QQ Section, tired of waiting for government, install first toilet in the settlement

13 06 2008
Press Statement: QQ Section Concerned Residents

Khayelitsha – While the Democratic Alliance and the ANC fight with one another over service delivery in order to gain votes for the upcoming elections, a small community has decided that they are tired of relying on politicians and their false promises. After a highly participatory process that has included 10 committee meetings and more than 10 mass community meetings, the Abahlali (residents) of QQ Section (an informal settlement in Khayelitsha) are on their way towards establishing their first crèche in the area and installing the only toilet in the settlement

More than 20 years after QQ Section was established, its 600 families still have no access to basic services guaranteed by the Constitution. While its 3000 Abahlali rely on only 8 water taps for drinking, washing and bathing, they do not even have the option of sharing toilets because not a single bathroom has been installed on site.

If one of the legacies of Apartheid is the dehumanization South Africa’s nonwhite population, the legacy of the current government will not be very different: people all over South Africa continue to be humiliated every time they have to go to the toilet.

However, six months ago, the Abahlali of QQ came together to take matters into their own hands. First and foremost on the minds of families was the education, health and safety of their children. After extensive deliberations, they decided that the most effective way of helping the children of the community was to set up a community-run crèche. This would not only prepare the children for school, but would take a huge burden off of working parents. It would provide a safe place for children to play and a warm place for the children to nap during the day.

But during one of the meetings a concerned parent questioned the idea: “how would the children go to the bathroom when there are no toilets in QQ? We cannot send our kids to the bushes – its dirty and dangerous!” So, Abahlali decided that they must install their own toilet specially for the children.

Months later, the new Children’s Committee, which will oversee operations at the crèche, has just finished going door-to-door collecting 5 Rand from each household to pay for the new structure and the toilet. They have raised enough money to build both the crèche and a special environmental ‘waterless toilet’. Quite different from the unhygienic ‘pit toilets’ that the government installs, this toilet will not smell and will decompose waste so that it can eventually be used as fertilizer.

While the opening of the crèche is still a few weeks away, Abahlali are already excited and proud about their achievement. But residents are still angry that the government continues to ignore them. Says Mzonke Poni, chairperson of QQ Section Concerned Residents: “The toilet cost us over 3,000 Rand. As poor residents, we should not have to bare this burden since it is the government’s constitutional obligation to provide us with basic sanitation. The government should pay us back immediately for the cost of the toilet”.

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