City of Cape Town Municipality: Advancing socio-economic development in a challenging environment

Cape Town is set in one of the most evocative settings on the planet. Overlooked by Table Mountain, the city has the most spectacular backdrop and according to the last census in 2011, is home to over 3.7 million people.

Cape Town first received local self-government in 1839, with the promulgation of a municipal ordinance by the government of the Cape Colony.

During the 20th century, many of the suburban municipalities became unsustainable and merged into the Cape Town municipality or combined with other suburbs; but at the end of apartheid in 1994 the metropolitan area was still divided up into several [vague] separate municipalities.

As part of the post-1994 reforms, municipal government experienced a complete overhaul. In 1996 the Cape Town metropolitan area was divided into six municipalities – Cape Town/Central, Tygerberg, South Peninsula, Blaauwberg, Oostenberg and Helderberg – along with a Metropolitan Administration to oversee the whole metropolitan area. At the time of the 2000 municipal elections these various structures were merged to form the City of Cape Town as a single metropolitan municipality governing the whole metropolitan area. It is for this reason that the City of Cape Town is sometimes referred to as the “Unicity”.

The current municipality covers Cape Point in the south-west, Somerset West in the south-east, and Atlantis in the north, and includes Robben Island.

The City is currently in the final year of an Integrated Development Plan, running from 2012 to 2017.

The Integrated Development Plan (IDP) aims to develop a clear vision and key priorities for the City; decide how money is best spent and allocate scarce resources; reflect the Council’s development strategies and objectives for the elected term; and design a framework for development – social, economic, environmental, spatial, infrastructural.

The socio-economic challenges Cape Town faces are vast and variable. The City’s government recently provided an update on the R19 million ceiling retrofit project in Heinz Park, Philippi.

In a media release, the City of Cape Town announced that it is currently implementing Phase 2 of this massive redress project by installing ceilings and water-proofing in around 3,451 government-subsidised houses which were built between 1994 and 2005 without water-proofing and ceilings.

The City has now commenced the second phase where we are investing R60 million to install new ceilings and weather-proof roofs where deemed necessary in houses in Macassar, Chris Nissen, Gordon’s Bay, Heinz Park, Phumlani, Silver City and Sir Lowry’s Pass Village.6

In 2014 the Mayor became aware of around 40,000 low-cost subsidy homes which were built without ceilings and water-proofing. As part of our commitment to redressing the wrongs of the past, we undertook this large-scale ceiling retrofit project.

The fact that the residents lived in these conditions for many years has caused residents much discomfort due to poor thermal performance and condensation, which gives rise to damp conditions and poor indoor air quality and can cause respiratory illnesses.

To date, the City has invested R83 million during Phase 1 where around 4 550 ceilings were installed in various areas, such as Eureka Estate in Uitsig, Kalkfontein, Lwandle, Vrygrond, Broadlands and Wesbank. This redress project also includes fixing roof leaks and installing safer ceiling lighting.

The City is spending R19 million on retrofitting 1,142 homes in Heinz Park.

Residents are already reaping the benefits and seeing major improvements in their quality of life and with their energy usage.

This project is also one of our key climate change mitigation projects as residents now require less energy to heat their homes in winter or to keep cool during the warm summer months.

Residents will see significant savings on electricity consumption and costs, while this project also contributes to the City’s carbon emissions reduction.

For the first 8,001 homes which will be retrofitted with insulated ceilings, there will a reduction of approximately 5,600 tonnes of carbon per annum.

Residents in these 8,001 households will save a total of R5.8 million per year in electricity costs (based on 2015 electricity tariffs) because they will require less energy to keep their homes warm.

Construction of Phase 2 started this month and all houses will be completed by 30 June 2017, the press release stated.

If reminders were needed of the importance of local government, a stark reminder came to Cape Town in February 2017 as a water shortage issue deepened.

Towards the end of the month, the City of Cape Town’s water crisis warning on electronic freeway signboards went live, indicating how much water the metro has left at current consumption rates. This was an effort to strengthen the warning that saving water is the best contingency measure before and during a time of drought.

The City has adjusted its water consumption target downwards from 800 million litres to 700 million litres for collective water usage per day. Reducing consumption remains a key intervention during a time of severe drought, as Cape Town is currently experiencing.

“It means that if we all use approximately 40 per cent less water every day, compared with what we usually use during unrestricted times, about 1.2 billion litres per day, we will have 135 days left of water. If we save more, we’ll have water for more days. Seasonal changes would also increase the number of days, such as good rainfall and lower evaporation rates of the dams as it becomes cooler.

“The current situation is that we have not met the previous target of 800 million litres per day. This is reducing the actual number of days of water that we have left. The closer we stay to and below the new target of 700 million litres per day, the more days of water we will have left.

“This message on the signboards is the latest in our myriad attempts to literally drive the message home that we need to reduce consumption now. It is the best contingency measure that we have.

“Our signs, indicating how much water we could have left at our current consumption rates are a stern call to action. Although we thank all of our great water ambassadors out there, we need all residents, businesses and government spheres to heed this call. There now really is no escaping the message,” said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Informal Settlements, Water and Waste Services; and Energy, Councillor Xanthea Limberg.

While the City’s regular enforcement blitzes continue, the City’s Executive Mayor, Patricia de Lille, has also started to visit some high water consumers. If their consumption is not lowered immediately, measures will be taken to force consumption downwards.

As February progressed, the City announced that the names of those residents or businesses issued with fines over water consumption would be made public.

“The City will consider further drastically lowering water pressure to a larger extent. We are currently expanding the existing pressure-reducing programme. This programme entails maintaining constant supply where we have the infrastructure to do so, but it may result in intermittent supply in the higher areas of the supply zone.

“Consumption patterns and dam levels over the coming weeks will determine how the pressure reduction programme will be rolled out further. The City will communicate timeously about any decision in this regard,” said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Informal Settlements, Water and Waste Services; and Energy, Councillor Xanthea Limberg.

The City stated: “It must be emphasised that reducing consumption now remains the absolute key intervention and contingency measure that can be adopted at this stage and going forward.

“Regular enforcement operations remain in place, in addition to the targeted engagements with the top 20,000 consumers with the highest water usage.

“Furthermore, the City continues its long-term water infrastructure investment programme, the roll-out of its leak and pressure management programmes, and investigation into alternative sources of water.”