On Saturday 19 July the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) and Ndifuna Ukwazi (NU) hosted a public hearing on the findings of a week-long social audit on the janitorial service for communal flush toilets in four informal settlements in Khayelitsha.

The social audit entailed comprehensive inspections of more than 600 flush toilets and nearly 200 interviews with residents who use the facilities and janitors who clean the toilets in PJS, Nkanini, BM and BT. More than 80 people, representing a number of civil society organisations from across the country participated in the audit.

At the public hearing held today, participants presented their evidence and community members gave testimonies of their experiences of this service.

The attendance and participation of members of government is welcomed by the SJC and most encouraging. Councillor Ernest Sonnenberg, Mayco Member for Utility Services and Gisela Kaiser, Executive Director for Utility Services, were respondents for the City of Cape Town. Western Cape Premier Helen Zille as well as several members of local, provincial and national government attended the hearing as guests.

The preliminary findings show that the implementation of the janitorial service is inconsistent and haphazard, suffering from a severe lack of planning and consistency. The result is that residents are left without access to safe and dignified toilets, posing life-threatening risks to the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the city. This is due to the lack of an implementation plan for the service.

Key preliminary findings of the social audit include:

  • ·       Over a quarter of flush toilets in the informal settlements audited were not working
  • ·       Almost half of the toilets inspected were either dirty or very dirty
  • ·      A third of residents believe that janitors clean only one day per week in their area and janitors cannot easily access toilets
  • ·      The distribution of janitors is unequal and not all sections have enough janitors
  • ·      Janitors do not have the required cleaning equipment or receive the required training
  • ·      Janitors are not being inoculated against disease and do not receive the required Protective Personal Equipment (PPE)

The preliminary findings can be viewed here and downloaded here.


What is a social audit?

Millions of people across South Africa still do not have access to adequate basic services and are not able to meaningfully participate in service delivery.

A social audit is a tool that enables and encourages community participation and monitoring of government service delivery and expenditure. The process allows communities to understand, measure, verify, report and ultimately improve government performance.

The janitorial service

The janitorial service was established by the City of Cape Town in 2012 following sustained advocacy from the SJC for such a service to be put in place. The service is responsible for the cleaning of flush toilets in the City’s informal settlements and for minor plumbing repairs. Hundreds of thousands of people make use of these toilets on a daily basis.

Over a period of more than two years, we repeatedly showed that the consequences of failing to produce an implementation plan for the janitorial service were severe, life threatening, and undermined the health, dignity, and safety of janitors and the communities that they serve. Our memorandum of 25 June 2013, details the litany of commitments made by the Mayor on this matter as well as the consequences for not having followed through on these commitments.

As we noted in our statement on 27 March 2014, the SJC welcomed the City’s renewed commitment to develop an implementation plan for the janitorial service. We called on the City then to honour its obligations and produce the plan through adequate engagement with janitors and affected communities within the agreed timeframe of three months from March 2014. We publicly stated that we would support the process of developing that plan.

Four months later, on 11 July 2014, Cllr Sonnenberg again stated that an implementation plan was being produced. To date, that plan has not been released.

This Wednesday 23 July 2014, 21 SJC activists and supporters will stand trial after being arrested on 11 September 2013. This followed a peaceful and organised act of civil disobedience outside the offices of Mayor de Lille due to the ongoing refusal of the Mayor to follow through on her commitments for a janitorial plan.

A full report of the social audit with supporting documentation and demands will be released in due course.


For comment please contact:

Axolile Notywala

074 386 1584

Zukiswa Qezo

079 840 5865

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