About 358 years ago, South Africa’s 1st Environmental Law, Placaat 12 of 1655 was enacted. It stated “Niet boven de stroem van de spruitje daer de schepen haer water halen te wassen en deselve trouble te maken”. In Afrikaans it meant “Moenie in die water kak nie”. Loosely translated, it advised that the water that was flowing from the springs is used by everyone; hence do not mess in the water.

According to the “Reclaim Camissa” the sanitation issues in the townships are a problem, and could have a disastrous impact on the environment. This includes leaching into the Cape Flats Aquifer and rivers, due to overflowing toilets. This could impact on public health in the form of Cholera. Toilets on the riverbanks of the Cape Flats are ludicrous, as the 1st Environmental Law of South Africa prescribed: “Moenie in die water kak nie”, yet 358 years’ later people continue to do so.

Albert Einstein stated” Not until creation and maintenance of decent conditions of living for all are a common obligation, shall we be able to speak of humankind as civilized.

While, the level of desperation that spurred these events is worrisome, the quality of debates that fuels the issue is also nauseating. What is also unsettling is the manner in which the “latrine conflict” has permeated all levels of society. Historically, it was an accepted norm that in polite society one does not discuss issues of politics, sex and religion. With the media focus on the “latrine conflict” public discourse has sunk to the lowest level. While this quality of political campaign is unprecedented it has exposed South Africa’s political culture on an international stage for all the wrong reasons.

It is a major contradiction that we were able to host an event like the 2010 World Cup with total stadium costs estimated at almost R5 billion to date, but remain unable to provide sanitation for locals after 358 years.

Cllr Yagyah Adams

Cape Muslim Congress