SJC Demands Policy & Plan for City of Cape Town’s Informal Settlement Janitorial Service

Assessment of Sites Indicates Service Never Fully Functional & Recently Ceased to Operate Altogether

A primary demand of the SJC’s Campaign for Sanitation has been for the introduction of a janitorial service to maintain all communal flush toilets in the Cape Town’s informal settlements.  These toilets currently cater for at least 200 000 residents.  One toilet can be shared by more than a hundred people, and lack of maintenance and monitoring results in these toilets becoming unhygienic, unsafe and prone to breakage. On 16 May 2012 Mayor Patricia de Lille finally conceded to this demand, assured the public that the service was already being rolled out, and that it would be implemented by 30 June 2012[1].  This commitment was welcomed by the SJC and partners – including Anglican Archbishop of Southern Africa Thabo Makgoba – as a significant step in advancing the rights to health, safety and dignity.[2] 

However regular site inspections conducted by SJC members – summarized in this statement and detailed in the SJC Janitorial Report – reveal serious shortcomings with the service.  We are further concerned by the fact that it has recently ceased to operate altogether in the areas we visited as janitor’s contracts have been terminated and no provision seems to have been made to rehire or provide interim services.

In a statement released on 16 May 2012, Mayor de Lille indicated that the janitorial service would involve the employment of 500 full-time janitors under the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) to “provide janitorial services and basic plumbing skills”. As of June 2012 the service covered 112 areas, but the City had committed to expanding to all informal settlements.[3]   R25 million was allocated for the financial year 2012/2013, following which the City would asses whether to shift from an EPWP to the Community Works Program (CWP)[4].  According to Mayor de Lille, the primary duties of janitors include:

  1. Daily cleaning of communal flush toilets and surrounding areas;
  2. Daily cleaning of communal standpipes and surrounding areas;
  3. Minor repairs of flush toilets; and reporting of instances where more complex repairs are necessary;
  4. Community education about how the service should be used.

Our findings of the ten sites visited over the past three months (including RR Section, BM Section, DT Section, BT Section, Green Point, SST Section, Nkanini, Lindelani Park, YA Section and Tsepe Tsepe informal settlements) reveal the following:

  1. Many toilets remain in a state of disrepair despite janitors reporting these to the City;
  2. Most janitors were not provided with full uniform and protective wear which compromised personal health and safety;
  3. It took 3 months for janitors to be provided with cleaning materials to clean toilets, prior to which they only had rakes and brooms;
  4. No training was provided to janitors on how to conduct repairs and many were unsure of their responsibilities;
  5. None of the janitors were provided with written particulars of their employment  – a violation of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act – and most were unsure of their employment period;
  6. There has been no meaningful engagement with communities on how the service will function;
  7. Janitors are unable to clean toilets which are locked, and have received no support from the City in addressing this challenge;
  8. Affected communities have not been properly briefed on how the service will function.

The announcement of the janitorial service was both a material and symbolic victory for hundreds of thousands of Capetonians living in historically under-served communities.  It is a critically important service which – if implemented effectively – will serve to dramatically improve conditions. The policy also serves as an important precedent in government accepting responsibility to maintain communal facilities in informal settlements, and improve service delivery more generally.

These concerns were brought to the attention of the City in June 2012, and followed by three monthly site visits to assess progress.  We have given the City ample time to respond accordingly but we believe that they have failed to do so adequately. As a result residents are quickly losing faith in the City’s ability to meet its commitments, and the success of the intervention is being critically jeopardised.

The failure to effectively implement the janitorial service and to communicate with affected residents after more than six months is in large part due to the city’s failure to release an official policy document and an operational plan indicating how the janitorial service will function.  This information was requested by the SJC in June 2012, but has not yet been made available to us.  

We are calling on the City of Cape Town to produce these documents and respond to our concerns within fourteen days, and ensure that there is an immediate resumption of the janitorial service.

For more information please contact:

Axolile Notywala on 0742895220 /

Phumeza Mlungwana 0744178306 /

Gavin Silber on 0837779981 /

The following photos were taken over three months at various janitorial sites across Khayelitsha:

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