Khayelitsha residents queue in a symbolic line taking turns to sit on a toilet. Dozens of people traveled to the Civic centre to make their budget submissions. Picture Anel Lewis
Khayelitsha residents queue in a symbolic line taking turns to sit on a toilet. Dozens of people traveled to the Civic centre to make their budget submissions. Picture Anel Lewis

Cape sanitation budget under fire

By Anél Lewis Time of article published Apr 24, 2015

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* This story was updated on April 28.

Cape Town - About 60 Khayelitsha residents queued outside the Civic Centre on Thursday to give their input on the City of Cape Town’s draft R37.3 billion 2015/2016 budget.

Sanitation topped the list of concerns, with most residents appealing to mayor Patricia de Lille to provide more flush toilets and taps in informal settlements.

Axolile Notywala, of the Social Justice Coalition (SJC), said the more than 600 submissions, collected from residents in the area, were the first active participation by this community in the city’s budget process.

Only 37 people submitted comments last year, he said.

According to the Municipal Finance Management Act, the budget, which is a mammoth bundle of documents, must be available for public scrutiny for a month before it is approved. The city is required to consider these submissions before the final budget is approved. While the budget is available online, and at the Civic Centre, Notywala said the information was not accessible to poorer communities.

He said the SJC and NGO Ndifuna Ukwazi, supported by the International Budget Partnership, spent several weeks researching the budget’s water and sanitation allocation before holding workshops with the community. “We didn’t see much evidence of sanitation (for informal settlements) being prioritised.”

But the city hit back, saying that R503.7 million of the 2015/2016 budget spend would go directly to water and sanitation services in informal settlements. Ernest Sonnenberg, mayoral committee member for Utility Services, said this would be spent on increasing the toilet and tap provisions, maintaining water and sanitation facilities, cleaning and emptying the alternative sanitation and to boost the janitorial programme.

“Due to a substantial increase in budget since 2006/2007 for water and sanitation to informal settlements, we have increased toilet provision from 14 591 to around 46 840 across the city. We have also steadily increased our tap count to around 9 850,” he said.

The direct budget proposed for the next financial year did not include the secondary costs such as support services charges and improvements, repairs or new bulk infrastructure.

But for Nkanini resident Juliette Plaatjie, one of the 60-odd residents who queued outside the Civic Centre on Thursday to voice her concerns, said the city’s “pro-poor” budget was not doing enough to improve conditions in her area.

She said children were breaking out in sores and getting sick because there were not enough flush toilets. Ideally, residents wanted taps in their yards and flush toilets.

The group demonstrated their dissatisfaction by taking turns to sit on a porcelain toilet placed in front of the barricade erected by police outside the Civic Centre.

While the residents were unable to enter the building to deliver their submissions by hand, Wilfred Solomons-Johannes, manager of special projects and community engagement in the mayor’s office, accepted the documents; mostly hand-written and in Xhosa.

He confirmed that the submissions would form part of the budget process, but added that the city could not provide formal sanitation services in all informal settlements. However, the metro was the only municipality in the country providing the current level of basic services that ensured all residents had access to water and sanitation.

“The underlying problem is the provision of housing.”

He said while the city had an accelerated housing delivery programme, the influx of new residents made it difficult to keep pace with demands.

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