The South African Federation of Trade Unions is appalled at the tragic drowning of a three-year-old boy after falling into a pit toilet at Diteteng village in Moletji, Limpopo.
SAFTU is disgusted that villagers still have to use such toilets 24 years after the advent of democracy. Is it any wonder that there have been so many angry and even violent protests in poor communities, when villages lack such basic necessities as proper sanitation?
This is the third such tragedy in recent times. In March this year, a five-year-old girl died after falling into a pit toilet at a primary school in the Eastern Cape. In 2014, five-year-old Michael Komape drowned after he fell into a pit toilet at his school in Limpopo.
According to the South African Early Childhood Review in 2017‚ “more than 1.5 million children under the age of six do not live in a household with a toilet or a Ventilated Improved Pit Latrine on the site where they live”. This is an average of 24% of all South African children.
Limpopo is the worst, with 49% of children with no toilet on site. In some areas‚ the percentage is an outrageous 90%!
Apart from the danger of fatal accidents, this lack of sanitation is also a leading cause of diarrhoea which accounts for one fifth of all deaths of children under the age of five years. It is also dangerous for adults, especially the elderly, to have to leave the house at night.
A study by Yale University found that women in informal settlements around Khayelitsha are at high risk of rape for 15 minutes of every single day of their lives as they walk to and from toilets.
The situation is equally disastrous in schools. In April 2018, in the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, the government confirmed that there are currently 3 532 pit toilets at schools across the country. It estimates that it will cost around R7.8 billion to address the sanitation backlog at all schools.
SAFTU demands that the government declares this to be a national emergency, and immediately provides funds a drive to provide proper sanitation for every community and school. If the government was at all serious about this they would employ some of the 3,3 million young South Africans who are unemployed and not in education or training. It could be a way for them to earn a living wage and play an important role in improving the lives of the people.
Community activists and the young unemployed will be among those represented at the Working Class Summit (WCS) to be held on 21- 22 July 2018 at the University of Johannesburg Soweto Campus. This opportunity must be taken to hammer out a programme of mass action to demand urgent action from government to end the scandal of pit toilets.
The Summit aims to unite civil society formations, employed and unemployed workers, those in the informal sector and in more secure work, the students and the landless, the homeless and those fighting against the scourge of violence against women and children, into a struggle for a truly free, corruption-free, democratic and equal society.
We call on all those interested in participating in the WCS to contact us.
Tel: +27 (11) 331 0124
Fax: +27 (11) 331 0176
Physical Address, 34 Eloff Street, Johannesburg 2001