Opinion piece: Discrimination against poor and working class (mainly black) residents by the City of Cape Town

The City of Cape Town passed a budget of just over R41 billion in a flawed process that discriminates against its poor and working class residents.

On 15 April 2016 I wrote on GroundUp: Whose voices really matter in the City of Cape Town’s budget?

In my article I detailed how last year 502 Khayelitsha residents, mostly from informal settlements, participated and made submissions on the City of Cape Town’s 2015/16 draft budget. These 502 submissions were misrepresented and falsely labelled as being part of ‘focus group’ and therefore, individual submissions were ignored by the City. This means that 502 voices from Khayelitsha were effectively silenced, while 134 submissions from other parts of Cape Town all received individual responses.

Last year was the first time ever that the City received hundreds of budget submissions. To prevent a repeat of the way in which the City handled submissions, we met with Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson in December and then again in April this year. Neilson agreed that the submissions had not been processed correctly and that steps would be taken so this would not happen again.

Despite these assurances, much of what we engaged on and proposed, the City has once again misrepresented submissions made this year by residents of informal settlements.

Councillor Xanthea Limberg, Mayoral Committee Member for Corporate Services, responded to my article on 05 May 2016. In her response she said with reference to this year’s process, “It is simply incorrect for the SJC to claim that most residents were excluded from the budget process. The City’s budgeting process is an open and transparent one with the majority of our public engagement meeting having been packed to capacity with extensive engagement both during the sessions and after. To say that the voices of those most in need were not heard is simply misleading.”

Councillor Limberg’s response came just five days after the City had received 3000 submissions on the City’s 2016/17 draft budget. These submissions were from residents of Khayelitsha and Gugulethu and most were simply asking the City to stop prioritising temporary toilet facilities and increase capital allocations for permanent infrastructure in informal settlements.

The City in an attempt to misrepresent these 3000 submissions claimed that they came from the SJC. Despite the previous assurances made by the Deputy Mayor, I had to write a letter to him for this to be rectified, or so it seemed. The response to my letter by Mr Irwin Robson, Manager: Public Participation Unit noted:

“I have been requested to respond to your letter under reply, the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, and the content noted. I can confirm that all [3000] submissions from the residents will be individually responded to. This applies equally to the submission from your Organisation.”

In its report on public comments which is released when the final budget is tabled, the City lists all the comments and is supposed to provide responses. The Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) on consultations on tabled budget says:

(1) When the annual budget has been tabled, the municipal council must consider any views of—

(a) the local community; and

(b) the National Treasury, the relevant provincial treasury and any provincial or national organs of state or municipalities which made submissions on the budget.

(2) After considering all budget submissions, the council must give the mayor an opportunity—

(a) to respond to the submissions; and

(b) if necessary, to revise the budget and table amendments for consideration by the council

The City of Cape Town council is made up of 221 councillors. The City council, according to the MFMA must consider all budget submissions. It is not clear how or when the City of Cape Town council considers budget submissions or if it does consider them at all before they are responded to.

The only chance council gets to consider or debate budget submissions is at the council meeting when the Mayor tables the final budget to be voted on. In 2015 and this year I was present at the council meeting when the final budget was tabled. I did not witness how council considered any on the 502 submissions (in 2015) or 4042 submissions this year as required by the MFMA.

Council seems to be performing a rubber stamping exercise. For a budget of over R41 billion that affects over 3.5 million people in Cape Town, this must be very worrying to all.

The discrimination in this flawed process

There were 4042 comments listed this year in the City’s public comments report, 4034 of which were from the public. Just over 1700 of them did not receive any responses whatsoever. The report notes, “Some departmental responses are incomplete and/or not included in this report due to the unexpected volume of submissions received from the public. The detailed submission and responses are available on request.”

About 99% of those that did not receive responses are from poor and working class (mainly black) residents of the City of Cape Town, based in Khayelitsha and Gugulethu. Racial and geographic discrimination is how the submissions were handled by the City.

During the budget debate on 25 May 2016, before the budget was put to a vote, the ANC in council objected to the budget being voted for, saying that not all submissions were considered and responded to and therefore that goes against the MFMA. The speaker ignored this valid objection from the ANC and continued to put the budget to a vote. The ANC left the council chambers in protest and the budget was passed.

Of those submissions from Khayelitsha and Gugulethu that did manage to get responses, many of them are inappropriate and do not respond to the issues raised.

Asithandile Xakatugaga is disabled and also made a submission on the City’s budget. In his submission he said, “I am disable person. I need a special toilet. Special need is important for me because I am disable. It is difficult for me to use toilet cause they meant for able people. I want to see full flush toilets. I want to see RDP houses in my area. I want to see tar road streets. I want to see disable toilet. I want to see toilets for disable”

The City of Cape Town’s response, “Housing - New markets have various projects across the City of Cape Town as indicated in the 5 year Housing Plan as well as the IDP. Beneficiaries for these projects are allocated in terms of the Cities allocation policy and are sourced from the City’s database.”

I will not even attempt to explain what this response means or how this responds to Asithandile’s submission.

Mlondolozi Sinuku from RR Section informal settlement in his submission said, “I live in RR location, the toilets are always dirty, there are no doors and the children are playing there. The toilets are far from the houses, and sometimes there are no water which means that we have to go to another street to get water which puts us at risk at night of being robbed and rapped.”

This is a concern raised by many others in their submissions. Again, Sinoxolo Mafevuka’s tragic rape and murder in a communal toilet is testimony to this. The City of Cape Town’s puzzling response to Mlondolozi and many others with similar submissions is as follows:

Safety and Security - Metro Police and Law Enforcement are deployed in this area, with regular patrols by both enforcement agencies. We acknowledge we need more officers in all areas throughout the City but due to budget restrains not able to do so.”

Firstly, this is an outright lie by the City. Metro Police and Law Enforcement police are not deployed in RR Section informal settlement or many other informal settlements across the City.

Secondly, as much as Mlondolozi raises a safety issue with regards to access to water and sanitation or lack thereof, for the City to respond with ‘policing’ to lack of toilets or taps is plain ignorance.

South Africa has recently ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (“ICESCR”). In the section titled “Non-Discrimination” it states that, “With regard to the budget, this means, for example, that funds cannot be disproportionately allocated for or spent in areas where a specific ethnic group lives simply out of a desire to favour that ethnicity, or directed away from areas which support opposition parties simply because the government does not like their political opinions”

With so many people who participated and made submissions relating to sanitation, the City of Cape Town’s budget for water and sanitation largely remains unchanged and the voices of many poor and working class residents have been ignored yet again.

The City of Cape Town’s 2016/17 budget remains an unfair budget that does not prioritise those most in need.

[ENDS]

Opinion piece by Axolile Notywala

Head of Local Government Programme

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