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Pay toilets irks Bulawayo residents

by Staff reporter
09 Dec 2013 at 08:44hrs | Views
THE Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has been accused of gross hypocrisy in its call for cleanliness in the city when it has commercialised almost all public toilets in the city's central business district (CBD) leaving residents, travellers and vagabonds without money to pay for the "pay toilets" resorting to the use of alleys and other secluded spots to relieve themselves.

It has emerged that some stranded residents now resort to urinating in plastic bottles that are then carelessly thrown in the city's thoroughfares leaving it filthy.

This comes amid revelations that most public buildings in the city do not have publicly accessible toilet facilities, even the local authority's Tower Block and Revenue Hall have no toilets that are accessible to the public.

At Tower Block council even chain-locked their "public" toilets, while at the City Hall council leased out two of the three toilet blocks while the only one that has not been privatised is a mess as it is hardly cleaned.

A survey by Sunday News revealed that most alleys had a foul smell emanating from human waste and urine.

The toilets that were leased out by the council charge between two and three rand and close at 5pm, meaning that residents who leave town after hours resort to alleys to relieve themselves.

Lack of toilets has also resulted in Centenary Park, a recreational centre used mostly by newly-weds and as playground for children, being turned into an open defecation area because of its environs. The park is littered and has an overwhelming stench of human waste, something that has seen the number of people frequenting the park dwindling.

Neither BCC health director Zanele Hwalima nor the council's senior public relations officer, Mrs Nesisa Mpofu were available for comment as they did not respond to written questions.

Bulawayo United Residents Association (Bura) chairperson Mr Winos Dube blasted the local authority saying they had long raised their concern over the matter but nothing was done by the city fathers.

"What you have to realise is that going to the toilet is not a luxury but it is a call of nature, there are some people out there who cannot even afford five rand to board kombis going home, where then do they expect them to go since the toilets cost three rand.

"All things being fair, the council is being inhumane in their conduct because when these toilets were constructed they were meant to be used by residents and that explains why they are called public toilets. It is surprising that when you go to places like Tower Block, the council went to the extent of locking the toilets, that is why we objected to the initial idea to lease them out but we were ignored," said Mr Dube.
He noted that the council was indirectly encouraging people to resort to undesignated areas to relieve themselves.

"It is surprising that on one hand the council is trying to keep the city clean while they go on to shut off the public toilets.

"It is obvious that when someone is pressed and they don't have the required amount they will then resort to the alleys, let's not forget that the call of nature is unpredictable, one can require the use of a toilet anytime," said the Bura chairperson.

He also noted that public buildings should offer toilet facilities in their premises to cater for the high numbers of human traffic frequenting their buildings.

Bulawayo mayor Councillor Martin Moyo, however, said council was forced to lease out toilets to individuals due to limited resources as they could not afford to maintain them but hinted that council was going to reverse the decision.

"This was an interim measure we were forced to resort to due to the harsh economic environment but I fully agree that because of the importance of a toilet facility in society, we will need to revisit this decision once the contracts with these individuals or companies expire.

"I must emphasise that although those toilets are being run privately they still remain council assets. Therefore if need arises we can take them over. The core issue is that we should be in a position to maintain these facilities," said Clr Moyo.

He said they should move away from the colonial mentality where people could only access toilet facilities on the outskirts of the CBD with toilets in the CBD only open to a few elite.

"I fully agree that we must have public toilets in strategic locations in the city centre considering that not everyone can afford the required amount, people should, however, play their part in ensuring that they keep the toilets clean," said the mayor.

BCC cleaners who spoke on condition of anonymity said the major culprits who use alleys and other secluded places in the CBD as toilets were commuter omnibus drivers and people who frequent entertainment spots at night as well as vagrants.

Water shedding has also forced people to defecate in alleys and secluded places in the city as toilets would not have running water.

The rampant defecation and urination has resulted in a number of businesses installing gates at alleys to keep offenders out of their areas.

It has also put people's lives at risk as they would be trapped in the alleys should they decide to get away from a fire using the fire-escape.

Open defecation increases the risk of outbreaks of diarrhoeal diseases.

With regard to basic sanitation, the World Health Organisation (WHO) notes that the current rates of progress were too slow for the Millennium Development Goals target to be met globally.

In 2010, 2,5 billion people did not have access to improved sanitation facilities, with 1 billion people still practising open defecation.

The number of people living in urban areas without access to improved sanitation is increasing because of rapid growth in the size of urban populations with predictions that 2,7 billion people, about 40 percent of the world's population, will be without access to basic sanitation by 2015 if the current migration trend continues.

Source - sundaynews