By Ariana K. MacPherson, SDI
A national leader of the South African Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP), Patrick Magebhula Hunsley, was appointed in July 2011 to serve on the Ministerial Task Team on Water and Sanitation headed by Ms. Winnie Madikizela Mandela. The Team came into being in response to the Makhaza toilet scandal earlier this year, and was tasked with addressing the issue of open-air, incomplete and dilapidated toilets in poor communities across South Africa. By January 2012, the team is meant to report back to Minister Sexwale of the Department of Human Settlements with recommendations based on their findings on the scale and geographic spread of the problem, as well as any “irregularities or malpractices,” of which quite a few have already been unearthed.
Yesterday, Ms. Mandela was in Cape Town for a National Task Team forum, where community leaders, task teams and members of social movements such as the Informal Settlement Network, one of the members of the South African SDI alliance, presented reports on the state of sanitation in their communities. Following these reports, the SA SDI Alliance made recommendations on upgrading of urban informal settlements based on their experiences of re-blocking at Sheffield Road.
They shared how this process has led to many positive outcomes, including the incorporation of sanitation within the re-blocked clusters, rather than on the periphery of the settlement as is usually the case. Where toilets have been incorporated into clusters, community members reported a marked difference in levels of vandalism and blockages, both of which are problems that can cause the State huge costs in informal settlements. Upon hearing about Sheffield Rd., Ms. Mandela was eager to visit the community. She spent time meeting with women who have mobilized to turn what was not long ago a maze of dark alleyways with few safe or functioning toilets nearby into a vibrant community working together to bring about permanent change.