by MIHLALI MPENDU and ANNA MAJAVU
Welekazi Makina is 83 years old but has no toilet to call her own. Still living with her family in a home-made mud house in Tantyi’s N-Street, Makina is forced into the undignified position of having to use a bucket toilet in a rickety wooden outhouse.
Makina’s bucket toilet is one of the 1320 bucket toilets that still exist in Makhanda. The most recent council Infrastructure committee meeting revealed that the municipality had only removed 120 buckets from the bucket toilet system out of a total of 1440 over the last quarter.
Makina said the municipality has promised to install flush toilets for her and her neighbours that use bucket toilets. “They brought pipes and said they were going to build toilets where you pull a string to flush. But the contractor left and a second one came saying the money got finished. Eventually, they built toilets on another street and skipped us out” she told Grocott’s Mail in an interview at her home.
“They have done nothing since, here we are living like that. The buckets are collected after a long time. We are waiting” Makina added.
To add insult to injury, she says there is a constant sewage spill from faulty pipes in the street in front of their house. “They clean it and then it blocks again. It flows down to our side, collecting near us while we do not even have a toilet ourselves”, said Makina.
She speaks of a time when government officials came to her house, took measurements and left, saying they would build her a house. But again, their promises did not materialise. “It’s been a long time since we were staying here” Makina adds.
Makina’s grand daughter, 35 year old Thembekazi Scholtz, said the bucket toilets and the sewage leaks frequently make them ill.
“It affects us badly – some of us are not well. When this sewage flows all the time, children catch sicknesses quickly. The municipality comes sometimes when it is called and they do maintenance
but it does not take a long time before it blows out again” says Scholtz.
She has long ago given up on using the bucket toilet at her home and looks every day for different toilets to use. Scholtz adds that the family has to lock the bucket toilet at night anyway otherwise stray dogs arrive and feed on the faeces.
Makana Citizen’s Front (MCF) councillor Lungisa Sixaba says he has been urging the municipality for years to wipe out the bucket system in the town.
“This is not such a big municipality that it cannot afford to eradicate 1000 bucket toilets. It is a matter of having people in management in the municipality that are capable of doing the job that needs to be done for the community” said Sixaba.
He said residents with bucket toilets had told him they preferred to go to the toilet on the open ground or near bushes because this was less stressful that using a bucket that was rarely emptied.
“It is frustrating to see people relieving themselves like this at night, or when it is raining, whereas that could so easily be changed. The municipality is underspending whereas those monies could be channelled to service these real needs” he added.
“The bucket system should have been ended years ago. I don’t have words to explain how frustrated we are to see the younger generation growing up with the bucket system after all these years” Sixaba said.
DA councillor Geoff Embling said it was scandalous that the municipality had removed a mere eight percent of the buckets from the bucket toilet system.