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Mangaung township’s sanitation scuffle during Covid-19 pandemic

Vuyelwa Mhlolo points at her home pit toilet which has bene full for months she says municipal workers take long to come and unblock the toilets.

 Vuyelwa Mhlolo points at a bucket like pit latrine outside their home in phase 6 of Mangaung township in Bloemfontein, Free State province. She wriggles her nose in dismay from the strong stink coming out of the latrine. It is a non-flashing toilet which her family has been using for over 15 years. The toilet walls are made from asbestos material and has a shaky floor foundation.

Mhlolo worries that one day it will collapse while someone is inside. Her four-year-old child is now big enough to use the toilet on her own, but she worries about allowing her to go to the toilet alone lest she falls into the deep latrine hole.

“The toilet pit is very deep and often full, it’s scary to let a child go alone. Plus, l do not want to risk my child getting any disease,” she says.

“The toilet is even dangerous for an adult like me, one knows better not to close the door lest the toilet collapses while inside.”

Mhlolo refers to reports about some households which have experienced the same problem.

“Many people rather use containers or buckets for their children and throw the waste into the toilets or a bush to be on the safe side.”

Their family comprises of six family members and outside the house are backward dwellers who rely on the same toilet. When they got an RDP house from the government, they never imagined that they would have to live without a proper toilet for many years. Despite trying to engage with the local council and municipality to get a proper flashing toilet built, she says all efforts have been unsuccessful. Worst still she says municipal workers who are supposed to suck waste from the toilets take long to come and when they come, they do a half job.

When we arrived Mhlolo said the toilet had been full for over five months.

“The people who clean the toilets last came in February. Hygienically we are not safe at all especially with the COVID-19 pandemic. We deserve to live in a clean and safe environment,” Mhlolo said.

She says for years residents in the area have protested. She says at one time they even marched and delivered a memorandum to the local offices to try and pave a way forward, but to no avail.

“All we want are flashing toilets with water. We are asking the government to finish the work it started when they build us houses. We love our houses very much, but without proper sanitation our lives are meaningless.”

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