Hundreds March For Improved Sanitation In Cape Town

Photo by David Harrison

On 25 June 2013 more than three hundred Khayelitsha residents from the SJC and partner organisations marched peacefully through the streets of Cape Town to demand safe and dignified sanitation for all. A memorandum was first delivered to the South African Human Rights Commission – which is currently investigating the SJC’s complaint regarding outsourced services – and then to a representative from the Mayor’s Office outside the the Cape Town Civic Centre.

We demanded three clearly define interventions with firm timelines to address Cape Town’s sanitation crisis. These relate to the City’s janitorial service, outsourced essential services, and planning around future delivery of new facilities. See the memorandum below for more details on these demands.

The SJC notes a separate incident yesterday in which five individuals associated with the ANCYL were arrested for dumping human waste at Cape Town International Airport – the latest in a string of such episodes. We condemn all such actions and distance ourselves from these unlawful acts, which are aimed at generating publicity rather than constructively promoting remedial action for Cape Town’s sanitation crisis.

We further note a press statement released by Councillor Sonnenberg yesterday afternoon (City of Cape Town MAYCO Member for Utility Services) once again attacking the SJC’s credibility and refusing to address the substantive issues raised in our memorandum.

The SJC has worked on a sustained basis since 2010 on improving access to sanitation in Cape Town. We have worked with partners across South Africa to campaign for policy changes at the provincial and national level. We will continue to do so, and will not allow petty politics – from wherever it may come – to disrupt our campaign and prolong the suffering of hundreds of thousands living without access to a clean, safe and dignified toilet.

For more information please contact:

Phumeza Mlungwana – 0744178306

Axolile Notywala – 0743861584


Here is the full text of the memorandum:


To:      Patricia de Lille

           Mayor, City of Cape Town

Cc:      Melanie Dugmore

           South African Human Rights Commission (Western Cape)


Hand Delivered to Ms Anu Nepal (Human Rights Commission) and Mr Lwandile Stofile (Mayor’s Office) by SJC Members on 25 June 2013


SJC and partners march for clean, safe and dignified sanitation

March for clean, safe and dignified sanitation


1. The Social Justice Coalition (SJC) has been campaigning for improved access to sanitation and related services in Cape Town’s informal settlements since 2010.  Throughout this period we have expressed a willingness to assist the City of Cape Town – in an independent and critical capacity – to formulate policy and monitor performance, whilst at the same time encouraging wider consultation with residents, community organisations, civil society and experts.  We entered into formal engagements with the City in June 2011 with a belief that this was done in good faith and with a shared commitment to prioritise the needs of affected communities.

2. The interaction between the SJC and City of Cape Town has – either directly or indirectly – resulted in some significant shifts towards improving sanitation conditions.  A new janitorial service has been introduced with a mandate to maintain and monitor communal flush toilets in informal settlements, new toilets have been rolled out, new monitoring and maintenenace systems have been introduced, and the Mayor and other City officials have accepted significant shortcomings in the city’s ability to monitor private contractors tasked with providing essential services such as sanitation and refuse collection in informal settlements.

3. Despite the significance of these changes, we do not believe that the City is adequately following-up on its commitments in a manner that ensures meaningful, effective and sustainable  improvements.  Many of the service interventions are either failing or not operating optimally, while other admissions and commitments have not resulted in adequate remedial action.  Given the scope and impact of the sanitation crisis in Cape Town we do not believe that the City is prioritising action to the extent that is deserved.

4. We further believe that the City is increasingly acting in a manner which abuses the good faith and mutual respect with which our engagement began in 2011.  This is illustrated by the continued failure to adhere to commitments and timelines, the city’s failure to continue with monthly meetings with the SJC (as promised by Mayor de Lille), and the increasing frequency of attacks – often publicly – on the credibility of the SJC and its members following the publication of valid criticism.

5. Given this – and the continued problems plaguing sanitation delivery – we have been forced to publicy demand with deadlines what has been promised to us so many times, and take more forceful action where necessary to ensure this is done.

6. There are three areas which require immediate action by the City of Cape Town namely the janitorial service of communal flush toilets, the monitoring of outsourced service providers, and developing and communicating plans for future delivery of sanitation facilities where necessary.  Each of these is detailed below, followed by a list of demands.



7. Both prior to and since the janitorial service was rolled out in April 2012, the SJC has remained committed to assisting the City in line with its obligations to develop a policy and plan for the implementation of the service.  In October 2011 Mayor de Lille personally approached the SJC to formally request advice on how the jantiorial service should function. Since then we have engaged in more than ten formal meetings with City officials, provided two submissions on the service, submitted two quarterly progress reports, and sent scores of letters and correspondence to both the Mayor directly and various other City officials.

8. The third janitorial report covering the period March to May on the janitorial service is due to be released next week.

9. Throughout our on-going engagement with City officials on the janitorial service, the City has repeatedly reneged on its commitments for remedial action, most notably on developing a policy and plan for the service – something which both the Mayor and other City officials have repeatedly stated is necessary for the effective implementation of the service.  Without these guiding documents there is no benchmark upon which to measure performance or convey how the service will affect residents.

10. On 1 June 2012 – two months after the service was launched – the SJC wrote to the City to raise several concerns about the rollout, and to request a policy and plan. On 8 June 2012 Clr. Shehaam Sims (the then Mayoral Committee Member for Utility Services) responded to say that a policy and plan did not currently exist, but that they were being developed.

11. On 20 September 2012 the SJC illustrated major shortcomings in the implementation of the service through its first quarterly monitoring report of sites where the janitorial service was operating.   Following this – On 3 October 2012 – Mayor De Lille released a public statement admitting that “the City of Cape Town has not managed this programme effectively”. City officials committed to improving implementation of the service and to holding a mini-summit within a month “to provide the basis for the development of a City Policy on Janitorial Services”.

12. In a meeting on 1 October 2012 Mayor de Lille committed to having a draft departmental policy and plan – as well as the results of a baseline survey – by 31 October 2012, and a business plan and standard operating procedure in place by the start of the financial year 2013/2014.  She again committed to improving community consultation by enlisting the Independent Development Trust (IDT) to coordinate wide community engagement.

13. In our meetings with the City on 9 October, as well as 6 and 7 December 2012, City officials reaffirmed their commitment to the development of the policy both in terms of ensuring a deadline would be put in place for a formal timeframe and holding a mini-summit to form the basis for that development. At the meeting of 6 December 2012 Mayor de Lille again stated that the city should have in place “an operating policy” for the janitorial service.

14. After prompting from the SJC, City officials committed on 7 December 2012 to deliver a formal timeframe for the development of a policy and operational plan by the latest at the time of our next meeting scheduled for early January 2013.  Despite several attempts by the SJC to schedule this meeting it never took place.

15. To our knowledge no mini-summit has taken place and no policy and plan for the service exists.  As our reports have indicated, community engagement has been wholly inadequate.

16. As requested by the City, the SJC has assisted in monitoring the service since it was rolled out. Over the past six months, the SJC has continued to undertake regular monthly site visits to janitorial service sites.

17. The latest report covering the period March to May 2013 shows that while there have been marginal improvements over the past year, significant challenges plague the service more than a year after its implementation.  If anything, there has been a significant deterioration in the service since some improvements after Mayor de Lille intervened late in 2012 following the publication of the SJC’s first quarterly report.

18. The SJC has consistently emphasized that the failure to effectively implement the service is largely due to the City’s failure to adequately consult with the public and develop and release an official policy document and an operational plan for the functioning of the service. The City has likewise consistently agreed with the need to do so and has on numerous occasions made firm commitments that it has failed to deliver on.



19. The City of Cape Town currently pays external service providers hundreds of millions Rands to deliver basic services to informal settlements.

20. According to the Local Government Municipal Systems Act, the municipality is legally obliged to ensure that outsourced basic services are implemented adequately and that these services are monitored.  This includes ensuring that the City steps in to ensure a reliable level of service and decent working standards when contractors under-perform.

21. On 10 May 2013 the SJC submitted a detailed report to the City of Cape Town following a social audit on Mshengu Services, which exposed serious divergences between the guidelines set out in the Service Delivery Agreement and what was happening on the ground.

22. Following the SJC’s social audit of Mshengu Services in April 2012 Mayor de Lille admitted that more needed to be done to improve monitoring, and called for a series of public meetings to brief communities on the roles of contractors.

23. This was not the first time the SJC has raised concerns about outsourced contracts.  The SJC has a long history of engaging with the City, including Mayor Patricia de Lille, on serious problems with private contractors related to basic service delivery, including Mshengu Services, dating back more than two years.

24. During the period of 12 July 2011 to 19 October 2011, the SJC and partner organisation Ndifuna Ukwazi (NU) requested that the City release a number of SDAs and specifications of tenders relating to solid waste and sanitation in informal settlements. Numerous requests were submitted to the City’s Supply Chain Management (SCM) office. However, it was only through the direct intervention of Mayor de Lille that on 20 October 2011 that information was then provided by the City. The attempts to gain access to these documents were made in order to assist informal settlement residents to work with the City by monitoring and improving the delivery of basic services.

25. On 27 October 2011, Clr. Shehaam Sims, Afzal Brey representing the Mayor’s office, and other City officials, requested that the SJC make a submission on tender specifications and monitoring for basic municipal services in informal settlements.  Clr. Sims acknowledged that the City lacked capacity to monitor providers of outsourced services.

26. In February 2012, in a joint submission by the SJC and NU a number of issues were raised regarding tender specifications and monitoring of basic municipal services in informal settlements.  These were: accountability and openness; pre-award scrutiny of, and support to prospective service providers; recording and addressing complaints by residents; monitoring and evaluation of service providers; communication; and support for service providers.

27. In May 2012, Mayor de Lille stated in a public interview in reference to poor outsourced refuse collection services that “the quality of the service (in informal settlements) is dropping because there’s no monitoring from the city’s side”.

28. Throughout 2012 the SJC continued to raise concerns around poor performance of outsourced contracts, and called on the City to take remedial action to improve internal processes to monitor contractors and deliver an adequate level of service.

29. The SJC’s social audit of Mshengu Services (detailed in a report submitted to the city on 10 May 2013) illustrates that the same problems that existed two years ago persist today.  At the public meeting where the social audit report was presented, the City’s Executive Director of Utilities – Gisele Kaizer – acknowledged that the city still does not have sufficient capacity to monitor all contacts.

30. On 29 May the SJC released another statement regarding problems with the provision of services by Sannicare – another company providing sanitation services – which has lead in recent months to serious unrest and unhygienic conditions due to the city’s failure to monitor working conditions and performance.

31. The City’s response of 5 June 2013 to the SJC’s social audit report admits that – contrary to the terms outlined in the agreement – The City is not paying the provider to conduct routine daily cleaning, not paying the provider to hire community liaison officers, and not ensuring that the provider is safely securing toilets to the ground.

32. Throughout our efforts to campaign for improved monitoring of private service providers, the SJC has never received a comprehensive response from the city for time bound remedial action.  It is the experience of our members that problems in performance, accountability and clearly defined roles and responsibilities of service providers persist today.     



33. According to the City of Cape Town’s Water Services Development Plan (2012/2013) just under 80 000 households in the city have to use communal toilets at a ratio of more than one toilet to five households.  This is the bare minimum level of service in emergency situations as outlined in the National Housing Code.  Given evidence of poor maintenance and monitoring accurate use patterns are likely far higher.

34. According to the 2011 census 29 058 households in the City of Cape Town have no access to a sanitation facility while 48 509 homes use “bucket latrines”.

35. In a statement of 12 May 2013 the SJC noted the announcement to roll out 12 500 portable flush toilets, but cautioned that this would by no means solve Cape Town’s sanitation crisis.

36. The City of Cape Town does not currently have adequate detailed, integrated and time-bound plans in place to progressively provide additional informal settlement sanitation facilities where needed.  The Water Service Development Plan provides some guidance and sets targets, but does not explain how these will be implemented.  We have been informed that the Water and Sanitation Department no longer makes use of the Master Plan, and that nothing has been instituted to replace it.

37. Sanitation delivery cannot happen on an ad-hoc basis. While maintenance and monitoring of existing facilities is critical, the City must provide clarity on its plan for the development of a comprehensive plan to deliver new facilities to each informal settlement which does not currently have adequate access to sufficient existing facilities.



38. WITH REGARDS TO THE JANITORIAL SERVICE:  The SJC demands that the City of Cape Town produce an urgent timeline for the development of a policy and plan within two weeks of receiving this memorandum – including provisions for the sufficient meaningful participation by citizens, civil society and experts.  We further demand that the process of public engagement be concluded within eight weeks of receipt of this memorandum, and that a policy is developed and implemented within twelve weeks of receipt of this memorandum.

39. WITH REGARDS TO OUTSOURCED SERVICES: The SJC demands that the City produce a plans and timeline detailing how it will review the complaints lodged against Mshengu Services and other service providers, as well as a detailed explanation of measures that will be taken to ensure all contracts are monitored to ensure a suitable level of service.    Furthermore, we will continue to call on the South African Human Rights Commission to conduct an independent investigation of the Mshengu Contract and produce a report within a reasonable timeframe.  

 40. WITH REGARDS TO THE ROLLOUT OF NEW SERVICES:  The SJC demands a response within two weeks detailing what operational plans the city currently has in place to deliver new sanitation facilities to each informal settlement in the city currently without adequate access as defined by the Water Services Development Plan, including plans for meaningful consultation with affected communities.   



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