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Speech by Helen Zille at the Full Council Meeting, 25 June 2008

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Speech by Helen Zille at the Full Council Meeting, 25 June 2008

by Helen Zille
30 Jun 2008
City of Cape Town
City of Cape Town

The speech delivered by Helen Zille, Mayor of Cape Town at the Full Council Meeting held at the Cape Town Civic Centre at 10am on 25 June 2008.


Speaker, Councillors, City Manager, officials, members of the media and the public. Welcome to today’s full council meeting.

Before we proceed with today’s agenda I would like to update councillors on some important developments currently affecting the City of Cape Town.

This week saw the first severe winter flooding of the year and our thoughts go out to the thousands of people whose homes and families have been affected – despite our extensive winter readiness programme. Our newly purchased pumps have been put to good use across the City.

About 1 500 residents of informal settlements took refuge in our community halls over the weekend, and our Disaster Management Centre reports about 5 500 homes have been affected.

Our disaster management teams will remain on high alert for further floods in the weeks ahead.

At the same time I would like to encourage our councillors to keep relaying the message to people in their communities that they should not build in areas that are below the annual flood line.

Every year we do our best to reduce flooding by raising awareness of this problem, and through our winter readiness program.

For the past few months we have been unblocking and upgrading storm water systems, and Disaster Management Officials have been draining some affected areas this week.

But there are some sections of informal settlements which are just too big to drain. And storm water systems are regularly blocked by illegal dumping.

We ask ward councillors in informal areas especially to let us know if they see blocked drains or culverts, so that we can unblock them before they cause floods.

I would like to thank the Disaster Management Officials yet again for their outstanding work over this week.

I would also like to thank them, and all of the volunteers and organisations who have assisted with aid, food and blankets, for their efforts to contain the crisis of displaced people in Cape Town over the past month.

The number of foreign nationals still requiring shelter and assistance has dropped significantly since this council last met, as more people return to their homes in Cape Town or leave the city.

There are currently 1 400 people staying in municipal community halls and sports centres, and approximately 3 000 people staying in the safe sites at Harmony Park, Blue Waters, Soetwater, Silwerstroom and Youngsfield. There are also about 2000 still in churches, mosques, night shelters and private properties around the city.

In total we estimate that there are about 6 300 people still displaced in Cape Town.

This is down from over 18 000 at the height of the xenophobic attacks, when about 7 000 people were staying in municipal halls, 7 500 in safe sites, and an estimated 4 000 in churches, mosques, and private accommodation.

Legally speaking the Provincial Government has taken on the lead responsibility in addressing the crisis following the declaration of a Provincial Disaster on 30 May.

At Province’s request, we are still managing the 5 safe sites and 14 community halls in which foreign nationals are staying.

The sites being run by the City continue to provide shelter, electricity, water, sanitation, medical services and security to displaced people, even though they were only intended to be a temporary measure to offer people safety from the immediate threat posed by violent attacks. Province and NGOs are providing food and other aid.

At Soetwater gale force winds have damaged tents and toilets. We have made provision for the remaining 1 100 people staying there to move to the more sheltered Blue Waters site, where there are currently around 400 people.

So far, however, very few have taken up the offer following threats made by certain individuals currently staying at Blue Waters.

We have put in place a mediating team, including Metro law enforcement officers, to assist anyone who wishes to stay at Blue Waters, and reduce tensions.

As people leave Soetwater, we will pack up the site and eventually close it when everyone has left. We will not force anyone to move, just as we did not force anyone to move to the safe sites in the first place.

The joint task team formed between the Province, City, United Nations and Home Affairs is working on the fastest possible route to reintegrating those remaining foreign nationals who wish to stay in Cape Town, and repatriating those who wish to return to their countries of origin.

There are some very complex cases to address in this process.

Some of the people displaced by xenophobic violence wish neither to stay in South Africa nor return to their country of origin.

Only an offer of asylum from a third country will make it possible for their requests to be met. Alternatively, they will have to reconsider their position. Not everyone can have exactly what they want.

Others wish to be reintegrated into the communities of Cape Town but have either lost their homes or are too afraid to return to the communities from which they were driven. The UN has stated that it will try to source funding from its donors in order to facilitate relocation in such cases.

The City will recoup the costs of addressing this provincial disaster from the central disaster relief fund, which will help us to sustain our efforts. So far relief efforts have cost us about R70 million.

The reality is that the crisis of displaced foreign nationals is going to take time to resolve.

With the meltdown in Zimbabwe, we will also be seeing an increase in the influx of asylum seekers.

For the continued work we need to do, the City and Provincial Disaster Management Joint Operations Centres were merged over the weekend to form one centre.

This will allow Provincial and City officials to better co-ordinate flood relief efforts with the ongoing support for displaced people.

We have to ensure that we can balance the needs of everyone when it comes to deploying our available capacity and resources.

Speaker, turning to the agenda before us, today council will continue its work on our financial cycle by considering an Adjustments Budget and the City’s Service Delivery and Budget Implementation Plan (SDBIP) for 2008/2009.

Our SDBIP sets out in detail how we will implement services and operations in order to give effect to the key objectives of our City’s Integrated Development Plan.

The most important of these objectives are infrastructure-led economic growth and the overall promotion of a cleaner, safer, more investor-friendly urban environment.

I am happy to say that in today’s Adjustments Budget there are a number of items that show we are progressing well in these areas. We will be proposing an extra R20 million for sewerage infrastructure in Fisantekraal and Potsdam, which are running ahead of schedule. This will continue to unlock development in the areas they serve.

We will also propose to double the allocation for street lighting across the city, and to add an extra R3.6 million for high mast lighting as part of our Informal Settlement Upgrade Master Plan.

I am concerned, however, that much of the planning work that has gone into our budgeting and SDBIP will have to be reworked in order to accommodate NERSA’s late decision to grant Eskom a 35.9% tariff increase to municipalities.

The proposed Eskom hike has in turn compelled us to propose that Council approve an average 35.9% increase in electricity tariffs today from last year’s charges.

The implementation of this tariff will be subject to NERSA’s approval, and the approval of the Minister of Finance, who has to provide special permission to local authorities to revise electricity tariffs after the annual municipal budget has been passed.

In order to assist the poor, in line with NERSA’s ruling, all consumers using up to 400 kWh per month will pay only 15,21% more, and the free basic supply of electricity remains unchanged.

The cost to consumers in the metropole will amount to 49,46 c/kWh which is less than Eskom’s ‘Homelite rate’ of 51,7 c/kWh.

Nevertheless, we regret this situation.

Consumers are already facing enough pressure in the form of inflation, interest rate hikes, and high fuel and food costs.

In addition, municipal financial planning across South Africa, including the detailed work that goes into Annual Budgets and SDBIPs, will be negatively impacted.

The hike in electricity prices will increase municipal running costs for water treatment plants, municipal buildings and infrastructure.

And more funds will also be needed to provide the same amount of free basic electricity. The overall impact on the City of Cape Town will be in the region of R400 million.

Local government and its ratepayers should not have been left to carry the responsibility for the mess made of electricity generation in South Africa by Eskom and Cabinet.

Instead of its late bid to hike tariffs, Eskom should have opted to borrow funds to cover the costs of increasing its generation capacity.

This is what we have done in the City of Cape Town in order to address infrastructure and maintenance backlogs.

In this respect I should mention that our inaugural municipal bond issue worth R1 billion has proven enormously successful - achieving a subscription of almost 300%.

The pricing of the bond reflects this high level of demand.

The CCT01 bond is priced at 220 basic points over the relevant RSA Government benchmark, some 10 basic points lower than the rate achieved by the City of Johannesburg when it raised funding for a similar tenor about three weeks ago.

This is a vote of confidence by the market in the City of Cape Town, and a good sign for our future bond issues, through which we hope to raise up to R7 billion for infrastructure investment.

Apart from the SDBIP and Adjustments Budget, there are a number of other key items on today’s agenda that support our IDP objectives of infrastructure-led economic growth and a cleaner, safer urban environment.

Firstly, we will be considering the establishment of a City Improvement District (CID) in Stikland.

This public-private partnership model has proven extremely effective in creating environments that are attractive to investors, especially when it comes to curbing crime.

The Cape Town Partnership, for example, cleaned up the streets in the city centre, put 80 police officers on the beat each day, established a network of CCTV cameras, and brought crime down in the area by 90% since 2000.

Following the success of CIDs in places like the CBD and Claremont, we may soon see as many as15 established across the metro region.

I hope, therefore, that this council will offer its support to this latest addition to the growing list, and that our officials will provide all possible assistance to make these partnerships work.

Today’s agenda also contains a number of other interventions to create a safer environment in our city for citizens and investors.

Council will be asked to approve an extra R10 million for a Spatially Enabled Response Management System for the Metro Police. This electronic system will help our police, traffic and emergency services officials co-ordinate their efforts by tracking police and emergency response units. We will also be considering a new electronic communications system for Disaster Management.

To improve road safety and traffic flow, council will be asked to approve a new policy for the training and utilization of reserve traffic pointsmen to assist with traffic regulation in business districts, events and major intersections where traffic lights have been affected by power cuts.

In this regard, I would like to acknowledge the involvement of Outsurance, and thank them for their decision to partner with the City on this project.

Finally, to assist with emergency services in the Helderberg, we will propose the transfer of funds to complete the upgrading of the Somerset West Fire Station. This has become urgent following delays on the construction of the new Sir Lowry’s Pass Fire Station relating to the discovery of graves on the site.

Today’s agenda also highlights the contribution of the City’s 2010 preparations toward our objective of infrastructure led economic growth, particularly through improved transport systems.

Council will be asked to approve the inclusion of our proposed Rapid Transit initiatives into the City’s Integrated Transport Plan, and to consider this plan for submission to the MEC by the end of June as required in law.

Rapid Transit is a key legacy that we intend to leverage from the World Cup.

We have already seen the benefits of the first elements of the Rapid Transit system in the reduced travel times for both private and public commuters made possible by the bus and taxi lanes on the N2.

We want to ensure that by 2010 we have the first phase of the Rapid Transit System running in order assist with the daily requirements of 550 000 public transport commuters in Cape Town and approximately 175 000 World Cup visitors.

An effective public transport system will reduce travel times, and, crucially, free up new commercial and business developments (especially in the CBD) that were previously at the mercy of restrictions imposed by Transport Impact Assesments.

For instance, the R2.5bn Strand on Adderley Development initially incorporated plans for 2 000 parking bays, but may have to reduce this substantially because of congestion considerations. This in turn affects the capacity of the whole development.

If we have a good public transport system, it means less space needed in CBD areas for cars, and it means more customers and workers can enter the CBD to do business.

It also increases the value of properties along formally established public transport routes – as seen after the opening of the Jubilee Underground Line in London, for example.

Our goal is to attract 20% of current car users in the medium term, reducing the strain on our roads, and bringing in all of the other benefits I have already mentioned.

The SA Rail Commuter Corporation is investing heavily in better trains and stations, while the City is proposing to improve safety at train stations and transport interchanges by closing them off in secure precincts, assigning dedicated security guards, providing weather protection, and introducing access by smart cards.

On the other hand, we want to link this improved rail service to a Bus Rapid Transit system, which will function like a light rail service, although at about one twentieth of the cost.

This will involve putting dedicated bus and taxi lanes on a number of routes around the City, while at the same time re-organising the entire bus and taxi industry under a single smart card system.

The business plan for this project still needs to be worked through our portfolio committees and Council will have to take the final decision.

We may also need to introduce some creative public-private partnerships to help fund the initiative.

I believe, however, that we must not miss this unique window of opportunity, where national government stands ready to put billions into new infrastructure for Cape Town. It has already made a provisional offer of R836 million toward our scheme.

We need a large up-front investment to create a self-sustaining system by increasing the number of users.

We are also working to get the minibus taxi industry involved, and there have already been signs of interest from industry stakeholders.

Unlike the Taxi Recapitalisation Program, which has met with resistance, the Bus Rapid Transit System would be advantageous to taxi operators.

Rapid Transit would also be important in terms of the overall sustainability of our City.

In this regard, a final item on today’s agenda that is important to our goal of economic growth in Cape Town is the City’s Integrated Metropolitan Environmental Policy (IMEP).

Council will be asked to adopt a number of additional recommendations to be included in the five year review of this policy, which seeks to ascertain our progress in promoting environmental sustainability.

In Cape Town we cannot consider economic growth separately from our environment.

Limits to available resources like water can constrain development.

Tourism, which relies on our natural environment, is also one of the key economic sectors for Cape Town.

And one of the selling points of Cape Town to investors is its natural beauty.

It is therefore important for this council to note the IMEP review’s finding that we are not yet doing enough to ensure the sustainability of our environment.

We need to become more rigorous in our implementation of policies to protect the environment, and to develop more comprehensive long term planning.

We also need to focus on recycling, promoting sustainable energy and responsible management of resources like water in our own operations in order to set an example for the public to follow.

In this respect I would like to tackle the misinformation being spread by certain organisations about the City of Cape Town’s water management devices following the recent Constitutional Court ruling against the City of Johannesburg’s pre-paid water meters.

Their actions are not in the interest of residents or the responsible management of our environmental resources.

Our water management devices are not pre-paid water meters.

They are set to deliver an average of 350 litres per day to a household, or 10 620 litres per month. This includes 6 000 litres free. At this consumption rate, a home’s monthly water and sewerage bill will be around R30, an amount which is covered by our monthly grant for those who are registered on our indigency database.

If residents want to receive more water per day, the device can be set to allow this. But at no stage will they be denied the basic minimum amount of water per day.

This system therefore preserves the right of all who live in South Africa to sufficient water, as set out in Chapter 2 of the Constitution, while at the same time helping our customers to save water, spot leaks and to manage their monthly water bills.

It will also help us to manage debt and do away with the trickle system.

And in terms of our environment and sustainability, it will promote a culture of responsible use of resources.

All of the items I have mentioned today are critical to our overall project to make Cape Town a world class city.

At the same time, we must also note some important changes to the team of people elected to implement these measures.

This Council will be asked to elect a new Portfolio Committee Chair for Utilities following the appointment of former Chair, Councillor Clive Justus, as Mayco Member for that portfolio.

I would like to congratulate Councillor Jan Burger on his nomination for this position, and ask that this council support this worthy nomination.

Council will also be asked to decide on a new Chair for the Transport, Roads and Stormwater Portfolio Committee following the resignation of Councillor Elizabeth Berry.

I would like to thank Councillor Berry for her two years of service in this capacity, and congratulate Councillor Basil Lee on his nomination for the position. Again, I urge Council to support this well considered proposal.

In closing, I would like to extend a special birthday wish on behalf of the City of Cape Town to our nation’s first democratic president, Nelson Mandela, who turns 90 on 18 July.

The City pays tribute to his contribution as the father of our nation. The sacrifices he made during the apartheid years, and his firm statesmanship at the dawn of our democracy have been a source of inspiration to millions.

In celebrating Madiba’s contribution, we should also reflect on the principles to which he devoted his life: non-racialism, reconciliation, forgiveness and nation-building.

Under his leadership, South Africa went against the grain of the international trend toward ethnic and religious nationalism that followed the fall of the Soviet Union.

The best way we can honour Madiba on his birthday is to re-commit ourselves to this project.

For generations to come, Nelson Mandela will remain an example to South Africans and the world of how to face the past honestly, transcend anger, forgive generously, and confront challenges constructively. That will be his lasting legacy. May we in this council uphold it.

I thank you.
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