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SAHRC will meet Mayor de Lille over sanitation crisis in Cape Town

07 June 2013

ATTENTION: Editors and Reporters

On Friday 07 June 2013, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) conducted a site inspection of some of the areas in Cape Town affected by the current sanitation crisis most notably, Gugulethu‘s informal settlements of Kanna, Barcelona and Europe.  The Commission is deeply concerned about the state of sanitation in these areas and believes that the current crisis poses a significant health risk particularly to vulnerable communities.

The SAHRC observed that there were no proper sanitation facilities in some of the areas we visited and that community members reported that there had been no waste collection services since 2 April 2013 due to a strike by the City’s service provider, Sannicare.  This has resulted in an accumulation of waste which needs urgent attention and intervention.

The Commission has therefore decided to take immediate steps to address the current crisis by firstly, engaging with the Mayor’s office, following her request for a meeting to clarify the City of Cape Town’s position on the eradication of the bucket system.  The Commission will also engage with national, provincial and local government as well as the Public Protector and civil society organizations to intervene in this matter.
In a statement released by the Mayor on 6 June 2013, she publicly called on the SAHRC to assist the City in educating residents about the benefits of portable flush toilets (PFTs) and to further assist in eradicating the small number of bucket toilets still in circulation. It must be noted that the Commission is an independent body established in terms of the Constitution with a specific mandate to monitor, protect and promote the attainment of human rights.  Having received complaints from communities arising from Government service delivery choices, it would be inappropriate and contrary to its legal mandate to participate or endorse government programmes which are the subject of a complaint.

It must be noted that the Commission has received complaints from communities regarding the proposed alternatives ie  PFTs.  They argue that these alternatives pose similar challenges as the current bucket system and may continue to pose health risks and violate the dignity of users.

The Commission is investigating a number of complaints relating to water and sanitation against municipalities across the country. 

In the Western Cape, thousands of residents in various informal settlements across the province have no proper access to water and sanitation.  It is important to note that despite the progress made by the Western Cape in providing adequate water and sanitation to communities, there remain a high number of households, mostly in rural areas and townships, that continue to use the bucket system or remain without access to adequate sanitation services.

The Commission wishes to emphasize that the eradication of the bucket system must be looked at nationally and not only at a provincial level. National Government has a constitutional responsibility to provide water and sanitation services to its citizens. Our Constitution mandates the Commission to monitor government’s promotion, protection and monitoring of human rights and to ensure that the Constitutional imperative towards the progressive realization of the right to access to basic rights across the country is realised.  The framework for cooperative governance contained in the Constitution compels the various spheres of government to work together to fulfill their constitutional obligations to communities and the Commission calls upon all parties to work towards addressing this crisis.

The right to dignity and access to basic services are fundamental human rights guaranteed by our Constitution.  The Commission will continue to fight for the rights of poor and marginalized communities and is prepared to take all necessary measures within its power to ensure that these rights are protected.


Issued by:
Isaac Mangena
Spokesperson: SA Human Rights Commission
For comments email info@sahrc.org.za [Back]

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