On 25 June 2013 hundreds of Khayelitsha residents from the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) and partner organisations marched peacefully through the streets of Cape Town to demand safe and dignified sanitation for all. A memorandum was delivered to the Mayor’s Office, demanding amongst other things that the City of Cape Town produce – within two weeks – an urgent timeline for the development of a policy and plan for the janitorial service for flush toilets in informal settlements.

This deadline has now passed and the SJC has instructed the Legal Resources Centre to submit a final letter of demand to Mayor Patricia de Lille, failing which the SJC will institute legal action against the City. This is not a decision we have taken lightly. It comes after years of attempting to work with the City to ensure that this critical service is effectively and efficiently implemented, and repeated failures by the City and Mayor de Lille to meet their commitments.

Over the past two years, Mayor de Lille has repeatedly acknowledged the importance of a policy and plan for the effective implementation of the janitorial service and requested that the SJC assist the City to develop it. The SJC has consistently tried to work with the City in this regard, including regular meetings and formal submissions. The Mayor has on several occasions over the past year promised that a policy and plan would be widely discussed, developed and published, but these processes have not taken place.

As a direct result, the service continues to face numerous challenges to its effective implementation. The SJC’s most recent Janitorial Service progress report released today (summary of findings and full report available here) shows that these failures – many of which are critical health hazards to workers and residents – persist. In some cases, issues have deteriorated after marginal improvements following Mayor de Lille’s interventions in December 2012. In addition, in 2013, new problems have emerged and have at times threatened the effective continuation of the service. These include janitors not being inoculated, not being provided with protective masks and gloves and problems with payment.

The SJC was surprised when Councillor Sonnenberg, MAYCO Member for Utility Services, issued a statementimmediately following the submission of the SJC’s memorandum, claiming that “a Janitorial Services Operational Policy has been developed”. However, Councillor Sonnenberg refused to provide this ‘operational policy’ when the SJC subsequently requested it via email, indicating that it “is an internal working document on how to manage the programme”. We are therefore at present unclear as to the nature of this document, or the process through which it has been developed.

Given the ongoing work between the City and the SJC on the janitorial service over the past two years, we see no reason for the City’s refusal to cooperate and provide this document to the SJC.

After more than a year since the rollout of the service and given the desperate situation both for the janitors and residents utilising these facilities, today our lawyers have delivered a final letter of demand to Mayor de Lille to provide us with this operational policy. Should the Mayor fail to provide the policy to us, we will proceed to court.

We will address the other issues raised in our memorandum with the City in due course.



For Comment please contact:

Phumeza Mlungwana      0744178306    

Dustin Kramer                    0836740552   

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