Ex-Live SA photographer, Masixole Feni recently won the Ernest Cole Photographic Award for his series of photographs documenting the lack of proper sanitation in Cape Town’s townships. Masixole started the project, called A Drain on our Dignity, around 2002 while working as a stand-in photographer for Independent Newspapers. He carried on with the project and contributed some of the images to Live SA’s print Issue 10, Autumn 2014.
View the photo essay below.
No to anything less than a toilet
Words: Andrea Chothia
The so-called Mshengu “temporary” toilets have to be shared between countless people, making them completely unsanitary and therefore putting people at risk of contracting infections and disease. These temporary toilets (but now permanent fixtures) have proven to be unreliable: either locked out or out of order. Temporary toilets grimly affect the lives of many township residents. Here they appear innocuous, lining the outskirts of Khayelitsha Site C.
Ironically the communal toilets are sometimes locked, therefore women and children are having to walk long distances in order to relieve themselves. This has become increasingly dangerous as these women and children get attacked and raped. Here, early morning, a young child relieves herself just outside of Khayelitsha near the N2 highway.
According to a commission of inquiry that was organised by the Social Justice Coalition, due to insufficient budget the City of Cape Town couldn’t enclose the toilets that were provided for the community. Here a woman from Makhaza, Khayelitsha, passes an open toilet.
As there are no flushing toilets in some informal settlements in Cape Town, the porta potties (portable flush toilets) have to be emptied and cleaned with harsh chemicals roughly three times a week. Here at Airport Industria, a worker puts on protective gear as he gets ready to empty and clean them.
Service delivery protests have gradually gotten out of hand; drastic measures have been taken by the police: releasing teargas and making arrests. Here, in Harare, Khayelitsha, a student is arrested for participating in an illegal protest march against the DA’s 110% Green initiative. The student was later released on bail. A woman passing by, covers her face with her scarf to protect herself from the tear gas.
To air out his frustrations, in Harare Khayelitsha, a man, throws faeces from a portable flush toilet (PFT) at the DA’s convoy.
In Khayelitsha Site C, the portable flush toilets are collected and cleaned three times a week. They are collected from door to door by the porta potti workers. Here the toilets stand in the early morning out on the streets waiting for collection trucks that operate on a sporadic timetable. Highly unsanitary, they stand out in the open where people have to walk right by them.
In Hout Bay the community decided to build a canal in order to avoid flooding; now the canal is used as a dumping site for human waste due to the lack of sufficient toilets and drainage systems. Passing the unbearable canal, these women have fetched clean water from one communal tap.
*Originally published on Live Magazine SA Issue 10, Autumn 2014, which you can read in its entirety here.
Masixole is currently the staff photographer for GroundUp where he carries on to document social issues.