Blackburn Village toilets are broken and dirty

Toilet blocks in the informal settlement of Blackburn Village, north of Durban, are in a sorry state. Residents say they have to defecate in a nearby field. Photos: Nokulunga Majola

  • Toilet blocks in the informal settlement of Blackburn Village, north of Durban, are in a sorry state.
  • Residents are now demanding that the Municipality of eThekwini repair and renovate the blocks immediately.
  • Three people have been bitten by snakes in recent months while defecating in the nearby sugar cane field because they could not use the toilet.

Residents of the informal settlement of Blackburn Village, north of Durban, are demanding that the Municipality of eThekwini immediately renovate their sanitation facilities.

Three people from the community were reportedly bitten by snakes while relieving themselves in the nearby sugar cane field as the toilets are in a terrible state.

Khetho Ndlovu told GroundUp he was on his way to relieve himself in the nearby field when he encountered a snake last month. “I was shocked but not surprised as there have been reports of snakes in the area. What if a snake attacks a child? asks Ndlovu.

Michael Mayela has lived in Blackburn Settlement since 2016. He says there are five ablution facilities in one section of the settlement. The other section has four.

Mayela says the sanitary facilities are dilapidated, with broken and unusable toilet seats.

According to the City, toilet blocks are shared water and sanitation facilities in prefabricated containers “modified to meet acceptable standards by adding proper ventilation and plumbing.” These facilities typically have men’s toilets and urinals, showers, and sinks. A block often serves between 100 and 200 households.

When GroundUp visited the area last week, we saw broken pipes, sinks, faucets and toilets in both men’s and women’s facilities. One of the toilet blocks had excrement strewn on the floor. Some people were still seen doing their laundry outside. Another block away, dirty water was flowing, causing a terrible stench.

In response to several questions about maintenance of toilet blocks, city spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said residents should take responsibility for their space and not cause blockages in the system. Mayisela said the city found old rags, bags of cement, newspapers, diapers and sanitary ware in the system.

He said that several campaigns had been launched to sensitize residents on the maintenance of toilet blocks.

The toilets were now closed for repairs and renovations, Mayisela said.

But according to Mayela, these toilet blocks have not been maintained for more than three years. “One of these facilities is locked down. Even if the others are open, no one uses them because there is nowhere to sit or the place is too dirty to even enter.

He acknowledged that blockages are often caused by people using newspapers instead of toilet paper.

Some families have dug their own pit toilets, but that too is unsafe as a woman was nearly bitten by a snake in one of these pits last week. Abahlali BaseMjondolo housing movement Thapelo Mohapi said one of three people who were bitten by snakes in the sugar cane field had died. GroundUp could not verify any of these incidents.

“We cannot continue to live like this,” said resident Sinikelo Mbewana. “It seems like no one cares about us.”

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