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When a toilet divides people

TORN APART with BOYD PHIRI
I HAVE heard about people fighting over food, and I have also heard about people fighting over money, but never imagined that people could also fight over a toilet.
Well, I am not good at toilet matters. If I were any good at lavatory issues, I would be working for a sewerage stabilisation pond in Lusaka’s Garden township.
Those who live in Garden know how important it is for someone to manage the faecal sludge. Not that the residents fight over it, but to see to it that the disgusting odour produced by the effluent is reduced.
At least in the hood some people find it easier to abuse the toilet than fight over it. Of course, you have seen blocked sewer lines allowing sewage to make its way into the entire hood. That’s how abusive some people can be to the toilet.
This is why you see most ward councillors in the hood grappling with toilet matters the whole duration of their terms of office.
At least they are familiar with the ins and outs of toilets in the hood.
But it is not easy to fight over a toilet, I mean, you must take a lot of crap if you have to, as Kitwe City Council (KCC) officials recently found out.
It’s not as if KCC officials don’t need a toilet for their own good, but the thing is, when the entire hood wants to pee for free in a fee-paying toilet, all hell breaks loose.
Actually, it wasn’t people from the hood who fought with KCC officials over a toilet. It was marketeers from Chisokone Market.
It’s a pretty odd thing about toilets – how they can sometimes divide people – how they create hostility among people in the hood – how they give police the occasional thrill of beating people and arresting ring leaders over a toilet.
Naturally, toilets often seem modest from the outside, and yet people take them so seriously to the extent of fighting over them.
The issue here is that a scuffle erupted between marketeers from Chisokone Market and Kitwe City Council officials over the control of a block of toilets at the market.
According to a story carried in the Daily Mail recently, a breakdown of order came when traders at the market forcefully deployed some marketeers at the washrooms to collect toilet fees.
This behaviour by marketeers forced KCC officials, who usually operate from there, to challenge the marketeers and a fight broke out.
It would have been interesting to see them fight according to gender – male marketeers and male council officials fighting in the ‘Gents’ and female marketeers and female council officials fighting in the ‘Ladies’ washrooms.
Unfortunately, it didn’t happen quite like that – in the process council police picked up four marketeers and detained them in a holding cell within the market.
The story kept me thinking – what if landlords and tenants fight over the use of latrines?
What if bar owners fight with sex workers over the use of public toilets at the joints?
Yes, some bar owners face many challenges when it comes to managing toilets at their watering holes.
In most cases, sex workers would want to use the toilets for their business at night denying other clients the liberty to use the convenience rooms.
They act like male patrons are always tingling with sexual desires, not the desire to poo in a bar toilet.
What if cops at a community police post fight with street kids over control of a makeshift latrine? What if pupils at a school in the hood fight with their headmaster over the use of a toilet?
What if call boys fight with street vendors over control of a public toilet at a bus station?
What if wheelbarrow pushers at Lusaka’s Soweto Market fight with bus drivers over the use of a public toilet?
All these situations would be serious problems for the new Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja to contend with. Obviously, everyone would be distracted by a commotion across the hood.
The importance of toilets in the hood cannot be overemphasised. However, fighting over toilets is a new phenomenom.
Toilets are very important – that is why even the United Nations recognises them.
World Toilet Day is a United Nations (UN) observance, on November 19, that highlights a serious problem – 2.5 billion people in the world do not have access to proper sanitation.
Each year thousands of people join in on promoting World Toilet Day via social media campaigns, online petitions, and by getting involved in a range of events held in different countries worldwide.
So, instead of fighting for control of toilets, marketeers at Chisokone better join the UN in raising awareness on the significance of toilets.
Like I said, toilets are important. Even some journalists file their reports from behind a block of toilets, like a former Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation staffer [no name mentioned] once said: “This is … reporting from Kamwala Market toilet”.
bjboydphiri@yahoo.com



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