But residents are afraid that the move will worsen the sanitation situation as they cannot afford the fees now being charged.
Bulawayo, like the other cities and towns, is vulnerable to outbreaks of communicable diseases such as typhoid and cholera, mostly due to erratic water supplies. Residents are now being forced to pay between R2 and R5 to use the toilets, which used to be free.
The rates vary with the location of the toilets, with those in the city centre attracting the highest fees. Under the deal with council, the new tenants meet operational and maintenance costs that come with running the toilets, the majority of which had become disused.
“A lot of people, especially the destitute, will be forced to relieve themselves in the open because they cannot afford the user fees,” said Bongani Maseko, a resident from the populous suburb of Sizinda.
An elderly vegetable vendor at the Basch public transport pick-up point, Mavis Chuma, said she could not afford to pay the toilet fees.
“I am struggling to make ends meet as it is and I cannot afford to spend money on toilets. I would rather operate at home or near a bush where I can relieve myself. I am diabetic and I have to frequently visit the toilet,” she said.
Another resident, Noel Mafa, said council was creating more problems for itself by leasing out the public toilets. “This is a clear sign that council has failed to run its facilities. Leasing out public toilets will definitely invite a health disaster in the city which BCC will not be able to contain. A lot of people will shun the toilets,” he said.
Bulawayo Ward 21 Councillor, Reuben Matengu, said even though he sympathised with residents on the issue, council had no option but to lease out the toilets.
“Currently, council does not have money to maintain those toilets. Before they were leased out, most of the toilets had been vandalised and were not working. I think if the council’s finances improve and people are able to pay their monthly rates in time, it will be a humane idea to go back to the old system,” he said.
So far, council has leased out eight toilets to private companies while some are still to be repaired. In 2010, BCC was forced to commercialise 16 council beer halls due to viability.Post published in: News