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Langaville community in court after over a decade of chemical toilets

- Lee-Anne Bruce

CALS is in the High Court in Johannesburg on Thursday, 11 May, representing residents of Langaville Extension 8

Residents of the Langaville informal settlement have approached the High Court with the assistance of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies. They are seeking to compel the City of Ekurhuleni to rezone the region as a residential area and provide proper sanitation. The matter will be heard on Thursday 11 May at the High Court in Johannesburg.

Langaville Extension 8 is a settlement which falls under the City of Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality in Gauteng. The settlement is made up of a mixture of formal “RDP” houses and informal shack dwellings. While the RDP structures have been provided with water and permanent flushing toilets, people living in the shack dwellings only have access to shared taps and chemical toilets. The Municipality has supplied these chemical toilets via private companies as a “temporary” measure for over twelve years. In fact, the tender for these chemical toilets was renewed for a fourth time in July 2022.

It is unconstitutional to expect residents of Langaville to use these underserviced, over-utilised, unsafe and unhealthy forms of sanitation indefinitely. They have long called for a more permanent solution to the problem, which has even been supported by the South African Human Rights Commission. In response, the Municipality has advised that it is unable to provide permanent sanitation in the area as the land is zoned for “community facility” rather than “residential use”. Yet, some of the residents have lived in the area for up to thirty years and have been provided with other formal infrastructure such as electricity. In fact, the Municipality has the authority to rezone the land itself and has refused to do so without adequate reason.

Langaville residents have therefore approached the Johannesburg High Court to assert their rights to adequate housing, with the assistance of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS). They are asking for the Municipality’s decision to continue issuing the tender for chemical toilets (based on its decision not to rezone the land) to be reviewed and set aside. We argue that this decision was irrational, inconsistent, arbitrary and unreasonable, and that it served no purpose other than to allow the Municipality to use an “interim” form of sanitation as a means of long-term service delivery. 

Should this application succeed, the Municipality will have to reconsider its refusal to rezone the affected land. In taking that decision again, the Municipality must, we argue, take into account the decades over which the residents have lived in Langaville, the formalisation of their process through the delivery of other services, and the sanitation infrastructure which is readily available for the construction of permanent flushing toilets. 

“To date, by refusing to take action which is exclusively within its power and rezone the land, the Municipality has refused to fulfil its constitutional duties,” says Ariella Scher from CALS. “The Constitution provides for socio-economic rights to be allocated progressively. The provision of temporary chemical toilets for over a decade is certainly not progressive.”

The matter is set to be heard by the High Court in Johannesburg on 11 May. CALS is represented in the matter by advocate Sha’ista Kazee and we send our thanks to Matseleng Lekoane and Amelia Rawháni-Mosalakae, for their assistance on the matter.

Read our heads of argument in the matter here.

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From the Centre for Applied Legal Studies:

From the Langaville community: