It’s been a tumultuous week in our toilet project but it seems that we are almost finished! As we almost complete this part of the project and start on dialogue with the community of the Bertrams priority block in Johannesburg, about the creation of a public gathering space where the community and their partners may discuss their neighbourhood development goals.  The progress on site and this update coincides with the launch of the South African Cities Network (SACN) Urban Festival 2020 on the 1st of October 2020. The Urban Festival has the theme: Empowering the Civic.

The project forms part of the Tshwane University of Technology NRF CEP to support the residents of an occupied building in Bertrams. As this project proceeded over the last few years, it became evident that benefit to the residents of a particular building meant improving the surrounding environment and building trust with the surrounding community. The project, therefore, extended out into the surrounding neighborhood of the original intervention site, where major building upgrades were completed in 2019. As a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the project team is now focusing on addressing the water and sanitation needs that are being unmet by the government for residents of unauthorised occupation sites, like the Bertrams Priority Block. 

The perforated screen wall creates privacy when using the bathroom.

The toilet block that has been built addresses the sanitation needs of the 50+ residents of a neighbouring building; the resident currently have no access to toilet facilities and use a single standpipe for all their cleaning needs. Through community engagement facilitated by 1to1 – Agency of Engagement and the Inner City Resource Centre, the implementation partners for the NRF CEP project, the project was introduced to offer residents safe access to ablution facilities.

 It is hoped that this intervention will keep the building from being marked a health hazard which might increase the probability of being targeted for eviction. It is hoped that the giving the residents access to clean and safe ablution facilities will help empower the community in their negotiations to remain in the building.

1to1 has been working closely with community members and has employed the services of a plumber and builders from the site. The toilets have been placed and connected to their drainage outlets, the floors around them have been screeded and the screen wall around the ablution block is approaching full height. Some trouble was encountered when excavating the sewerage line, which was far more damaged than anticipated. But fortunately, the skilled local plumber can fix almost anything! With some extra lengths of pipe and calling in the experts to unblock the almost 100-year-old sewer line, it seems we will be ready to flush very soon. The shower trap has also been installed, and its floor’s screed is drying as we write. 

The next steps involve installing a roof, connecting the water supply to the shower, toilets, basin, tap, and concrete wash trough. It’s very exciting to see everything come together! Our next news item will introduce two young Research Assistants appointed by the Tshwane University of Technology and seconded to 1to1 Agency of Engagement to support the project. We see our work with the community of Bertrams growing significantly at this stage of our multi-year collaboration.

– Suzette van der Walt