Report of the Khayelitsha 'Mshengu' toilet social audit

Between 22 and 26 April 2013 the SJC and residents of Khayelitsha conducted a social audit on chemical toilets – otherwise known as ‘Mshengu’ toilets. The audit was undertaken with the assistance of the International Budget Partnership (IBP) and the Society for Social Audit, Accountability and Transparency in India.

On Freedom Day, 27 April 2013, SJC hosted a public hearing where participants reported the evidence of the social audit and community members gave testimonies of their own experiences with this service. Community members raised concerns regarding safety, hygiene, a shortage of facilities, lack of meaningful engagement, fault reporting, lack of cleaning, the number of people sharing toilets, the lack of coordination over locked toilets and the problems regarding toilets not being secured to the ground. 

Members of government and Mshengu Services were invited to listen to the reports, offer their views on remedial action, and respond to and engage with community members on the issues and concerns raised. The social audit represents a crucial mechanism of engagement for communities in the provision of this basic service. During the social audit, over 60 participants interviewed 270 residents of 4 informal settlements - RR-Section, Taiwan/CT, Green Point, and Emsindweni. The participants inspected all 256 chemical toilets found across these four areas.

The audit found that:

The City of Cape Town (the City) has paid Mshengu Services more than R126 million to provide and maintain temporary toilets. On inspection, only 256 toilets were found leaving 90 toilets missing and a distribution in all areas that falls far short of the 1 to 5 ratio. In many cases more than 10 families were sharing a single toilet and in one area 26 families were sharing 1 toilet.

  • Of the toilets inspected, only 68% had been serviced by Honey Sucker in the last week, even though this is supposed to happen three times a week in those areas. No daily cleaning takes place in the areas under the audit, even though this is a contractual obligation.
  • 54% of toilets were in an unusable state and a further 66% of toilets were damaged.
  • None of the toilets inspected were secured to the ground and residents complained about the dangers of using a toilet that could easily topple or be pushed over. The contract requires that all toilets are safely secured to the ground, including those in sandy areas.
  • No Community Liaison Officers (CLOs) were found on site and residents also reported that they did not know of any CLOs employed for this service. CLOs are meant to ensure the smooth running of the service and facilitate communication.
  • Local labour does not appear to have been used. The contract states that labour should be sourced from within the community.
  • A worrying amount of human waste appears to be unaccounted for, indicating that the regularity and/or the amount of toilets being cleaned is far less than what should be according to the stated number of toilets.