Three hundred thousand people in Cape Town do not have access to flushing toilets. This can and must change.
When loving your neighbour means caring about their toilet
Is it my problem that others in my city do not have access to a decent toilet? Who is my neighbour in the city? Why is this an issue that the Church needs to be speaking into? What does loving my neighbour look like when it comes to sanitation? And is it okay that the City of Cape Town does not allocate more money in the budget to those without decent sanitation?
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.” (Luke 10:27 NRSV).
Cape Town has a sanitation problem, we cannot hide from this fact, one home has ten toilets, yet in some informal settlements, ten people have access to one toilet. We need to begin to ask ourselves, serious questions, around our theology, ethics and our ecology. Steve De Gruchy said at a conference in 2009: “that sewage is the place where economics and ecology collide … Outside of our ability to deal with our s**t, there can be no real talk of sustainability.” We have to start asking, what is preventing the roll out of more toilets? What can we do as the church to facilitate this situation? It starts with awareness and education.
The South African Human Rights Commission released a report on water and sanitation in 2014 which included the following findings:
- Approximately 11% (1.4 million) of households (formal and informal) still have to be provided with sanitation services (these households have never had a government supported sanitation intervention);
- At least 26% (3.8 million) of households within formal areas have sanitation services which do not meet the required standards due to the deterioration of infrastructure caused by lack of technical capacity to ensure effective operation, timeous maintenance, refurbishment and/or upgrading, pit emptying services and/or insufficient water resources.
- Although the un-served population is 11% of the national total, their predominance is in the widely dispersed rural settlements of KwaZulu-Natal, North West and the Eastern Cape. The areas with high levels of infrastructure maintenance needs are located within Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape and the Eastern Cape.
- Based on an assessment of the provision of water services, 23 municipalities (9% of the total) were in a crisis state, with an acute risk of disease outbreak.
- A further 38% were at high risk, with the potential to deteriorate into a state of crisis.
We need to begin to answer the question of who is my neighbour, and how and why this matters in how we live our lives daily? This is why we do our sanitation campaigns – we believe in the power of the Gospel, to transform communities, to be the agents of change, and in the Church to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
We invite you to walk with us, to ask questions with us, to challenge the idea of what a just Cape Town looks like. Leading up to World Toilet Day we will be running a number of events, to raise awareness of the issues facing a great many of our brothers and sisters, sign up, together we can learn, teach others and make a lasting difference across the City and beyond.
By Wayne Eaves