South Africa: ‘Poo Protests’ Turn Violent in Gqeberha
According to the protesters, toilets have not been cleaned in a number of informal settlements for weeks
Protests erupted in two informal settlements in Gqeberha on Monday with tires being burnt, roads blocked and two trucks set on fire. The ward councilor said protests at Rolihlahla informal settlement were about demands for serviced premises. But numerous protesters that GroundUp spoke to all said the protests were about toilets that had not been cleaned for weeks.
Hundreds of residents of Westville and Rolihlahla informal settlements in Gqeberha protested on Monday morning, claiming their bucket toilets had not been cleaned for weeks.
A municipal truck from the Department of Water and Sanitation and a delivery vehicle carrying medicine were set on fire in Mission Road, Westville. The drivers were forced out and the trucks looted. Several vehicles were also pelted with stones.
In Rolihlahla, about 5 km away, residents blocked the Uitenhagepad R75 and Ou Uitenhageweg with burning tires and stones from 03:00. Public Order Police dispersed the roadblocks, but residents continued to protest in the area.
Protesters, who were mostly women, threatened to empty buckets of poo at the office or home of ward 31 councilor Teslin Booysen (DA).
Booysen told GroundUp: “The residents of Rolihlahla (Vistarus) burned the tires because they want to be placed on municipal serviced plots. They say I first built roads for them, but they want houses and it’s been 23 years since they live in this area. But I told them that the road was badly built before I became the ward councilor last year. The road must be rebuilt and built anew. Then the repositioning of their huts in the municipal sites can take place.”
He said the toilets are cleaned every week. “A new contractor for cleaning these chemical toilets could not come in because of the protest. But tomorrow the toilets will be cleaned,” he said.
Residents of Govan Mbeki Village, where toilets were earlier cleaned by Bahluping consultant, protested earlier this month about their toilets not being cleaned.
The company says it has not been paid for five months and its contract has not been renewed.
Sipho Ntsondwa, chairman of the Nelson Mandela Bay informal settlement forum and a community leader for Westville, says their toilets have not been cleaned for three weeks.
“About 400 residents decided to protest today because they are sitting with overflowing buckets that have maggots,” he said.
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Ntsondwa said no one from the City explained to them what was happening.
“We have 1,600 households and we share 300 toilets. Out of 54 standpipes, only 15 are working,” he said. “We cannot raise our children under these dirty conditions.”
Nontle Gushumpu, from Rolihlahla, said: “We have 581 households here and we share 80 toilets. For a month these toilets have not been cleaned. The elderly and disabled also depend on these toilets.”
She said she started renting an old pit toilet from her neighbor, but she had no more money. “Why does going to the toilet have to be an everyday struggle?”
Ncumisa Ngqoko said: “For how long do we have to relieve ourselves in buckets and throw our poop and pee next to our shacks? Not a single municipal official can relieve himself or herself in a toilet full of crawling maggots. But we municipality does it. it for us.”
Mamela Ndamase, spokesperson for the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, said: “The municipality has appointed a service provider to do the service work. Supply chain processes are still ongoing so that we can pay the old service provider we had.”