Human Rights Day: DA announces court challenge to eradicate pit toilets

Today, the Democratic Alliance visited the family of Langalam Viki, whose tragic death by drowning in a pit toilet in Mngcqangele village near Queenstown earlier this month, horrified the nation. Sadly, South Africans have become desensitised to these tragic deaths, which occur frequently in provinces across the country under ANC-run governments. No child should have to meet this fate in South Africa almost 30 years since the dawn of our democracy.

I was joined by DA Eastern Cape Provincial Leader, Andrew Whitfield, DA Shadow Minister for Basic Education, Baxolile Nodada, DA Shadow MEC for Education, Edmund Van Vuuren, and DA North East Cape Constituency Head, Sanele Magaqa to comfort the family and offer our assistance.

Over successive years, the DA has asked a number of parliamentary questions around the use of pit toilets in all provinces, the replies of which have shown little to no progress in eradicating this deadly infrastructure. A 2021 Limpopo High Court judgement, handed down by Judge Gerrit Muller, ordered that a plan to eradicate all pit toilets in the province of Limpopo be provided to the court along with a detailed implementation plan. This judgement, however, has no bearing on other provinces, and while the South African Human Rights Commission has promised to take broader legal action, its papers have, to date, not been filed.

This Human Rights Day, the DA is launching a 2-point plan to eradicate school pit toilets across South Africa, to ensure that no family ever endures the tragic indignity suffered by the Viki family. The drowning of our children in pit toilets goes far beyond a human rights violation – it is a horror that no South African should ever be forced to contemplate. To address this, the DA will:

In consultation with our lawyers, the DA will be starting litigation proceedings to find the quickest and most effective means to instruct governments across the country to erect proper sanitation facilities for all school children as a fundamental human right. Given the immense interest in achieving this goal from all sectors of society, we will engage with civil society organisations, public advocacy groups, and non-governmental organisations working in the education space to put together a strong case.

The DA’s Shadow Minister of Basic Education, Baxolile Nodada, will also be launching a country-wide campaign to eradicate pit toilets, which will include widespread oversight visits of all school infrastructure, or a lack thereof, which may place the life of a child at risk. This campaign kicked off today where we sought to assess the sanitation facilities at Mngcqangele school where little Langalam tragically died.

It is clear that while the ANC national government has cut education budgets to bail out ailing state-owned entities, and presided over government departments where billions have been lost to corruption, it does not care that young children do not have a safe place to relieve themselves in dignity, without the threat of death.

We cannot commemorate Human Rights Day until every child has access to safe and dignified sanitation in schools.

As South Africans today commemorates our hard-won human rights, we must never lose sight of the basic rights of which millions are still deprived.

Until all South Africans have access to three meals a day, until every citizen has access to housing and sanitation, and until all South Africans can live in dignity, we will never truly be free.

The DA will ensure that freedom is afforded to all South Africans, even the 4-year-old child without a voice who simply wishes to use the bathroom safely at school.

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