’Plain asks for ’meaningful’ budget consultation

Pictured right is Elton Jansen, Sub-council 17 chairman, addressing attendees at the the City of Cape Town’s draft budget 2022/2023 public meeting.

Mitchell’s Plain civic associations are sceptical about whether their submissions relating to the City of Cape Town’s draft R61.5 billion budget for the 2022/23 financial year will be taken into account.

Last night (Tuesday April 12) the draft budget was tabled at a public meeting for Sub-council 12 at Rocklands civic centre and last Thursday, April 7, for Sub-council 17 at the Strandfontein community hall.

Members of the public have until May 3 to submit their comments on the budget.

Mitchell’s Plain United Residents’ Association (MURA) deputy chairman Michael Jacobs felt the City was merely checking the boxes when it asked for input. “It is very clear that the City administration has already made up their mind concerning the budget and it is nothing but another tick-the-box exercise”.

He said residents faced various challenges, including unemployment, sky-rocketing fuel and food prices, further deprivation and battling to keep their head above water.

“The City’s proposed budget increase on rates, refuse, water, sanitation and electricity is cruel and unsympathetic,” he said.

MURA proposes a 0.5% increase on refuse and sanitation; zero increases on water and the scrapping of the fixed pipe levy; and no increases on electricity and the scrapping of the fixed service charge on electricity.

“It is clear that City departments and councillors already had their meetings and that they then put their wish list on the table,” he said.

Mr Jacobs said for the budget process to be meaningful, communities needed to be consulted from October, the previous year and that more public meetings should be held.

“It should also become compulsory that ward councillors should have at least four public meetings to discuss the proposed budget in their respective wards and consider the inputs of their constituents,” he said.

MURA will be making their submissions in writing and at public meetings.

Shahiem van Nelson, chairman of New Woodlands Ratepayers’ Association (RPA), said the public participation process had marginalised the Muslim community, with the public participation programme taking place in the evenings during in Ramadaan, when Muslims would be breaking their fast and going to mosque for evening prayer.

He proposed that the Sub-council also have meetings during the day and on the weekend.

“However the question remains, are these processes merely smokescreens or are the submissions of communities actually taken into account?” he asked.

Mr Van Nelson said he had yet to see the community’s submissions used by the municipality.

“The current budget proposals are making the poor poorer.

“The current budget is not in line with inflation as more and more people will fall into arrears with their municipal accounts.”

He said during the current economic climate residents had to choose between buying bread or electricity, when their water bill was in arrears.

Wiseman Ruiters, public relations officer for Ratepayers Forum and Economic Development, incorporating residents from Bayview and surrounding areas, said they were encouraged that residents had been invited to participate in this process.

“We gladly support a budget that seeks to address the needs of our communities in a comprehensive and progressive manner,” he said.

Mr Ruiters proposed that the community, businesses and service providers in particular areas had to be acknowledged and spoken to before the budget was drawn up.

“This will give us an opportunity to give an assessment of the real and raw needs in our given community.

“From our perspective, looking at the allocations, there is not as great an allocation to the Cape Flats as is needed.”

He said not enough emphasis was put on service delivery for the middle class on the Cape Flats.

“These community members ensure that our government can meet their commitments made to the poor and working class.

“Nobody seems to understand that this group pays the highest taxes and rates and have to pay dearly for the education of their children.

“Their disposable income is ever decreasing while their earnings do not match these increases,” he said.

Mr Ruiters said the middle class was subsidising the City’s service delivery to the growing informal settlements.

“We hope our City officials will engage organisations working on the ground, serving our people, through the whole budget process,” he said.

Meanwhile, the City has had to change the way it engages with residents in order to reduce risk and prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Apart from communicating on the draft budget via social media, telephone, WhatsApp, through mailers, media releases and the City’s website, a number of engagements at Sub-council level and other forums were also being held.

Mayoral committee member for finance Siseko Mbandezi said the City was committed to bringing the draft budget to residents and ratepayers as it was important that they look over and comment on it.

“They may be part of the City’s efforts in providing the best possible services to residents across the metro. We thank our ward and PR councillors for continuing to be our public and City ambassadors, and helping to inform our residents about City matters in an accurate, inclusive and responsible manner,” he said.

Mr Mbandezi said that this year’s budget was about doing more for the residents of Cape Town. “It was prepared with the intention of keeping rates and service charges as low as possible to assist residents, communities and businesses who are struggling,” he said.

The budget theme this year is “Doing more for safety, services and jobs”.

During his budget speech on March 31, Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said that more needed to be done for Mitchell’s Plain residents, using as an example, Eleanore Campher, who lives with her two daughters next to an alleyway that is frequently used as an escape route for gangsters.

“This family has become so afraid of violent crime that they now take shifts throughout the night, keeping watch for criminals,” he said.

Mr Hill-Lewis said the significant commitments made in this draft budget were being met by modest increases on what the City could charge residents in taxes and service tariffs.

“But we know this is still a substantial burden commitment for our residents,” he said.