The Social Justice Coalition (SJC), a Cape Town based advocacy group, held the inaugural Cape Town Sanitation Summit on 15 September in Woodstock, Cape Town. The summit presented an opportunity for NGOs, community representatives, activists, government representatives, technicians, academics, experts and other stakeholders to discuss joint plans to improve access to clean and safe sanitation facilities in Cape Town's informal settlements.
Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille opened the summit, followed by responses from community representatives including the Most Reverend Archbishop Thabo Makgoba and Cape Town Council opposition leader Tony Ehrenreich.
The objectives of the summit were:
- To develop an interim plan to ensure that existing sanitation facilities are maintained, monitored and coordinated by the City in an appropriate manner;
- To develop a joint plan to ensure the right to basic sanitation for those living in the City's informal settlements is progressively realised through delivery of additional facilities over a reasonable timeframe;
- To develop and plan for improved meaningful engagement/consultation between government, civil society, and residents to facilitate these plans.
The City of Cape Town has acknowledged that over 400 000 people in the City of Cape Town do not have access to basic sanitation facilities, and that in some communities more than 500 people may share one toilet. The true sanitation backlog is likely far higher than this, given that many existing facilities do not meet national norms and standards due to a lack of routine maintenance and monitoring.
Every day, residents of informal settlements contract diarrhea, gastroenteritis, worms and other waterborne illnesses as a direct result of unhygienic sanitation facilities. Others are robbed, assaulted, raped and murdered whilst walking to, or utilising sanitation facilities that are often very far from their homes. Given the scale of the crisis, the SJC believe that improving and expanding sanitation services must be prioritised as a matter of urgency. The City cannot do this alone, but needs support from communities and civil society.
The SJC hopes that the Sanitation Summit will serve to illustrate that many partners are willing to assist the City in tackling the challenges that exist. It is hoped that an example for cooperative delivery will be set in Cape Town, which can then be replicated elsewhere.