Public toilet problem in Bo-Kaap

With tourists flooding into the Bo-Kaap, using the most basic of amenities, public toilets, has become a major issue.

Restaurant owners are hesitant to open their doors to people who only want to use their restrooms, saying that during the holiday season it is a major challenge.

“The City of Cape Town doesn’t have facilities available for the tourists or the general public, and now the businesses and other restaurants are referring their patrons to us,” said Against The Grain coffee shop manager, Yusuf Abed.

Mr Abed says that the company must spend more money on water, sanitizer, toilet paper, air freshener, and hiring someone to clean the toilets all day.

“Keeping the toilets clean is not cheap, nothing is cheap, and now we are saying to people you can’t use our toilets unless you are a paying customer, unless you eat and drink here,” he said.

“With the Klopse festival that takes place the streets of Bo-Kaap become a urinal and this is not healthy and the City needs to address this and be sure that there are facilities when such events are happening here.”

Abdullah Osman, the owner of Biesmiellah restaurant says he uses his discretion to allow people to use the toilets.

“You have to assess the person and sometimes I allow the odd tourist or visitor to use the toilets, but we can’t allow everyone to use it but I have had to refuse some people. Some people make a mess and it costs us to clean it up,” said Mr Osman.

“To install public toilets will be a major challenge as there are homeless people around here and who will clean up after them and the tourists that will use these toilets.

Moenier Davids, the owner of Bo-Kaap Deli on the corner of Rose and Church streets, claims that his staff is responsible for cleaning not only the restaurant but also the pavement and street where it is located.

“The homeless people use the streets as the toilet and we get the smell every day, the Uber drivers too use this street (Church Street) as their urinal and every morning we have people cleaning up for two hours a day,” Mr Davids says.

“Every day we have to do this and it’s tiring, why must we clean up other people’s shit. I can’t expect my customers to have breakfast here when the smell of urine is in the air, or when there is shit on the streets,” he said.

Ward 77 councillor Francine Higham says there are no plans to install public restrooms in the area at this time.

“There is an old ablution facility in Bryant Street park which is currently not operational. I have asked our Recreation and Parks Directorate to consider repairing and reopening these facilities under management for the public to use. Should they decide to proceed it will likely be in the next financial year, and won’t be available for this festive period,” Ms Higham said.

According to Osman Shaboodien, chairperson of the Bo-Kaap Civic and Ratepayers’ Association (BKCRA), public toilets are lacking in parks where children play.

“These facilities are vandalised in parks and we need to move to a mindset of health consciousness. We need to be educated about being healthy and if you are a tourist or visitor to the Bo-Kaap, where do you go?” said Mr Shaboodien.

He suggests that public restrooms should be installed during the summer months and be managed by local businesses.

“Even if its temporary toilets I think it should be installed and maybe businesses should be accountable for these toilets you know, maybe they can manage it and it can benefit their businesses,” he said.

According to Mr Shaboodien, the local government must step up and make the challenge of public toilets workable.

“Let’s says they install five temporary toilets in the area, and then you can hire two or three people that can clean these facilities. There are people in the area that they can employ and this can empower people in the community, this does not have to be another bureaucratic control system and we must come up with a plan that is humane, a plan that will work, a plan that will give dignity to our people,” he said.

Bo-Kaap streets are often busy during the festive season and when events are being held.