Council Speech by Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis
Members of the public and guests,
Members of the media,
Good Morning, Molweni, More, Assalamu alaikum, Shalom,
On the ground floor of this building, the Cape Town Civic Centre, visitors are greeted by the smile of the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his words:
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
I know that right now many South Africans are struggling to see beyond the literal and figurative darkness that engulfs our nation.
Last week Eskom announced an urgent escalation of load-shedding to stage 4, marking the 141st day of load-shedding in 2022.
Dit beteken Suid-Afrika het vanjaar amper elke tweede dag beurtkrag gehad. En verlede week was daar nog ‘n twyfelagtige rekord vir Eskom toe daar 30 dae agtereenvolgens beurtkrag was.
(This means that South Africa has been load-shed almost every second day this year. And, last week, Eskom achieved another dubious record: 30 straight days of load-shedding.)
The Energy Minister last week cautioned that this is not sustainable and that, without a reliable electricity supply, the economy will collapse.
Top economists are warning that the contraction of the economy caused by load-shedding will put South Africa back into recession, resulting in further job losses and increasing poverty.
Here, in Cape Town, there is light despite all the darkness. Between February and September this year, City of Cape Town customers were protected from more than 1 100 hours of Eskom’s 1 900 hours of load-shedding. For 230 of those hours, we had no load-shedding at all, while the rest of the country had load-shedding.
This is a testament to the hard work of our Energy directorate and I would like to commend them for the work they do in keeping the lights on in Cape Town.
You quickly learn in government that there is no single recipe for success. There are, however, certain key ingredients. One such ingredient is the calibre of people you are able to attract and retain in your administration. And, here in Cape Town, we are blessed to work with the top officials in the country – our Team Cape Town.
The lack of state capacity elsewhere in the country is beginning to show in terrifyingly stark terms. As we speak, Gauteng is beset by a devastating water crisis due to rampant corruption and chronic underinvestment in infrastructure.
We are so pleased that Mayor Mpho Phalatse is back in office, after a brief commercial break, so that she can continue the good work her coalition government was doing to repair and rebuild after decades of neglect.
Investing in infrastructure
EKapa, kule minyaka mihlanu idlulileyo, iSixeko sityale iR4,1 yeebhiliyoni kwiziseko ezingundoqo zamanzi nasekukhuseleni amanzi ethu. Kulo nyaka, iSixeko siza kuchitha enye iR910 miliyoni ukuqinisekisa ubonelelo lwamanzi oluthembekileyo kuluntu lwethu.
(In Cape Town, over the past five years, the City has invested R4,1 billion in water infrastructure and building our water security. This year, the City will spend another R910 million to secure a reliable supply of water for our residents. )
Investment in infrastructure underpins a growing economy and a growing city, and I am pleased that there is another new water infrastructure project on today’s council agenda: the Berg River Voelvlei Augmentation Scheme.
The Berg River Voelvlei Augmentation Scheme will produce 40 million litres of water per day, and will help ensure our future water security.
Speaker, staying with our commitment to deliver reliable infrastructure for our residents, I this week met with Dr David Masondo, Deputy Finance Minister and a team from National Treasury to demonstrate how we are prioritising the delivery of infrastructure projects across the city.
I used this opportunity to highlight a number of areas where the National Government could assist with reforms that will help simplify the supply chain process, including:
• Preventing unsubstantiated and vexatious tender appeals from frustrating service delivery;
• Implementing changes to MFMA regulations around contract management so that we stop incurring costs and delays when capital projects go beyond our three year budget period; and
• Increasing the current limit of R200k below which we can follow a simple three quote procurement process.
I also used the opportunity to re-iterate our case for reforms on energy, rail, and land release – including:
• My previous request for the City’s procurement of energy from SSEG to be granted an exemption from the competitive bidding process, as well as the time limits imposed by the MFMA;
• The release of state-owned land for affordable housing; and
• The devolution of passenger rail.
I look forward to working with Treasury and other national departments as we strive to improve the lives of Cape Town residents.
Devolution does not mean secession
Speaker, everything that we do is done with our residents in mind. But there are many things that affect Cape Town residents that we have little power to change. And this is why I have pledged to make sure that more powers are devolved from the failing national government to this City government.
Our call for devolution is rooted in our love for this country and the people who live in it.
Ons wil vir Suid-Afrika ‘n bloudruk vir goeie regeringsbestuur bied sodat hierdie stad ‘n baken van hoop vir die res van die land kan wees.
(We want to provide South Africa with a blueprint for good governance, so that this city may be a beacon of hope to the rest of the country.)
Our plan is not – and never will be – to become a separate country. That’s just crazy talk.
Ons is trots Suid-Afrikaans. Ons wil hê Suid-Afrika moet werk, en ons weet dit kan gedoen word. Dit is ‘n wonderlike land, wat onder ‘n swak regering swaarkry, maar dit kan reggestel word en ons wys hoe dit gedoen kan word.
(We are proudly South African. We want South Africa to work, and we know it can. This is a wonderful country, suffering under a bad government, but it can be fixed and we are showing how.)
It is true that, through devolution, we see an opportunity to take greater control of our destiny.
Kodwa oku akuthethi ukuba sibuncame ubuzwe bethu. Soze siwuncame uMzantsi Afrika.
(But this does not mean giving up our national identity. We will never give up on South Africa.)
If we are to end load-shedding, we need the authority to make and implement our own plans, many of which still require jumping through hoops of unnecessary national government red tape.
If we are to sort out the chaos on our commuter trains, we need passenger rail to be devolved to us so that we can make travelling by train safe and reliable once more.
And if we are to reduce crime in Cape Town, we need more powers for our local police officers to fully investigate crime so that criminals are caught, prosecuted and put behind bars.
On the topic of crime, Speaker, all of us should be alarmed by the words of Judge Thulare of the Western Cape Bench in a judgement handed down this week, and reported on in Die Burger yesterday.
This is not the musing of a commentator or a columnist, these are the findings of a Judge of the High Court in this province, and these words should give us all cause for the most grave concern. I quote at length, because I think we all need to listen to this:
“The evidence suggests not only a capture of some lower ranking officers in the SAPS. The evidence suggests that the senior management of the SAPS in the province has been penetrated to the extent that the (gangs) have access to the table where the Provincial Commissioner of the SAPS in the Province sits with his senior managers…decide on tactics and approaches to the safety and security of inhabitants of the Western Cape. This includes penetration of and access to the sanctity of reports from the specialised units like the Anti-Gang Unit and the Commercial Crimes Unit.
The evidence further shows that the gangsters are breathing heavily down the necks of public prosecutors… whose lives and the lives of their families are under constant threat. The evidence also shows that these gangsters are interfering in the decorum of the courts and the independence of judicial officers, and testing the judicial oath of office, especially the words “without fear”.”
Speaker, this is a statement so chilling and so shocking, coming as it does from a Judge, that it demands the most urgent and serious response from the Provincial Commissioner of the SAPS.
I ask that he take this very seriously, and act swiftly to reassure the public of the trustworthiness of his senior management team.
This also underscores the importance of our call for more powers for our city police. The concentration of law enforcement powers in one agency, the SAPS, makes capture easier. But more diffuse and devolved power makes it much harder.
Put simply, if the SAPS are captured by gangsters, then our city police really are the thin blue line.
Delivering more housing opportunities
Speaker, just as we seek to protect our residents from violent crime, so too are we committed to delivering more affordable housing in Cape Town. Our goal is for all our residents to be able to enjoy the dignity of a home.
We launched the affordable housing priority programme earlier this year to position the state as an enabler of far greater private sector housing delivery.
Our priority programme has four pillars:
• Cutting red tape to enable the private sector to deliver faster;
• Enabling micro-developers to deliver more rental units;
• Giving people title deeds and clearing historical backlogs; and
• Finally, speeding up the release of municipal land for social housing.
Apartheid moved people to the distant corners of South Africa’s cities, and entrenched intergenerational poverty by taking away people’s homes and stopping them from saving, owning assets and passing them down to their children.
Incredibly, there are some parties in South Africa who want to see people remain permanent tenants of the state, with nothing to call their own and nothing to give their children when they die.
We fundamentally disagree with this.
To break the cycle of intergenerational poverty we have to help people get themselves onto the first rung of the asset ownership ladder.
We have to help people own homes.
Our government is passionate about seeing many more people as home owners, with a stake in the success of our society and committed to our mutual prosperity.
Previously, we have allowed tenants to buy their council homes, but they needed to pay half of the transfer costs themselves. And, as those of us lucky enough to own a home know, transfer costs can be prohibitively expensive. As a result, uptake was very low.
So I am particularly excited today to announce our “No Cost Transfer Programme”, which will allow long-standing tenants of Community Residential Units or CRUs to buy their units – with the transfer costs covered by the City in full.
In other words, these tenants will become property owners at no cost at all. This is a big policy shift that will have a far-reaching impact for generations to come.
We are currently focusing on at least 7500 units that are ready for their tenants to own because they are single residential units or maisonettes. Sectional title schemes will be next as we extend this programme across the city.
To enable this policy change, we are today seeking Council approval for the City to:
• Approach the provincial government to remove the regulatory provision that forces beneficiaries to settle outstanding debts on a property before ownership can be transferred;
• Fund the full payment of transfer fees on behalf of beneficiaries, and to fix these fees at R2 500 regardless of the property value; and
• Write-off rental and municipal services arrears on rental units where these are in excess of the available subsidy.
We expect this single approval by Council to unlock the ownership transfer of some 1500 units before June next year alone.
Speaker, just think about what this means for those families. Some have lived in these homes for decades. Some have raised children and grandchildren there.
Now, these homes can be theirs so that when great-grandchildren arrive, they can one day live in a home that is theirs.
This is true empowerment. This is breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty and changing the lives of our poorest residents.
But Speaker, we are not stopping there.
We know that our No Cost Transfer Programme could benefit 7500 families very soon, 1500 by June already.
But there are hundreds of thousands of Capetonians who are able to pay something for accommodation, but who cannot afford to rent anything available now.
They live in backyards in Kalkfontein and Tafelsig. Some pay two thousand rand to rent a shack in DuNoon or Joe Slovo, or a tiny room in Delft or Lentegeur.
That is why we are so focused on freeing up land faster for more social housing.
And today we bring another piece of land to Council, the so-called ‘Fruit and Veg’ site, right in the middle of the CBD, in Roeland Street.
With today’s approval, we can proceed to a competitive process to release this site to deliver another 150 social housing units.
You will have seen, Speaker, that there is a steady drum beat of these properties through the system, being approved in Council every month and on their way to delivering social housing projects.
With this latest property, we have now had 1130 social housing unit approvals through Council since May.
We are also not giving up on the Woodstock Hospital precinct, where around 700 social housing units have been delayed by the orchestrated building hi-jackings of March 2017. The City is committed to doing everything possible to get this social housing project back on track through the correct legal channels.
In closing, Speaker, we are on a mission to make Cape Town a place where you can feel secure in your future and hopeful for your family, despite all the evidence of decay in South Africa.
We will grow this economy and lift people out of poverty.
We are delivering on the commitments we made to end load-shedding, to increase safety, to take over passenger rail, and modernise our service delivery offering.
We are getting more land through the system. Changing people’s lives by helping them own their houses, and giving them a legacy to leave forever.
Recently Zakes Bantwini – who is an acclaimed recording artist and DJ – reached out to me on Instagram last week. He told me that he is considering moving his family to Cape Town permanently. We had a chat and by the time we were done he said I had convinced him to make the move, but now for the difficult part of convincing his wife.
What this shows is that the beacon of hope we aim to turn Cape Town into is slowly but surely shining brighter and brighter. And those outside of Cape Town are taking note.
There is still lots that needs to be done, and we are working on doing more.
We are now one month away from a Festive Season that is going to be a bumper tourism season.
Our city is cleaner, and residents are answering the call to take pride and help #SpringCleanCT.
Visitors are back. 191 direct flights a week are back, more than ever before. Jobs are coming back.
One gets the sense that Cape Town is back.
This is all thanks to Team Cape Town, every person here who makes it happen for our City every day.
Source: City Of Cape Town