Social Justice Coalition Press Alert:


Commitment follows over two years of ongoing engagement and protest by SJC and affected communities


City hosts summit on janitorial services following arrests of SJC members and supporters

On Friday 28 February 2014, the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) attended a summit hosted by the City of Cape Town on the janitorial service for flush toilets in informal settlements. The summit followed more than two years of ongoing, and at times, difficult engagement with the City, which ultimately led to the arrest by SAPS of 21 SJC members and supporters in September 2013 during an act of peaceful and organised civil disobedience. On that day, the SJC called for immediate intervention by the City to honor its prior commitments to develop the janitorial service implementation plan.

While the summit was marked by heated disagreements, the SJC welcomes the City’s renewed commitment – made at the end of the summit, and again this week by Councillor Ernest Sonnenberg, Mayco member for Utility Services – to develop, with the assistance of an advisory committee, a formal and detailed Implementation plan for the janitorial service.

The SJC now calls on the City to honour its obligations and produce this plan through proper engagement with affected communities and to do so within a reasonable timeframe. The development of this plan will illustrate that the City is willing to honour its commitments and work towards ensuring that poor communities have access to safe and dignified toilets.

Establishment of advisory committee to develop implementation plan

This week Councillor Sonnenberg confirmed that the City will produce an implementation plan, which will include suggestions from the summit’s working groups as well as all relevant information held relating to the janitorial service. He further confirmed that the drafting of the document has begun, and that it will continue under the guidance of the advisory committee.

While the SJC was invited to be part of the advisory committee, we will not participate directly in this committee. As Executive Director of Utilities, Gisela Kaiser, noted at the summit, it is the City’s duty to make the final decisions about the plan and produce it. Engagement with communities and relevant stakeholders should be a central component of this process as per its legal obligations in terms of the Municipal Systems Act. We consequently believe it would be inappropriate for the SJC to participate in the committee directly, but support the independent stakeholder representation as proposed at the summit.

The SJC will offer its support to the committee as far as possible and if called upon to do so, will make a substantive, written submission to it on the implementation plan.

SJC calls on City to now honour its commitments and obligations within a reasonable timeframe

The summit was the result of an agreement made by the City, the SJC, and the Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum (WCRLF) at a meeting on 8 October 2013 following the arrest of SJC members and supporters.

Over a period of more than two years, we repeatedly showed that the consequences of failing to produce an implementation plan 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. The service’s implementation has been inconsistent and haphazard, as illustrated by the SJC’s monthly monitoring reports that were presented and discussed at the summit.

While we welcome the City’s commitment to draft the implementation plan, we call on the City to:

  • Honour its obligations and produce the plan through adequate engagement with janitors and affected communities, as well as through submissions from interested parties.
  • Adopt a set timeframe for the development of the document so that the committee can plan appropriately and complete its work timeously.

Given that – as confirmed by City officials at the summit – the City already holds a significant amount of the required information to develop the plan, that the drafting has already begun, and given the urgent need to improve the service, the SJC believes that three months is a reasonable timeframe for the completion of an implementation plan.

Both residents and janitors will continue to face life-threatening risks to safety and health. Every delay is a child getting sick from diarrhoea and at risk of dying, a person facing serious illness, and above all a violation of the right to dignity of poor and working class communities.


For comment please contact:

Phumeza Mlungwana (General Secretary)

074 417 8306

Dustin Kramer (Deputy General Secretary)

083 674 0552

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