Do we need toilets in towns and cities? I

f some of our ward councilors and some chief executive officers of various wards and business houses respectively in some towns and cities were asked whether we need public toilets in their respective towns; and organisations, the obvious answer is likely to be ‘no’.

Such a reply to such a question assumes that most people who  come in towns and cities doing various activities with government departments and parastatal firms, buying goods and services from various business houses and doing lobbying and advocacy with some government and some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) don’t eat and drink anything in their lives.

Such an answer also assumes that people who come into towns on a daily basis come from few metres away from such areas or from such organizations they do business with.

Answering like this also assumes that everyone has enough money for fee paying toilets.

What also surprises one is that it appears most of our elected political leaders and some CEOs assume that the population in their respective towns is too low to deserve enough public free toilets.

But such assumptions aren’t always right to every person and in every town or city.

Some people who come into towns and cities; and to some organizations every day eat different types of foods.

Some eat breakfast meal while others consume roller meal. Some eat nshima with kalembula while others eat it with vinkhuwala. Some eat sweet potatoes before they come into towns.

Some people who come into these towns and cities also drink different liquids including water, soft drinks, opaque and clear beer. Some take tujilijili or kachasu.

In short, all the people who come into town and cities every day need toilets for convenience.

Take an example of someone suffering from diarrhea coming from Chongwe or Kafue to Lusaka or vice versa.

Can’t such a visitor need a toilet for convenience? Should such a person always carry enough money for public convenience since most of the toilets are fee paying?

In this article, the word ‘organization’ will mean; and include any legal entity that conducts business with members of the public.

The word ‘customer’ will also mean ‘client.’

Some old men and women are retirees; and come to towns and cities to find out from their respective government ministries or employers about their retirement benefits which might not have been paid for some time.

They come to these towns and cities without any money for fee paying toilets.

Some people come to towns and cities to open bank accounts or deposit some money.

Each of us knows how long it takes to open a bank account these days; and also the long queues we experience when we want to deposit some money with some commercial banks.

So, do such organizations expect everyone to endure the natural pressures until one gets back to his or her home?

Or better still, can they be happy to serve someone who has soiled himself or herself just because no public free toilets exist inside or near such buildings?

Why does one see only toilets labeled for ‘STAFF ONLY’ which are always locked when even members of the public need toilets?’

Most organizations consider including public free toilets to their buildings as an extra cost; especially when one looks at it from daily cleaning point of view after different members of the public have messed up such toilets.

Some organizations feel that it’s the job of a respective local authority (LA) to provide public conveniences.

Some organizations just feel that their customers will sort themselves out in such issues.

Is the provision of public free toilets not part of corporate social responsibility (CSR) for respective customers? Where is the customer service and care we learn at various levels of our organisation’s hierarchy?

How can a normal human being who eats and drinks go to an organization without public free toilets? Can’t someone interpret such a business behavior as another way of chasing away customers from such organizations?

Under normal circumstances, toilets don’t cost money to organizations. They reward such organizations by increasing business activities as more customers are supposed to flock to business entities with public free toilets within their buildings.

To make matters worse, most organizations without public free toilets are the ones whose customer service is too poor for most customers.

`Such a slow service to most customers wastes a lot of customers’ time to such an extent that at a certain point, one might need to answer a call of nature. But unfortunately, most organizations in most towns have good and well furnished offices; but without public free toilets.

Moreover, LAs have allowed street vending to mushroom into crowds. But with all such developments, they never thought of public conveniences as part of essential facilities to human life.

Despite councils being a creature of the law; and an agent of central government to provide social services to respective communities, most council toilets are at a fee. Lusaka City

Council (LCC), for example, with effect from December, 2015, increased toilet fees from K1 to K2. And because most, if not all, LAs provide public toilets at a fee; and that the number of such toilets isn’t enough, few entrepreneurs have identified this situation as a lucrative business opportunity to offer fee paying toilets in towns and cities to raise money from desperate members of the public.

In Lusaka’s Cairo road, for instance, there is a place where there is only one private fee paying toilet room for both males and females. Both males and females queue to use this only fee paying toilet room at K2 each.

Is this fair? Is this part of gender equality?

Someone is saying: ‘How can one fail to pay K1.00 or K2.00 as toilet fee?’

To justify that towns and cities need public free toilets, firstly, it is reported that out of the population of about 14million people, only one million people are in formal employment.

And that only six million people are working in informal sector. Consequently, it is also reported that about 60 per cent of the same population is poor; with about 80 per cent of the rural population in abject poverty.

To further prove that most people cannot afford to use fee paying toilets, a Lusaka’s John Laing resident, Agripa Banda, who has friends working in many foreign investors’ firms says most workers in most foreign investors still  earn about K500 to K700 per month; disregarding  government’s minimum wage legislation.

And not all retirees or retrenchees are paid their dues on time to financially empower them to pay for goods and services; including fee paying toilets.

Therefore, many people in Zambia can fail to use fee paying toilets. As a result, most people are forced to use whatever they can to relax themselves from some natural pressures.

However, even the same fee paying toilets are inadequate.

Because public free toilets are nowhere to be seen; and fee paying toilets are few, especially just after lunch, one sees long queues before these fee paying toilets. And when one enters such fee paying toilets, there is no freedom to relax while doing toilet business as many other people in the queue shout: ‘Kucitako fast.

Tili bambiri pano pabwalo’ meaning finish your toilet business fast; because there is a long queue of other people awaiting the use of the same toilet.

Therefore, one pays for toilet facilities; but uses such a toilet under gun point from other users who want to use the same facilities immediately.

No one is saying there should be no fee paying toilets in towns and cities. What one can ask is: ‘Where are the public free toilets for those who cannot afford fee paying public conveniences?

Because some people cannot afford to pay for such services, others use behind some buildings to urinate.

For opening up one’s bowels, some people use opaque beer packets as toilets; and throw such packets full of such solid stuff anywhere at any time.

Can one wonder why we see ever wet places behind some buildings, even in dry season? Can one be surprised coming across a bad smells like that of a rotten dog around some parts of some towns and cities?

Are you surprised why we, in some cases have decease outbreaks such as cholera, dysentery and typhoid in most towns and cities?

How far are some LAs and some organizations part of ‘Keep Zambia Clean’?

Fortunately, in Zambia, such carefree organizations are well received with two important factors that sustain such negative attitude towards the importance of toilets in towns and cities.

The first one is that members of the public are too passive to avoid doing business with organizations without public free toilets. Secondly, the blessing to such organizations is that LAs have no law to compel each organization to include public free toilets in their buildings.

Therefore, blessed will be a day when LAs will build public free toilets.

Boycotting doing business with such organization will make such business houses realize that public toilets aren’t a cost; but a reward to respective organisations.

Blessed will also be a day when LAs will enact respective laws forcing each organization to have public free toilets within its buildings because we need public free toilets in towns and cities.


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