Stink over Cape Town portable toilet contract continues

Communal toilets in Dunoon, Cape Town, are full to the brim following a dispute between residents and the City. Photo: Peter Luhanga

Since the dispute by residents over the contract, Sanitech had also not been able to clean toilets. Also, in the past, staff were attacked and threatened.

Maggots, flies and bags of faeces await residents of Dunoon’s Site 5 settlement in Cape Town every day as a new portable toilet contractor battles to start work.

Some residents are demanding the return of the previous contractor.

Those who can, walk to a local shop to use the toilet – but, without regular running water at the shop, this is not hygienic either.

A source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told News24 it was now up to employees of the Department of Public Works to collect the bags of faeces left around Site 5. The current toilets are unusable and the employees might get sick.

The source said that, due to the impasse, the toilets were overflowing. It was distressing residents, who were also worried about their health during the Covid-19 pandemic as Dunoon was identified as a hotspot at one point.

They said the contract of one company, Mshengu Toilet Hire, had run its course, and residents were not happy about the new company, Sanitech, which the City of Cape Town appointed because of alleged poor service by Mshengu Toilet Hire.

“We want Mshengu back,” said the source.

They added that the veracity of signatures on a petition they submitted to the City was also questioned. When they applied for a permit to protest, they did not get a reply, so some people put faeces on the nearby N7 national highway.

The source said the “bucket” toilets had not been cleaned since the beginning of August.

Mshengu general manager Hilton Cupido confirmed that it had held a contract for around 800 temporary toilets, which ended on 30 June 2020.

The company had stayed on until the end of July, at no extra charge. He said it could not charge anyway because the contract had ended and no invoice could be issued.

But it had not been able to clean or arrange for the old toilets to be removed, due to the tension in the area.

Dunoon is part of a fast-growing region near Blouberg, Parklands and Table View in Cape Town, with new shacks being built regularly to accommodate the growing demand for cheaper accommodation, including on land already earmarked for housing or infrastructure upgrades.

Sanitech managing director Robert Erasmus said the company was previously sub-contracted to provide 250 of the total number of portable toilets needed by Mshengu.

He explained that, because of the density of the shacks, in certain instances it has to use toilets with a removable container, via a flap at the back, because trucks cannot get closer to the toilets for extraction and cleaning.

The container had to be removed via the flap and taken to the closest point to the trucks where they were emptied, cleaned and refilled with water and put back into the back of the portable toilet structure.

It had been contracted to provide 1 000 units.

Since the dispute by residents over the contract, Sanitech had also not been able to clean toilets. Also, in the past, staff were attacked and threatened.

Mayoral committee member for water and waste Xanthea Limberg said Mshengu Toilet Hire’s contract was due to end on 30 June, and, after a tender process, a contract was awarded to Sanitech for the City’s Region 1.

However, she said Sanitech had not been able to move onto the site.

“The community has prevented Sanitech from carrying out the work that they have been appointed to do, which involves replacing chemical toilets, as well as cleaning and servicing the toilets,” said Limberg.

“Residents blocking this work from being done must please consider the needs of the community and allow the legally appointed contractor to deliver these services.”

Limberg said the City was legally prohibited from interfering in the appointment of Sanitech and, during the period of Mshengu’s contract with Sanitech, there had been no complaints to the City.

The City was also not required to consult the community over the service provider, but had discussed developments with the councillor to make sure there was feedback between the City and the residents.

She said the City preferred full-flush toilets, but sometimes it was constrained by land ownership, land types and density of structures.

“We encourage residents to give the new contractors the opportunity to provide the chemical toilets, so that their service can be assessed.”

She said the petition sent to the City was replied to on 31 July.

Mayoral committee member for urban management Grant Twigg told News24 that, regarding the application for a permit to protest, all gatherings were prohibited under the current state of disaster.

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.




today in print

today in print