OPINION

City’s water and sanitation budget not pro-poor - SJC

SJC members map toilets in Khayelitsha.
Axolile Notywala    

On 25 April, the Mayor tabled the draft budget in council, challenging residents to find evidence that it is not pro-poor.

The following week I argued that the capital allocation in the draft budget for water and sanitation – that is public money allocated for flush toilets, taps and the necessary reticulation to connect informal settlement to the sewers – is decreasing and disproportionately small. Today, I present further evidence that in fact this has consistently been the case since at least 2007 when then Mayor Helen Zille presented her first substantive budget to council.

Capital allocations for water and sanitation in all 204 informal settlements have remained static at around R23 million since 2007.

R23 million may sound like a lot, so let’s put it into perspective. It’s about a quarter of what the City is spending on a new parking garage for the Finance Directorate, and it’s about a tenth of what the City is spending on a new Head Office for the Water and Sanitation Department.

Surprisingly, the 2015 draft budget now proposes a decrease to R22 million this year and again to R19 million in 2016 before returning to R24 million in 2017. When adjusted for inflation, these allocations are even less in real terms.

This is disturbing when you consider that over the same period, according to the City’s own data, the number of informal households has increased from 214,575 in 2007 to 236,367 in 2015.

Ald. Ian Neilson states that people are “flocking” to the City, but in fact, the City’s data suggests an entirely manageable growth in informal settlement households of around 2% a year.

Another way to look at the City’s priorities is the share of the total water and sanitation capital budget that is allocated to informal settlements.

Here, allocations to informal settlements compared to the total water and sanitation budget were below 3% in 2007 and 2008, then rose to a high of 6.21% in 2010, before falling again to around 3% until 2013. Looking forward, the share illustrates a steady decline with the draft 2015 budget proposing less than 2% by 2017.

This lack of prioritisation is made more alarming when you consider that over this period, approximately 20% of all households in the City of Cape Town have and continue to live in informal settlements. That is a 2% share for 20% of residents.

Meanwhile, the total capital allocation for water and sanitation in the city has actually increased year on year from R729 million in 2007 to R1,6 billion proposed for 2017. The share of the water and sanitation department within the Utility Services Directorate has also increased, from a low of 30% in 2012 to the 54.3% proposed for 2017. How can the City justify the same disproportionately small amount to informal settlements again and again.

Ald. Neilson argues that these figures are only for toilets, that these are relatively inexpensive and do not include allocations for infrastructure for bulk delivery of water and sewerage across the City.

This is a red herring. In order to substantially benefit from this infrastructure, informal settlements require full flush waterborne facilities and reticulation networks.

However, at end of the 2013/2014 financial year, only around a quarter (26.76%) of all toilets were full flush waterborne facilities with access to the reticulation network. The remainder largely do not directly benefit.

Considering that the City has on average only built around 1,300 full flush toilets a year since 2007 and the decreasing allocations to informal settlements, it is unlikely that significantly more flush toilets will be built over the next three years.

In the absence of further information, we must assume that this costly bulk infrastructure allocations do not benefit the majority of informal settlements residents because they do not have direct access to them.

So, when Ald. Neilson claims the City has ‘installed’ over 45,000 toilets in informal settlements between 2006 and 2014 and that the need for more reduces each year “given that infrastructure … has already been provided”, it is disingenuous.

Actually, 19,828 or 44% of these toilets are porta pottis and a further 25% are chemical or container toilets. So, the City has overwhelmingly prioritized spending on, and delivery of, temporary, expensive and inferior outsourced services in informal settlements as a long term solution, rather than investing capital spending on long-term infrastructure to service these informal settlements.

This is wholly unreasonable given that, according to the City’s own data in the Informal Settlements Development Matrix, roughly 80% of Cape Town’s 204 informal settlements (437 individual clusters) are older than 10 years, and a full quarter (24%) are older than our democracy itself.

The City simply cannot continue to treat informal settlements that have existed for so long as temporary. What is required is proper planning to ensure the right to sanitation is progressively realized with significant capital expenditure to support those plans.

Ald. Neilson argues that, “after careful consideration and calculation, we believe that the capital budget for informal settlement sanitation is sufficient for what can currently be achieved.”

R23 million is simply not sufficient. It never was and never will be.

Yesterday, over 600 submissions on the draft budget were hand delivered to the City. I suggest that this administration reads each one to understand the experiences of those whose lives are affected by these decisions.

Correction: Originally this article stated that Dan Plato was the mayor in 2007 who presented the budget. It was Helen Zille.

Notywala is a member of the SJC. No inference should be made on whether the views expressed in this article reflect the editorial position of GroundUp.

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