Tokyo out for blood over toilets-for-sale

13 July 2011 - 02:17 By SIPHO MASONDO
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Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale will travel to Tshiame, Harrismith, Wednesday to see for himself a toilet farm that has been there for three years.

Following an expose by The Times of how toilets built in 2008 are now being sold to the poor, Sexwale last night demanded answers and vowed that action will be taken against those responsible.

He described the toilet farm as the "true and ugly face of corruption [and] misuse of power".

"Now, when we stand up all the time and say we are fighting corruption, we don't want our voices to be muffled. Every South African must stand up against this,'' he said.

"This represents the worst form of planning which degrades the dignity of the poorest of the poor."

Sexwale later told the SABC there was ''no way'' that officials can sell government toilets which are supposed to be free.

"I spoke to the [Free State co-operative governance] MEC [Mamiki Qabathe] that not only do I want answers to this ... the police must arrest the people behind this."

Sexwale's visit is in response to reports in The Times over the past two days, exposing a "scheme" in which poor residents have been asked to pay R12000 for vacant stands with flushing toilets on them.

In a desperate bid to contain the embarrassment caused by the toilets, the Maluti-a-Phofung municipality - which had previously said it will sell all the stands - yesterday made a U-turn, promising to build low-cost houses on 311 of the 554 sites and give them to the poor. People who earn less than R3000 a month qualify for free low-cost houses.

Municipal spokesman Matefu Mokoena said: "The rest will be sold. For people who cannot afford, we say here are 311 sites.

"But there are also people who can't qualify for RDPs [low-cost houses], but they also don't qualify for bonds, so we are selling those sites to that market."

However, ward councillor Moeketsi Mofana last week said that the municipality will sell all the stands. "They have to be sold. The money used to develop the site has to be recouped. For now there are no RDP houses in the pipeline.

"The priority is to move and complete this project."

There are now concerns that some of the toilets have been built too close to each other.

A municipal official who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: "We realised that the toilets are too close to each other. "It will make building [houses next to them] very difficult, if not impossible."

Mandulo Maphumulo, Sexwale's spokesman, said the minister had put his other commitments aside today to travel to Tshiame to see the toilet farm for himself.

The toilets, just across the road from Tshiame, have been unused since 2008 though many residents of the poverty-stricken township do not have a home with a flushing toilet.

On Monday, Tshiame residents began a violent protest against the municipality, which started selling the stands on Friday, and destroyed a number of the toilets.

They protested, burned tyres, rolled boulders into the streets and threatened to burn their councillors' houses if the municipality did not rescind its decision to sell the stands.

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