Trollip fails on key promise

Walmer Area G West resident Ntombizanele Makhaphela is one of many who look forward to the end of the hated bucket toilet system.
Walmer Area G West resident Ntombizanele Makhaphela is one of many who look forward to the end of the hated bucket toilet system.
Image: Werner Hills

Walmer Township and Missionvale may be kilometres apart, but the Nelson Mandela Bay residents living there share a common reality – the continued use of bucket toilets. 

Last week, the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality extended its deadline to eradicate the bucket system in the city by six months – leaving mayor Athol Trollip failing to deliver on one of his biggest political promises. Liesl Pretorius and Hendrick Mphande report. 

The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality has extended its deadline to eradicate the bucket system in the city by six months – leaving mayor Athol Trollip failing to deliver on one of his biggest political promises.

This comes as the municipality has also scrapped the provision of chemical toilets – a temporary replacement for the bucket system – as it is too costly.

The decision to shift the deadline was made at an infrastructure, engineering and energy committee meeting last week.

Councillors at the meeting noted the report on the bucket eradication programme, which included recommendations that:

  • The timeframe for the eradication of buckets and installation of alternative sanitation facilities be extended to the end of June;
  • Infrastructure and engineering portfolio head Annette Lovemore, human settlements political head Nqaba Bhanga and Trollip engage with communities; and
  • The option of providing chemical toilets by the end of next month where bucket toilets are still being used, be scrapped.

However, just six weeks ago, the municipality had recommitted to fulfilling Trollip’s promise.

“An election promise cannot be left at the ballot box,” Lovemore said in the statement issued on October 13.

“It is a commitment made out of caring and determination to govern well and deliver services for all.

“We are very serious about seeing it through.”

On the failed deadline, Trollip said there had been delays as some ward councillors and communities wanted electricity, housing, water and “other things” before the eradication of the bucket system.

“I’d rather miss my deadline and do the job properly,” he said.

“We appeal for the community’s and ward councillors’ cooperation to bring dignified sanitation solutions to those communities using buckets.”

Trollip made the political promise in his inaugural address in August last year, when he said: “As the mayor of our new government, I undertake to provide dignified sanitation to all communities by the end of 2017.

“It is time for this metro’s 30 000 bucket toilets to go.” At the time, there were not even 30 000 bucket toilets in use and Lovemore has since said his figure was historical and dated back to 2005.

Statistics South Africa’s non-financial census of municipalities, released in May, put the number at 16 317 last year.

By September this year there were 12 333 bucket toilets, according to the municipality – a reduction of 3 984.

But this was largely the result of people moving into RDP houses or to serviced stands where RDP houses would be built, Lovemore said.

Asked why the rollout of chemical toilets had been abandoned, Trollip said he was against their extensive use as they were expensive and not suitable in the long term.

Lovemore said the worst-case scenario cost was estimated at R22-million.

In wards where the municipality could get buy-in, container ablution facilities – with flush toilets – are replacing buckets.

Wards that did not agree, such as Walmer Township, might have to use buckets until at least June 30.

At Walmer Area G West, resident Ntombizanele Makhaphela, 32, was angry that the deadline would be missed and chemical toilets no longer rolled out.

“We don’t feel valued. We have children who play in the street and are exposed to the stench.

“They must find money somewhere because we desperately need flush toilets.”

Another resident, Dathini Kugabayo, 48, was not sure what would replace buckets but “prays for flush toilets”.

“The pit latrine smells when it’s hot,” he said. “Sometimes dogs knock down the buckets when our children are playing.

“It’s painful that this continues to happen in this day and age.

“When there is a strike, municipal employees do not bother to fetch buckets.”

When he made the promise, Trollip did not specify what the buckets would be replaced with, saying only that it would be dignified sanitation.

Asked what the municipality considered dignified, Lovemore said: “We want to, at least, provide a solution where sewage is enclosed and no direct exposure [to faeces] takes place, or where sewage undergoes some level of treatment to render it less offensive and less of a health risk – as in a chemical toilet.”

She said the ideal solution was one where sewage was immediately removed, as in a flush solution, like the container ablutions.

“But dignity cannot be measured with a ruler or defined by an outsider. It must be experienced,” she said.

“This is why it is important for communities themselves to accept an ablution solution as dignified.”

In Missionvale, residents live in RDP houses but still use buckets or pit latrines.

Five years ago, Miriam Demyn, 35, and her family were elated when they received an RDP house.

But their joy evaporated when they discovered that the water pipes in the toilet and bathroom were not connected.

“Every week, we carry the buckets across the street for the municipal truck to collect,” Demyn said.

“It’s unhygienic. There is no longer privacy or dignity.”

Demyn said Trollip’s promise had initially given her hope. But now she wonders: “How long must we wait for him to eradicate the bucket system?”


Walmer Area G West resident Zama Jeyesi outside a pit latrine.
Walmer Area G West resident Zama Jeyesi outside a pit latrine.
Image: Werner Hills

Eradicating buckets uphill battle

Walmer Township and Missionvale may be kilometres apart, but the Nelson Mandela Bay residents living there share a common reality – the continued use of bucket toilets.

Mzamo Fokwana, 41, of Walmer Township, said people were tired of living as second-class citizens.

“We are frustrated with the bucket system. In fact [mayor Athol] Trollip undertook to eradicate them,” Fokwana said.

“Residents are ready to go to the street and toyi-toyi if the issue is not addressed but we first want to follow the right process.”

Walmer is one of the areas where the municipality struggled to get buy-in for the installation of container ablution facilities as a replacement for the bucket system.

Infrastructure, engineering, electricity and energy political head Annette Lovemore said some communities had rejected the container ablution facilities for fear that they would lose out on a chance to get a house.

ANC ward councillor Ayanda Tyokwana said the community was sceptical about the bucket eradication programme.

“The priority for them is housing but the municipality is dragging its feet.”

While the demand for housing is the primary reason for the rejection of alternatives to buckets, according to Lovemore, she said the people of Walmer Area G West said that they would rather have electricity than have the buckets removed.

When a Herald team visited Walmer Area G West, the area was rife with dangerous electricity connections as wires ran all over the ground and others hung above.

Resident Zama Jeyesi, 33, said it was not correct to say residents wanted electricity instead of toilets.

A self-conscious Jeyesi pointed out a small but smelly pit latrine and a bucket her household used to relieve themselves.

“It’s quite embarrassing that we still use this.

“The priority for us is flush toilets and decent housing.

“Families, particularly children and the elderly, get sick because we are exposed to the bucket system,” she said.

And Jeyesi remembers Trollip’s promise. “We are still waiting,” she said. In Missionvale, residents live in RDP houses but still use buckets or pit latrines.

Morina Perscencie, 49, of Missionvale, said the community would not take the mayor and any of his future promises seriously.

“I have lived in this house for three years but I can tell you, we are unable to use the inside toilet because the pipes are not connected,” she said.

“It makes you uncomfortable to use the bucket, particularly if you have visitors.”

Lovemore said the municipality hoped to deliver working flush toilets to 1 716 households in Missionvale by the end of the year.

“Missionvale homes were built without proper water and sewer connections through the provincial department of human settlements.

“The municipality is in the process of checking all water and sewerage infrastructure for full functionality before removing the buckets,” she said last month.


This package is the result of a collaboration between The Herald and Track My Mayor. Track My Mayor keeps track of mayoral promises in the interest of increased accountability at local government level. Reporting for this story was supported by Code for Africa’s impactAFRICA fund.  

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