Gauteng and NW Province

South Africa: Dreams of Better Sanitation Go Down the Toilet

By Nosipho S Mngoma, 19 November 2012

It is not always easy to talk about toilets. But scientists, policymakers and politicians are starting a conversation about solving the sanitation … ( Resource: Let’s Talk About Toilets)

Gogo Sikhosana Ngcobo is 76 years old. Growing up, she says she had dreams of what her life would be like. They featured a brick house with a flushing toilet. Those dreams, like all the teeth in her mouth, are long gone. “I did not imagine that living in an urban area, after voting, I would still be using a pit latrine,” she complained.
“Our councillor has neglected us, it’s like we have been thrown away.”

Ngcobo is one of the oldest residents of Zakheleni Informal Settlement in V section Umlazi, a big township in South Africa’s port city of Durban.

Hunched over, one hand on her back and the other tightly gripping her cane, she takes one shaky step after another into the toilet. A shop-bought wooden toilet seat rests on a high base of wooden planks.

“My children had to lift the toilet,” she explained. “I am still strong but I could not sit on this thing before, it was far too low.”

Because of this issue around the height of latrine toilet seats, small children are often scared to use these toilets and often go behind their houses instead.

A father of two boys, 52-year-old Thembinkosi Jerome Khoza has lived in Zakheleni for 23 years. In this time he has had to move his pit eight times. Apart from digging a new hole once one filled up, some of his pit latrines have collapsed due to heavy rains. Khoza does not work and does not have the financial means or materials to rebuild his toilet.

“I have to go in the bush,” explained Khoza, with some embarrassment.

“When my wife leaves the house with paper and goes into the bush to do her business, it lowers her dignity and makes me feel shame at not being able to provide for my family. I feel like a failure of a man.”

If these pits collapse during heavy rains we do not need to wonder what polluted water is flowing on the ground somewhere….. It is a health risk and polluted water is the last thing we need!

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