SJC launches court case against the City of Cape Town over failures in sanitation provision in informal settlements
Today, 1 July 2016, the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) will launch a court case against the City of Cape Town over its failure to fulfil the right of access to sanitation to poor, Black and marginalised residents of informal settlements. We will be holding a press conference – please see details below.
There has been a continued denial of access to adequate sanitation to residents of informal settlements. This amounts to unfair discrimination and is in violation of the Constitution and the rights to safety, health, dignity and privacy. It is also in violation of the Equality Act, specifically on the grounds of race, socio-economic status, and geographic location.
Hundreds of thousands of people in Cape Town’s informal settlements suffer daily from a lack of access to clean, safe, hygienic and dignified sanitation facilities.
The vast majority of temporary technologies (including chemical and bucket toilets) are in informal settlements with populations that are overwhelmingly Black African. Residents in these particular informal settlements and who are reliant on municipally provided sanitation services are poor people, many of whom live under conditions of extreme poverty.
Using a toilet in informal settlements is one of the most dangerous activities for residents. Women, children and men of all ages are frequently robbed, assaulted, rape and murdered on the way to relieve themselves in a toilet, bushes or empty clearings, often very far from their homes. Risks are not limited to crime. Many toilets are poorly monitored, inadequately maintained and often become unhygienic. This results in many people becoming sick and contracting diseases, particularly children.
Ms Lindela Bebi is a 46-year-old mother of three minor children living in Enkanini informal settlement and the third applicant. She describes what it has been like to use a portable flush toilet (PFT) since 2002.
“When I was provided with a PFT in 2002, it came with a seat. The detachable bottle, that is collected to be emptied, is attached to the seat. I still use the same seat that I was given in 2002 when I first received a PFT. This toilet seat is old and damaged because we have been using the same one for almost 13 years. The seat no longer has a lid. I am not able to secure it to the ground anymore because those attachments have broken. When the children and I try to sit down, the toilet shifts around and the contents leak and spill all over the ground. The shelter that I built to store the PFT is filled with maggots, flies and mosquitoes because of the smell and waste from the leaking PFT.”
The SJC together with the residents challenge the City’s continued provision of sanitation services though emergency and temporary toilet technologies to informal settlement residents who are required to use them over extended periods.
The continued provision of temporary solutions on a long-term basis where alternatives are reasonably practicable reflects a service that is not based on a sensible plan or policy to improve access to decent, adequate and safe sanitation in areas with long-term or permanent informal settlements. This includes CT Section and Enkanini, two informal settlements in Khayelitsha where applicants 2 to 6 live.
The City treats CT Section, Enkanini, and many other settlements as if they are temporary or emergency settlements, by making ‘emergency’ provision for them. This is despite evidence that a substantial portion of these areas are not affected by constraints that limit or prohibit the provision of permanent sanitation infrastructure.
These are settlements that have existed for more than 10, 15, sometimes 20 years. Providing emergency solutions after a fire or a flood when people have been displaced and there are no permanent facilities is justified and necessary. But some people have lived in the same informal settlement for two decades and permanent facilities can be installed, yet temporary, emergency solutions continue to be used.
For the City to meet its legal obligations of sanitation provision the following needs to happen and forms part of the relief we are seeking:
a) A reasonable policy for the provision of sanitation services, which must include the provision of permanent sanitation services to the residents of long-term informal settlements where this is reasonably practicable;
b)A reasonable plan or programme for the provision of services;
c) A reasonable budget for the provision of such services
d)The reasonable implementation of the plan.
Our decision to approach the courts has not been taken lightly. It comes after numerous engagements and attempts to work with the City that have been met with outright denialism, deflection and attacks towards the SJC and its members. Over the past five years we have been asking the City for a plan for sanitation in informal settlements – a plan that sets out how the City will ensure that the residents of informal settlements across the City have access to adequate and dignified sanitation.
The desperation and frustration of our members and the community at large at being forced to use dehumanising, degrading and unequal toilet facilities, and in many instances, no facilities at all, cannot be underestimated.
Our Founding Affidavit is available here and we will send out our Notice of Motion in a follow up email as soon as it is available.
Please join us at our press conference today where we will further discuss our application and what we hope it will achieve.
Details of Press Conference:
Date: 4 July 2016
Venue: Office 302, 47 on Strand, (corner Long Street & Strand Street, Cape Town(ENDS)
Phumeza Mlungwana 074 417 8306
Thandeka Kathi 073 427 2083