‘Draft budget is not a people’s budget’

Norman Jantjes, chairperson of the Mitchells Plain United Residents Association.

Mitchell’s Plain United Residents’Association (MURA) says the City of Cape Town’s R52.7 billion draft budget was not a people’s budget.

The council approved the public participation process on the 2020/2021 draft budget at a sitting in the Civic Centre on Thursday March 26.

The City will communicate with residents via online communication, telephone and through media releases or video.

The draft budget must be finalised by June 2020, in accordance with national legislation and will come into effect on Wednesday July 1.

Residents’ voices will be heard through email and communication by councillors within their wards.

Mura chairman Norman Jantjes said the majority of Cape Town residents and ratepayers have always been excluded from the municipality’s annual budget.

“This year because of Covid-19 the situation is much worse as most of our people don’t have access to the document as they either don’t have internet facilities or funding to download and decipher the document.”

He was responding to the City’s media statement that there would be no face-to-face meetings amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Jantjes said Capetonians were largely excluded from the budget due to the lack of meaningful community participation.

“The public participation process has many shortcomings, for example residents are normally invited to a meeting where large figures and other meaningless information is flighted on the screen.”

He said councillors seldom understood the “accounting language” being used in the budget document and were not in a position to consult or educate their constituents.

The City’s biggest spending highlights continue to be on crime and grime at about R1.5 billion for services such as law enforcement, canal and stormwater cleaning, area cleaning in informal settlements, animal carcass removal and beach cleaning.

This year they proposed
R4.5 billion to be used for safety and security.

For transport R5.6 billion has been proposed, while R2.2 billion has been proposed for housing.

Mr Jantjes said R4.5 billion was allocated to safety and security but the community police forums (CPFs), neighbourhood watches and other community organisations were not consulted.

“Have these structures been consulted as to how the funding needs to be spent?”

A big portion of the budget has been budgeted for the Mayoral Urban Regeneration Programme (MURP) but the community was not consulted about its expenditure priorities.

“Each ward councillor was recently given R1 million which was spent ‘willy-nilly’ without any public participation.”

Mr Jantjes said Mitchell’s Plain needs a control room and hundreds of cameras, from where they can monitor and respond to the crime situation.

“The control room should be staffed by neighbourhood members as they are familiar with the community and the ‘negative elements’ in the community.”

He said MURP and safety and security money could fund this project; and that MURP projects should contribute towards a safer environment and again should be done in consultation with the community.

“MURP funding shouldn’t be seen as a separate and secret fund that can be managed without community involvement and public scrutiny.”

Mr Jantjes said drug abuse was still a major generator of crime and the budget was not clear about how the City would address this problem.

“Non-government organisations are doing excellent work in the community, yet they are not receiving much support from the City.

“MURA has asked the City to establish a community safety forum but this has fallen on deaf ears,” he said.

The association also called for an athletics track to serve the about 70 schools in the area, instead pupils have to be bused to other areas, which puts a further financial burden on parents.

The draft budget proposes smaller increases of between 3.5% and 4.8%, in line with or below the inflation rate.

“Mura does not see the need for the increase in water as the City profited to the tune of hundreds of millions of rand during the drought.”

Mr Jantjes said Mitchell’s Plain has hundreds of small businesses, yet the industrial hive can only accommodate a few.

The City should develop more industrial nodes as this will grow local businesses and create jobs.

“The budget is also not clear about the capacitation of local businesses in the form of training and other support.”

He also raised the issue of the lack of housing in the area and that the budget was not clear as to how many houses would be completed this financial year. “Mura’s main concern is the lack of meaningful public participation and we urge local councillors to put the community’s interest above the interest of their political party when they vote on the budget. Think about the poor people in your wards,” he said.

The draft budget comprises a R44 billion operating allocation and a R8.7 billion capital budget.

Ian Neilson, the mayoral committee member for finance, said prior to the disaster declaration, in the months and weeks leading up to the tabling of the draft budget, much work was done on affordability aspects of rates and services given the already existing economic pressure on customers.

A social assistance package for rates and services of more than
R3 billion is also proposed.

Mr Neilson said that the City did not plan to make a surplus on the sale of services or the income from rates. “Income is used for service provision,” he said.

Mr Neilson said despite keeping the increases within that of inflation, the City had nevertheless been able to provide for some new initiatives, such as the Law Enforcement Advancement Programme (LEAP), which adds a further
1 000 law enforcement officers to the city; and increased spending on the Mayoral Urban Regeneration Programme and advancement of the new water plan.

Key rates and tariff increases are property rates by 4%; electricity by 4.8%; water and sanitation by 4.5%; and refuse collection by 3.5%.

No changes have been made to the tariff structure and the tariff increases are applied across the board.

No rates are payable for residential properties on the first
R300 000

A 3.96% increase is proposed in the residential property rate from R0.00555 c/R to R0.00577 c/R

New property rates categories with lower or no rates have been created for not-for-profit organisations that own their properties and undertake various public benefit activities.

To view the draft budget, visit https://bit.ly/2Ul5Pvm.

To have your say, send comments to Budget.Comments@capetown.gov.za by Saturday May 2.

The City encourages account holders to use the City’s online e-services portal to pay their accounts. Other payment options available to account holders include paying online using their bank’s website or via ATM, at Nedbank; the City is already listed as a beneficiary with all major banks, so account holders do not need to load bank details when paying online.

Account holders can also register with www.paycity.co.za or www.easypay.co.za to pay account.

To pay via ATM, account holders can simply contact their bank
to add the City as an ATM beneficiary.

For more information on how to apply for indigent relief, send an email to indigent.relief@capetown.gov.za or visit www.capetown.gov.za/indigentbenefits.