.

On Thursday, the SJC accused mayor Patricia de Lille of fabrication and “an exceptional show of force” after the arrest of 21 activists outside the Civic Centre on Wednesday.

Mayoral committee member for utility services Ernest Sonnenberg said the SJC was using the sanitation problems for “self-serving publicity”.

The city and the SJC have been at loggerheads over the provision of sanitation in informal settlements and about the way the city has monitored companies contracted to supply and clean chemical toilets.

On Wednesday, SJC activists, including general secretary Phumeza Mlungwana and Ndifuna Ukwazi director Zackie Achmat, chained themselves to railings outside the Civic Centre.

They were arrested and charged under the Illegal Gatherings Act and are to appear in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on September 18.

De Lille described the protest as a “publicity stunt” that “smacks of grandstanding”. She said the coalition had not responded to an offer to meet on October 8 or 17.

But the SJC said: “These are outright fabrications. The mayor only proposed these dates after the SJC’s lawyers, the Legal Resources Centre, sent two letters and it was clear that the SJC would be taking legal action against the city.”

The coalition again accused the city of being lax in its monitoring of toilet contractors and said it would continue to protest in spite of the arrests.

Mlungwana said the SJC had tried to set up an earlier date with De Lille as the sanitation problem in Khayelitsha was an “urgent” matter.

In June, it asked the city to provide a policy on sanitation and a plan to fix the problem in Khayelitsha, which the city had done.

“We had a lot of questions about the document. It didn’t say who was responsible for what and when they should be doing it. This is an urgent issue and we want the mayor to give answers,” Mlungwana said. In the policy document there was no indication of public consultation.

Achmat said the SJC wanted the city to provide a breakdown of how many people were employed to clean toilets, not only in Khayelitsha but other areas, and details of the equipment provided.

Sonnenberg said the 800 people employed in the programme were provided with “protective clothing, necessary immunisation and training”.

“There will always be management challenges… and the city has sought to respond to these as they arise. If the SJC has concerns…these should be reported as they arise so they can be remedied, not kept back to generate self-serving publicity.”

- Cape Times

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