Venda Pit Toilet Drowning
May 1, 2023
On December 6th another child drowned in a pit toilet in South Africa. This time it occurred in the Venda tribal area of Limpopo. A three-year-old handicapped child, Bonginkosi Modike, died in the toilet located at his home. When the parents realized that he was missing they notified the police and it was twenty four hours later that they discovered his body in the pit behind their family toilet.
This week Dustin and I traveled to this village to learn more about the specifics of what had occurred.
We initially communicated with the ward councilor of this village and he arranged a meeting for us with the community leaders. About 15 people met with us at the tribal council office where we listened to their stories. In Africa, the culture is such that everyone at a meeting like this gets to speak and share their own version of what happened and what needed to be done.
There were principles of the four schools in the area and they were requesting that we assist them in constructing new sanitation facilities at their schools. Following this two-hour meeting they gave us a tour of the schools where found them to be in sad deplorable condition. The classrooms were over-crowed and under-staffed and toilets were an embarrassment for the school officials to show us. The government had built them Enviro Loo toilets a few years ago but unfortunately, they did not construct enough toilets for the number of students in each school so they were over used and not properly maintained so they basically were not functioning as they were designed to. They were basically a disgusting smelly mess and in my humble opinion not suitable for human use.
Our final stop in this village was at the home where the child had died. We were able to visit with the child’s uncle, grandmother and one aunt. This tragedy happen just two months ago and it was apparent that the family and entire community were still suffering from the stress of this event. A thirteen year old brother of Bonginkosi is still having nightmares and difficulty sleeping. I was amazed to learn that the pit toilet where the child had drowned was still present in their yard. I have seen many pit toilets here in Africa and this particular one was actually in pretty good condition but the fact remains that their three year old child had fallen through the hole in the toilet and drowned.
Before we left, we prayed with the family and vowed to return and build them a new safe Enviro Loo toilet and destroy the death trap still sitting in their yard.
The village is a three hour drive from our ministry base; it seems to be an overwhelming task to address the sanitation need for the entire community, but once you see something like this God calls us to do what we can.
We will join hands with some of our usual partners , the Rotary, multiple churches and American friends to do what we can. I am a bit pessimistic about working with the government here in SA but we are always open to exploring a partnership with them as well.