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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs