City of Harare is looking for organisations and individuals willing to partner with the City to help improve and service Harare’s public toilets, which are currently in a terrible state. The shortage of usable public toilets has long been a major problem. It is common to see desperate residents urinating and defecating in the open, even within the busy Central Business District (CBD) area of Harare.
There are 115 public toilets across Harare of which 23 are officially out of order. Five are in various states of usability and the remainder and bulk of public toilets have simply been abandoned. The CBD is home to eight paid-for toilets which are in working order.
Harare’s Principal Customer Relations Officer, Dorothy Mavolwane, said that Council was considering proposals from private entities. “Interested partners can come with their proposals for the provision of public toilets but we do not want many pay toilets as most people cannot afford them. We are also considering extending some of the existing toilets such as the one at Copacabana so that they accommodate more people,” she explained. Mavolwane also revealed that due to cases of vandalism, Council was considering fitting security screens on public toilet doors and cistern tanks. “Most of the toilets’ water and flush systems have been vandalised,” she said.
Sharon Magodyo, the Community Coordinator for Harare Residents Trust, said that Council should consider public toilets one of their main priorities for Harare to achieve the vision of becoming a world class city by 2025.
“There should be a public toilet at every shopping centre, taxi rank and market place. Council is not putting any effort into addressing the problem of public toilets. Most toilets are locked and have no running water,” said Magodyo.
Mavolwane defended the Council saying that public toilets are only closed during cleaning times and when there is no water. “Cleaning is done at 6 am and 10 am but the cleaning process is taking longer as the cleaners have to fetch water using buckets as most toilets water systems have been vandalised.”
Another resident, Tapera Jena from Mbare, agreed with Magodyo saying, “Most people are now resorting to urinating in public places exposing their privates to anyone who cares to look.” Jena says that Council should urgently address the shortage of public toilets in the CBD and the surrounding suburbs as it was not only exposing residents to disease but also leading to social ills.
Councillor for Ward 8 and Chairperson of the Environmental Committee, Christopher Mbanga, says that it is not only a matter of the number of toilets of upkeep too.
“We need as many toilets as possible to accommodate the population of our city, but most importantly, we should keep those public toilets clean. We need to have education for residents and youths to be clean in thought, work, and deed,” said Mbanga.
Visitors to foreign cities will know how these facilities are prioritised, with modern hubs even having clear and regular signage directing people to facilities. Harare has a long way to go before the toilets are usable. Council is hoping to be rescued from their mess by well meaning corporates, perhaps trading advertising space for toilet upkeep, or perhaps donor money, to perform a fundamental duty which they long ago abandoned.