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South Africans Bare Their Asses in Protest of Bucket Toilets

In the impoverished Johannesburg township of Soweto, some homes are still without running water 20 years after apartheid ended.

by Jordan Larson
Jun 11 2014, 11:05pm

Photo via Getty Images

Residents of Johannesburg’s Soweto township bared their asses in protest of the bucket toilet system — a holdover from South Africa's apartheid era in which the poor, predominantly black townships of the city went without electricity and proper sanitation systems.

Parts of many Johannesburg townships, as well as in the Eastern, Northern and Western Cape provinces, have still not received a proper sanitation system in the 20 years since the official end of apartheid in 1994.

The protesters were particularly incensed that their bucket toilets had not been emptied by city officials in three months.

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In addition to barricading Chris Hani Road, a main thoroughfare, many emptied their excrement into the street or pretended to relieve themselves in roadside ditches.

No protesters were arrested or injured, though they were dispersed with tear gas and rubber bullets, according to the South African Press Association (SAPA).

"They [the protesters] were showing their bums by taking their trousers down on the street... to show their anger with service delivery issues," police spokeswoman Kay Makhubela told the SAPA.

Protests over lack of housing services are nothing new to Johannesburg.

As seen in the video below, residents of Protea and Soweto townships protested lack of electricity last August.

Residents of Protea and Soweto townships protest lack of electricity in a demonstration last August

Police invited the ward councillor to come and speak with the protesters, but the residents continued with their demonstration, fearing their concerns would not be taken seriously, according to Makhubela.

Obed Sibasa, traffic police spokesman for the province of Gauteng, advised motorists to avoid the area, saying the situation was “tense, unsafe, however under control.”

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Though enhanced sanitation and eradication of the bucket system was a goal of the Reconstruction and Development Program launched at the end of apartheid, much work has yet to be done.

In May 2013, Johannesburg Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale told Parliament the eradication of bucket toilets was still a ways off, citing the difficulties of increased migration from rural areas and a limited budget.

“Sexwale revealed that the current national sanitation backlog stood at 2.278 million households,” according to South African newspaper The Star.

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He also set the target date for eradicating the bucket toilet system for December of this year.

The South African Human Rights Commission has condemned the bucket system, calling it a human rights violation for which urgent government action is needed, according to the BBC.

According to recent data from Statistics South Africa, 5.3 percent of houses in the country had no toilets or bucket toilets in 2012.

Follow Jordan Larson on Twitter: @jalarsonist