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Media Advisory: SAHRC’s call for submission on the eradication of the bucket system

Attention: Editors and Reporters

Friday, 30 September 2022

Twenty-eight years into democracy, access to safe and decent sanitation continues to be a huge challenge, which has a disproportionate impact on the lives of women, children and persons with disabilities. Additionally, the usage of the demeaning bucket toilet system, which is an affront to human dignity, continues in South Africa. According to the Statistics South Africa’s Non-Financial Census of Municipalities for the year ended 30 June 2020, several households continue to use the bucket toilet system. Although between 2004 and 2019 a gradual and steady decline in the use of the bucket toilet system was recorded, however a sharp increase was noted, with 47,130 units being in use in 2020 compared to 42,434 units in 2019. The highest numbers of households using the bucket toilet were recorded in the provinces of Free-State, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and the North West.  

Government has since the year 2003 made undertakings to address the bucket toilet system, but regrettably those undertakings have not been realised. This is, in part, due to ever increasing levels of urban migration and the consequent increasing numbers of informal dwellings, and, in part, due to government’s own failures to take reasonable measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realization of the right to access sufficient water and sanitation. The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC/Commission) has historically been concerned about the usage of the bucket toilet system and has been involved in advocating for an end to it. In 2014, after conducting comprehensive hearings, the Commission recommended to the former Department of Water Affairs that the bucket toilet system be eradicated as soon as possible in all provinces and that the relevant government departments agree on plans, with timelines, for the eradication of bucket toilets in all existing settlements.

In view thereof, and in line with the Commission’s mandate, the Commission has resolved to begin a process of collaboration and partnerships with various stakeholders working in this arena and aiming to address the bucket toilet system. The Commission intends to, amongst others, engage in the following activities: call for submissions from stakeholders with a view to finding solutions to the problem of the bucket system, collaborating with strategic stakeholders, including state actors; soliciting commitments from relevant state actors;  conducting site visits to affected provinces; and following-up with state actors to assess the pace and extent of the implementation of commitments

The Commission, noting that a period of 8 years has passed since its 2014 report, as well as the developments that have taken place since the report was issued, including the growth in informal settlements, hereby invites members of the public, civil society organisations and all interested parties with relevant information relating to: a) the reliance by communities on the bucket toilet system, b) any empirical or comparative studies in this regard and, c) any viable potential technological solutions suited to South African conditions, to make submissions which will assist the Commission to fully appreciate the current situation on the ground and to formulate a strategic response to the growing trend of resort to the bucket system in both urban, peri-urban and rural areas in the country.

Written submissions should be made to the Commission by Friday, 14 October 2022 to the following email address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Wisani Baloyi – Acting Communications Coordinator Tel: 081 016 8308 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Alucia Sekgathume – External Communications Tel: 082 689 2364 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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