Protesters: Townships are jails for the poor

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

After 28 days in prison, two Cape Town men leading a protest campaign for flush toilets in townships are willing to be jailed again.

Andile Lili and Loyiso Nkohla are the leaders of what has been dubbed ‘poo protests’.

Loyiso Nkohla (left) and Andile Lili (right). Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

Loyiso Nkohla (left) and Andile Lili (right). Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien

Between April and June, they have led seven protests which involves dumping human faeces on Western Cape government buildings and the cars of officials. This was in response to government contractors not cleaning public toilets in townships.

The two men were arrested with five others after dumping human waste at Cape Town airport on June 25. They were released on bail last Friday.

This week they were adamant that arrest was “immaterial”. Their bail conditions prohibit them from any protests until their court case has been finalized.

Lili, a father of three children younger than ten, said “we are not worried about arrest”.

“We must be worried about our children who are at risk of being ill. We want to protect them,” he said.

Nkohla added: “We will continue to fight. It’s immaterial for us to be arrested… We have not yet achieved anything. We will be satisfied when we have flush toilets.”

Lili said their plan was that “protests must continue”.

“People must continue to pour faeces on the (provincial) legislature, the airport and everywhere else. We have support from people in all townships,” he said.

“They told us they would not stop until they get better services. They don’t want to see a city of Cape Town (government) car in the township. They will burn it. We can’t stop them from that. We are also angry.”

Both men agreed that in Goodwood and Pollsmoor prisons where they were jailed over the last 28 days had better toilet facilities. Townships were prisons for the poor, they said.

Nkohla said: “In prison you have privacy when you relieve yourself.”

Lili added: “In townships we had to relieve ourselves in full view of the public. The situation is better in prison. There are flush toilets in jail.

“People in townships are living in jail. The prison conditions are even healthier than in townships.”

Lili also distanced their protest from the ANC, which has publically distanced itself from their actions but not their cause.

Lili is an executive member of the ANC’s Dullah Omar region. It is the largest and most influential ANC branch in the Western Cape. Nkohla is an ANC ward councillor in Khayelitsha.

Lili said they had “not been sent by the ANC” to protest.

“This is our fight. This is not an ANC protest. That means the ANC can’t even tell us how to protest. We don’t expect anyone to tell us how we should protest.

People who say we need another form of protest live in beautiful houses,” he said.

“This is not about the Democratic Alliance (ruling party in the Western Cape). People must show their anger against portable flush toilets even in other (ANC-led) provinces.”

Cape Town-based law firm Xulu Liversage is representing various accused protesters in two separate court matters.

Lawyer Barnabas Xulu said they would argue that “this is not a criminal matter, but a human rights issue”.
“It is well known that the city is not providing these services. What is their problem? Is it because these are disenfranchised black people in a township?” asked Xulu.

Lili said they planned to “march to the NPA to have all our charges dropped. We are being victimised.”

Lili, Nkhola and five others are due back at the Bellville Magistrate’s Court on August 5.

On August 2, others arrested on a train headed to central Cape Town, will appear at the Cape Town Magistrate’s court. They were arrested while carrying human waste, on their way to another ‘poo protest’.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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