Rehoboth Baster Community

Shanty Residents Protest Unsanitary Toilets

Published by Oct 27, 2006

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A group of around 40 frustrated Rehoboth residents, who live in the town's informal settlements, took to the streets yesterday to demand that the town council provide them with proper sewage and drainage facilities.

Most residents living in the almost 2 000 shanties in Extension One, Two, Three, Four, Five and Six areas of Blikkiesdorp currently use the "bucket system" - defecating in a bucket stored outside their homes while the municipality arranges for these to be emptied once a week.

Many residents also use a simple hole in the ground behind their homes.

The bucket system is a health hazard, residents complained yesterday, especially with children playing in the backyard and when considering the recent polio outbreak which threatened the country's health status earlier this year.

Among the signs carried by the women in the protest group were posters reading: 'No bucket toilets.

We are not a village but a so-called beautiful town.

Why take us to Noah's time', and 'We want flush toilets.

We are not any more in colonial times.

We want better services'.

But while council members yesterday promised to respond to residents formally after deliberating on their demands, officials speaking to The Namibian afterwards said there was just no money to meet these demands in the immediate future.

"The bucket system is barely a month old," Council Chairperson Dawid Richter said, adding that this system was requested by the residents themselves.

Until a month ago, residents had been even worse off, he said, being forced to dig holes in their backyards, build toilets on top of those holes, and then letting their waste seep into the ground.

"During the rainy season these holes pose a problem, and residents asked if we could (introduce the bucket system and) empty these buckets," council Vice Chairperson Inesensio Ihalwa said.

Council decided on the bucket system as a temporary solution until such time that they could make provision in their budget for sewage networks to be installed underneath these informal settlements.

A private contractor was appointed earlier this month to run the bucket system, with residents paying the municipality a N$25 monthly fee for the service.

A number of the town's residents who had not joined the demonstration from Blikkiesdorp to the council building agreed with demonstrators that the bucket system was not at all ideal.

"If they asked N$25 for a proper toilet that can flush, that would be fair.

But not for a bucket system," Sanna Garoes, an Extension 6 resident said.

Garoes, who hasn't upgraded to the bucket system yet, has two big holes filled with sand in her backyard that used to act as toilets, with a third currently covered by a small shack.

Infants played in the sand around the holes while she was being interviewed.

Anyone who passes her house can just decide to walk in and use her toilet, she says, something that can be avoided if she had a proper, brick toilet connected to a drainage system.

Another resident of the same area, Willem !Uigab, says the contractor paid to remove waste doesn't always come on time, which forces residents to revert to old practices of burying their waste in their backyards.

"Now imagine you're planning to build a brick house on that plot later, there will be no solid foundation on which to do that," he said, pointing towards the covered holes in his mother's backyard.

Another resident, Dawid Beukes, said that in refusing to expose himself and his children to the health hazards associated with not having a flushing toilet, his family makes an effort to walk to an area outside their residential area dubbed "the dunes" whenever they need to use the toilet for a long period of time.

"Either that or the kids ask neighbours to use their toilets," he said.

But while residents complain of the municipality's failure to provide them with flushing toilets, council chairperson Richter says that residents need to move away from a culture of believing they're entitled to everything for free.

"Last year we had a project to connect running water to each area, which cost the municipality around N$1 million.

Now the entire town has access to water, but not one person in the informal settlements has connected to this service, despite us reducing the connection costs from N$460 to N$150, and allowing them to pay in instalments", he said.

The municipality, Ihalwa says, has already succeeded in putting up a sewage system in certain areas of Extensions One, Two and Three, but these are currently incomplete.

Their aim, he said, is to have a greater area equipped with these structures by the middle of next year.

"It's still not going to be the whole area, but we're doing what we can with the limited resources we have," Ihalwa said.

Source: The Namibian/AllAfrica