SJC To Host Cape Town Sanitation Summit

Photo by David Harrison

On Thursday 15 September 2011 The Social Justice Coalition (SJC) will host the inaugural Cape Town Sanitation Summit – an opportunity for NGOs, community representatives, activists, government representatives, technicians, academics, experts and other stakeholders to discuss joint plans to improve access to clean and safe sanitation facilities in Cape Town’s informal settlements.

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille will open the summit, followed by various other community representatives including the Most Reverend Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Cape Town Council opposition leader Tony Ehrenreich and others.

The objectives of the summit are:

  • To develop an interim plan to ensure that existing sanitation facilities are maintained, monitored and coordinated by the City in an appropriate manner;
  • To develop a joint plan to ensure the right to basic sanitation for those living in the City’s informal settlements is progressively realised through delivery of additional facilities over a reasonable timeframe;
  • To develop and plan for improved meaningful engagement/consultation between government, civil society, and residents to facilitate these plans.

The City of Cape Town has acknowledged that over 400 000 people in the City of Cape Town do not have access to basic sanitation facilities, and that in some communities more than 500 people may share one toilet.

The true sanitation backlog is likely far higher than this, given that many existing facilities do not meet national norms and standards due to a lack of routine maintenance and monitoring.

Every day, residents of informal settlements contract diarrhea, gastroenteritis, worms and other waterborne illnesses as a direct result of unhygienic sanitation facilities. Others are robbed, assaulted, raped and murdered whilst walking to, or utilising sanitation facilities that are often very far from their homes.  Given the scale of the crisis, we believe that improving and expanding sanitation services must be prioritised as a matter of urgency.  The City cannot do this alone, but needs support from communities and civil society.

On 27 April 2011, approximately 2500 SJC members and partners marched to the Mayor’s office to demand clean and safe sanitation facilities in our informal settlements.  A petition signed by more than 10 000 Khayelitsha residents was submitted, calling for both interim and long-term plans, but also offering assistance.  Since then, we have met with Mayor Patricia de Lille and relevant support staff twice.  She has welcomed this initiative, and has called on the SJC to “use its specialist knowledge of Khayelitsha to assist (the City) in providing the highest level of services possible to the people of that community.”  She has also noted the importance of “building partnerships” with those possessing community and technical expertise (see Mayor’s statement here)

The SJC hopes that the Sanitation Summit will serve to illustrate that many partners are willing to assist the City in tackling the challenges that exist.  It is hoped that an example for cooperative delivery will be set in Cape Town, which can then be replicated elsewhere.

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