Open-air toilets cause a stink for S.African ruling party
South Africa's ruling ANC demanded on Tuesday that "heads must roll" over the construction of open-air toilets that have embarrassed the party ahead of polls.
"Heads must roll in terms of people who have taken this decision," African National Congress youth wing leader Julius Malema told thousands of people in Rammulotsi township, near Viljoenskroon in the central Free State province.
Malema and other top party officials visited the community to do damage control after it emerged that the ANC-run municipality had built about 1,600 open-air toilets — some as far back as 2003 — after the ruling party slammed the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) for the same thing.
"We condemn this thing of open toilets unequivocally, because it is inhumane and indefensible," said ANC head of organising and campaigns Fikile Mbalula.
The ANC has been left red-faced by the saga after the party’s youth league took the DA to court for building similar toilets in a township outside Cape Town.
A court last month ordered the DA-led municipality to enclose the toilets, siding with the ANC youth league’s argument that they infringed on human dignity.
The so-called "toilet wars" have become an issue of political point-scoring as the fight for votes hots up ahead of local government elections on May 18.
DA leaders claimed that residents had agreed to build the enclosures themselves, as the council had no funds to construct them — the same explanation municipal officials in Rammulotsi used.
But Malema said the officials should have known better.
"(Community members) agree to it because they are desperate, they are poor people, they have no option and they agree to anything that comes," he said.
According to the national statistics agency about 6.6 percent of households in South Africa in 2009 had no toilets or used "bucket toilets" — chamber pots emptied periodically by the municipality.
That figure is down from 12.6 percent in 2002.
Seventeen years after the end of apartheid, South Africa routinely sees violent protests in its shantytowns as residents demand better housing and services like water and electricity.