December 14, 2018

REGULAR Few answers to Parliament’s questions

One of South Africa’s worst failures lingers as the government struggles to eradicate the bucket system, and it is unlikely to be resolved soon.

ANC MP Hlomani Chauke asked Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane about the challenges her department faces in attempting to eradicate the bucket system, thereby “restoring the dignity of persons nationwide”.

Mokonyane’s answer was that the only bucket toilets left in South AfricHowever, “in the current financial year (2017-18) the Department did not receive an allocation from the National Treasury towards the eradication of outstanding buckets [in other provinces],a are limited to the Free State and Northern Cape. She said there are otherwise no bucket toilets left, not even in Limpopo, where six-year-old Michael Komape fell into a pit latrine at his school and drowned in human excrement in 2014.

In the current financial year the Department did not receive funds for the eradication of buckets in other provinces.

Well, that sounds like good news. Except, on closer reading we see that the Minister does not include informal settlements in her figures. This is important because different authorities take responsibility for those, so the Minister cannot be expected to count those.

It also seems to depend on what you define as a bucket toilet. The Minister is referring to a bucket or similar container, under a toilet seat, the contents of which are disposed of by municipal services.

There is no reference at all to the tens of thousands of South Africans for whom such a service is not provided. These citizens are forced to make use of buckets of some kind, but because they are not removed, cleaned and replaced by the municipality they are apparently not using the bucket system.

So the Minister can claim the bucket system has almost been eradicated. The use of buckets, however, continues, but those forced to use them do not count. Or are not counted in her statistics, because they fall under municipal authority.

She told Chauke that all bucket toilets in (formal areas of) the Eastern Cape and North-West provinces were eradicated in the previous financial year.

However, “in the current financial year (2017-18) the Department did not receive an allocation from the National Treasury towards the eradication of outstanding buckets [in other provinces],” she said.

“[This] has led the Department to reprioritise internally from other grants such as the Water Sector Infrastructure Grant and Accelerated Community Infrastructure Programme to the value of R409 million which was insufficient to conclude the programme.”

Mokonyane said an estimated R741 million is needed to eradicate the remaining bucket system in the Northern Cape and Free State. Of this R458 million is needed for the Free State alone. The Department recently told members of the Free State legislature it will have to approach the province and the Department for Human Settlements for financial help.

The situation in the Free State gets even more dire. Not only will the bucket system continue in some areas, but it turns out that toilets that were built cannot be used, according to a briefing by the Department to the Public Accounts and Finance Committee in the legislature.

The presentation shows that the Department aimed to remove 22,085 bucket toilets by March next year but this can now only be completed by June. It also shows that more than 16,000 toilets (with top structures) were built but are not in use.

DA Chief Whip in the Free State Legislature David van Vuuren said in a statement that the Department “has built 16 823 toilet top structures across the Free State at a cost of about R252 million (R15,000.00 per toilet), but sadly, not a single toilet is in working order since the bulk water reticulation and sewerage infrastructure has not yet been established”.

Van Vuuren said these toilets are now being vandalised and he slammed the ANC government as “patronising the poor and desperate”. He said it is “illogical” to build toilets without first establishing that the bulk infrastructure needed for them to perform their function is in place.

“Now thousands of families are being patronised across the Free State and have to look at toilets they are unable to use, Van Vuuren said.

Spokesperson for the Department of Water and Sanitation Sputnik Ratau explained that in this case it was easier to establish toilet top structures first whilst funds are secured for bulk infrastructure. “It is essentially about money and having to regularise the appointment of the service provider for it. It is important to understand this is a process. The target was about 22,000 toilets and at least 5,000 are flushing.”

Many target dates have been set for eradicating the bucket toilet system over the years. In 2003 Cabinet approved the Strategic Framework for Water Services, which aimed at eradicating the bucket system by 2006. Government missed this deadline. New target dates were set for 2015 and missed.

Alicestine October

Last modified on Tuesday, 16 January 2018 18:19

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