Cape Town invests ‘to give dignity’ (2)

By Martin Czernowalow

The City of Cape Town’s 2016/17 budget will see more than half a billion rand being spent directly on water and sanitation in informal settlements.


The City of Cape Town has announced that is has allocated R779‑million in capital expenditure in the 2016/17 financial year for water and sanitation upgrades across all poorer areas of the city (including backyard dwellers and informal settlements). This represents a budget that is heavily focused on alleviating water and sanitation shortfalls.

Of this, R559.7‑million is allocated for water and sanitation direct spend in informal settlements alone, which includes the cost of toilet and tap installations and the provision of free water and sewerage. This is an increase of R56‑million from the current year’s allocation for water and sanitation direct spend in informal settlements, and is part of the city’s R2.5‑billion that it has budgeted for its social package to assist poor households.

Delivering the city’s budget speech recently, executive mayor Patricia de Lille announced that the city’s total budget amounts to just over R41‑billion: R6.5‑billion in capital budget and R34.5‑billion in operating budget.

“Water and Sanitation is spending more than R779‑million in poorer areas, including spend for backyard dwellers and informal settlements,” she stated. De Lille added that R100‑million is planned for upgrades to the Zandvliet Wastewater Treatment Works, which services Khayelitsha — an informal settlement that is home to close to 400 000 people — as well as Monwabisi, Blue Downs, Mfuleni and Delft.

In addition, De Lille revealed that the construction of a new water supply from Baden Powell to Khayelitsha, is planned to start in the 2016/17 financial year at a cost of R45.4‑million, and will be completed over a three‑year period.

“The Borcherds Quarry Wastewater Treatment Works is also being upgraded; the total cost over three years amounts to R174.5‑million. A key part of this is the upgrade of the Stercus building, where all alternative sanitation types are taken for emptying and cleaning. The cost of the upgrade for 2016/17 is R50‑million,” De Lille said.

Informal settlements serviced by this project are spread across the city; all with many different kinds of alternative sanitation. These include areas such as Atlantis Farms, Browns Farm (Philippi), Dunoon TRA, Dark City (Helderberg), Enkanini (Khayelitsha), Imizamo Yethu (Hout Bay), Los Angeles (Mfuleni), Overcome Heights (Vrygrond) and Joe Slovo (Milnerton). Currently, more than 100 communities across the City of Cape Town are serviced with alternative sanitation.

A further R113‑million is planned for the completion of the Cape Flats 3 Bulk Sewer Project, which serves residents in poorer areas, including Bonteheuwel, Heideveld, Manenberg, Gugulethu and Nyanga.

In support of housing projects largely for the benefit of the poor, more than R28‑million has been set aside for bulk water and sewers. These are in Dido Valley, Morkel’s Cottage, Hangberg, Gugulethu, Valhalla Park, Garden Cities (Fisantekraal) and Edward Road.

 Ernest Sonnenberg-4

Water network upgrades

De Lille announced that the Mitchells Plain Wastewater Treatment Works is undergoing upgrades for a planned R50.5‑million, which is used mostly for servicing people in poorer areas.

The city’s budget also includes a R74.6‑million allocation for planned sewer and water network upgrades in poorer areas — R4.5‑million of this will be spent in Khayelitsha. The upgrade of the Philippi collector sewer will amount to R1.6‑milion, while the completion of the Spes Bona reservoir has been allocated R26‑million.

A number of the city’s capital projects are under way already and are multiyear projects — the Cape Flats Sewer and Mitchells Plain Wastewater Works being such examples. Sewer and water network upgrades also happen throughout the year.

During the 2016/17 financial year, the City of Cape Town is planning on spending more than R13‑million on the installation of 1 327 toilets in informal settlements, which is regarded as a priority project. However, there are several challenges faced by the city in terms of toilet installation. This includes the fact that full-flush toilets cannot legally be installed on privately‑owned property, in areas of extremely high density, beneath power lines, on landfill sites, in a road or railway buffer, within servitudes, outside the urban edge, in water retention ponds and on floodplains.

“Up to 82% of informal settlements are either fully or partially affected by one or more of the above‑mentioned constraints,” De Lille stated in her budget speech, adding that alternative sanitation types such as the portable flush toilet or chemical toilets are provided when (and only when) it is not possible to install water‑borne infrastructure.

This is echoed by mayoral committee member for utility services, Ernest Sonnenberg, who tells Water, Sewage & Effluent the biggest problem is that the majority of informal settlements are affected by the several constraints related to legal and safety issues; meaning the city is not allowed to install full‑flush toilets. In these cases, it has provided alternatives such as chemical toilets.

Sonnenberg says he visited Khayelitsha in June, where 800 new full‑flush toilets were being installed in the SST and BM sections. “This formed part of a wider toilet rehabilitation project for SST, as 194 of the 324 existing toilets had to be removed — mostly due to misuse and vandalism, and a small number having become structurally unsound due to being situated on sandy/flood‑prone terrain,” he says. “The 400 new toilets will be handed over to the community by the end of the month [June]. The city is also in the process of commissioning more than 900 new toilets just in Khayelitsha.”


“Water and Sanitation is spending more than R779‑million in poorer areas, including spend for backyard dwellers and informal settlements.”

 Patricia de Lille-2

Under fire

However, despite its efforts to make investments “to give people dignity”, the city claims it has come under undue fire from the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) — a non‑governmental organisation that has accused the city’s R41‑billion budget of being passed in a flawed process that discriminates against its poor and working class residents.

Ahead of the budget speech, the SJC presented the City of Cape Town with submissions from residents of Khayelitsha and Gugulethu, mostly asking the city to stop prioritising temporary toilet facilities and increasing capital allocations for permanent infrastructure in informal settlements.

De Lille responded to these submissions in her budget, saying: “I would like to take a moment to respond to the approximately 3 000 submissions we received from the Social Justice Coalition. The broad thrust of these submissions claimed that we are not doing enough for sanitation in informal settlements.

“It is worth noting that the SJC only works in certain parts of Khayelitsha, not all of it. Further, it does not work in other informal settlements or backyarder communities around the metro. Despite this, it made 3 000 submissions along similar lines, each of which require an individual response,” she stated.

De Lille pointed out that the SJC fails to realise that it exists in a world of limited resources — everything has to be planned for and shared among more than 200 informal settlements.

“This R15‑million that the SJC is referring to [in the city’s budget] is meant for toilets alone. What is not taken into account is the bulk infrastructure needed to support the toilets, such as wastewater treatment facilities or the bulk water operations, which are much more expensive than the provision of toilets and taps, and from which informal settlements also benefit.

“We have also done an exercise for the Khayelitsha informal settlements for the associated services I just referred to. This amounts to approximately R75‑million in capital expenditure in addition to the R15‑million reflected in the budget for the 2016/2017 financial year,” she noted.

Sonnenberg says the city spends a lot of time and resources consulting with the SJC. “The City regularly provides the SJC with extensive information and high volumes of documents, which are financially and staffing-wise exhausting. For water and sanitation alone to respond to their budget queries it cost close to R35 000 and took almost 200 hours.”

The deputy mayor also met with the SJC during the public participation phase to provide in‑depth explanations of the budget, how it is structured and how it has to be read,” he explains.

In addition, the city has also reviewed its rates and tariffs structures for the 2016/17 financial year, with water and sanitation tariffs each being adjusted down to 9.75% — down from 11% last year.

The provision of R2.5‑billion for the city’s social package is aimed at relieving some of the financial burden experienced by especially poor households, with the provision of 6kℓ of water per month per household, free of charge; and 4.2kℓof sanitation per month per household, free of charge.


 “The 400 new toilets will be handed over to the community by the end of the month [June]. The city is also in the process of commissioning more than 900 new toilets just in Khayelitsha.”


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