News / Africa

    Lack of Civility Hampers S. Africa's Sanitation Efforts

    Wassup activists say the government should do more to maintain the community's environment in Diepsloot, South Africa, December 2012. (VOA/S. Honorine)
    Wassup activists say the government should do more to maintain the community's environment in Diepsloot, South Africa, December 2012. (VOA/S. Honorine)
    Solenn Honorine
     In South Africa, two million people living in informal settlements still have restricted access to basic services such as running water, electricity or sanitation. The problem is so acute that so-called “service delivery protests” are regularly staged throughout the country. In Diepsloot, a poor township on the northern fringes of Johannesburg, residents have to share one toilet per 30 people. But as one small community-based organization has discovered, government is not the only actor to blame for poor services. A lack of civility within the township is also undermining efforts to improve the lives of the people.

    South Africa Sanitation
    South Africa Sanitationi
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    Lucky Manyisi inspects his “jurisdiction,” as he calls it. Diepsloot, section 1: its laughing school children enjoying their summer break, its makeshift shacks, its unpaved roads where pointy rocks protrude. But his focus - the core of his job and his duty to his community - are the brightly colored boxes that dot its streets: the toilets.

    “As you can see there is a slight breakage that needs our attention. We don't want to see this breakage because it's wasteful of water," Lucky explained. "Then we'll make sure we clean this place, we fix the breakage, and then this thing can go back to normal.”

    In Diepsloot, one of the newest townships around Johannesburg that sprang to life after the collapse of apartheid almost 19 years ago, the government installed toilets as well as running water. But Lucky says no one ever came to maintain them. So, two years ago he rallied two dozen volunteers to take on the most humbling of jobs: fixing toilets.

    By now, Lucky is one of only five who stuck to their mission, earning a basic compensation of 150 rand, or about $17 (US), per day of work. Lucky, who belongs to the ruling ANC party, used to be the elected secretary general for the neighborhood. He says his new job is another manifestation of his dedication to his community.

    “Last week I was in another conference with the Johannesburg water plantation. I got there a nice name to call feces: they call it “sludge.” It's a nice name. So now, I've moved from the office, I wear the blue clothes and I'm working with shit for the community,” Lucky stated.

    But his dedication does not translate into automatic respect from the community.

    Bright messages on the toilet's walls are not enough to prevent vandalism in Diepsloot, South Africa, December 2012. (VOA/S. Honorine)Bright messages on the toilet's walls are not enough to prevent vandalism in Diepsloot, South Africa, December 2012. (VOA/S. Honorine)
    x
    Bright messages on the toilet's walls are not enough to prevent vandalism in Diepsloot, South Africa, December 2012. (VOA/S. Honorine)
    Bright messages on the toilet's walls are not enough to prevent vandalism in Diepsloot, South Africa, December 2012. (VOA/S. Honorine)
    Andisiwa, a young woman busy with her laundry at the communal tap outside the toilet, says she doesn't recognize him without his boots and blue overalls, even though she's seen him at work a few days a week.

    “Honestly speaking, if the people are not helping as well, it's kinda useless for them to do something. Yeah, because you see people, they throw things here, on the drain. We're the ones causing all these litter," she said. "And everything being dirty around here. It's actually us.”

    Lucky, too, complains about rampant vandalism: seats stolen, doors broken, walls tagged. He says his neighbors are their own worst enemies.

    “Every time when we put a tap like this one, the copper one, some of the naughty people in the community they come and they remove it for their own personal purposes, which we don't understand. Maybe for the metal recycling or they melt it for the scrap... we don't understand. But these ones are often taken away from the community, whom we are helping as Wassup.”

    His organization, Wassup Diepsloot, has painted bright messages on the toilet's walls to try to raise awareness that the facilities are here for the public good: “Love me, clean me”; “Respect me”; “Treat me with care”. But Jack Molokomme, one of Wassup volunteers, says it doesn't really make an impact.

    “Those who are saying: ‘this is government's property, so I can break it’; we are still dealing with those people. The only thing that they want, here, in our area, is that they want to see themselves getting a RDP house [free of cost for the very poor]. So when you go to the site, that's when they start saying: 'How can you fix that? It means we are never going to leave [the informal settlement]!'” said Molokomme.

    The RDP, or Reconstruction and Development Program, was launched by Nelson Mandela's government in 1994 to mitigate the immense socio-economic problems inherited from the apartheid regime by providing services and housing for the poor Black South Africans. The state says it has built 1.4 million houses since 1994, and has set 2014 as a target to eradicate informal settlements.

    You May Like

    US Lawmakers Vow to Continue Immigrant Program for Afghan Interpreters

    Congressional inaction threatens funding for effort which began in 2008 and has allowed more than 20,000 interpreters, their family members to immigrate to US

    Leaderless, Rudderless, Britain Drifts

    Experts predicted chaos would follow, if Britain decided to vote for Brexit, and chaos has

    US to Train Cambodian Government on Combating Cybercrime

    Concerns raised over drafting of law, as critics fear cybercrime regulations could be used to restrict freedom of expression and stifle political dissent

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapides’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora