The following speech was delivered by City of Cape Town Executive Mayor, Patricia de Lille, at the full Council meeting today, 5 December 2017
Mr Speaker, may we have a moment of silence for the people who lost their lives this past month on our roads and in fires and for struggle veteran and former Robben Island prisoner, Edward Daniels.
Today is also the fourth anniversary of the day that our dear former president, Tata Madiba, left us.
Mr Speaker, we are at the end of what has certainly been a very trying year in the City of Cape Town due to our worst drought in over 100 years.
This year, we ramped up our efforts to save water and go beyond our Constitutional mandate to do everything we can to avoid acute water shortages and bring additional water supply projects online.
I want to thank Capetonians for doing all they can to save water. Your efforts are highly commendable, but there are still too many residents who are not doing enough to save water.
This stubborn behaviour puts us at jeopardy of reaching Day Zero much sooner than May 2018.
To ensure that we work as hard as we can to take on this mammoth task, I am meeting with the Emergency Resilience Task Team daily to ensure that we work as quickly as possible.
My only interest in this time of crisis is to ensure that we do everything we can to ensure water supply for the people of Cape Town.
As of yesterday, our dam levels stand at 35,1%, while collective consumption stands at 611 million litres per day.
We are at the start of a long, dry summer and have yet to reach the target of 500 million litres per day.
Water savings must be stepped up so that we can avoid Day Zero when the City will turn off most taps.
Day Zero comes when we reach 13,5% dam storage and residents will have to queue for water from approximately 200 collection sites across the city.
No one wants to or can afford to see this day and for this reason we have to get to the usage to 500 million litres of water per day so that we can push Day Zero further away.
We have done well to reduce our water consumption from 1,1 billion litres per day before January 2016 and before water restrictions were imposed, but hovering around the 600 million litre per day consumption level is dangerous.
A week ago we had very unseasonal summer rain and this triggered Capetonians to behave badly and increase their consumption. That brings Day Zero forward.
No matter what the weather does and especially with the long, dry summer upon us, we will have to do more.
Two weeks ago, we released our new weekly water dashboard which tells residents how they are doing with saving water. It also illustrates the dam level behaviour and thirdly it indicates how the City is progressing with its plans to bring additional water online.
Together these factors determine when Day Zero is, which as of this week is 20 May 2017.
This is a visual reminder of what’s in store and how we will all have to change our behaviour to push Day Zero back.
Mr Speaker, we can only beat this drought together. We will work around the clock to bring additional water online but residents’ savings must continue.
That’s the only way this partnership will work, if we all do our part.
Mr Speaker, we will not allow people to get away with excessive water use.
Since August, the City has installed nearly 19 000 water management devices at the properties of excessive users.
On Sunday, I joined the Water and Sanitation Department to install these devices at properties in Pinelands and Thornton where, despite warnings, these residents have not reduced their consumption.
They have prevented our staff from installing these devices on two occasions and have also not contacted the City to justify or explain their water use.
Between the three properties we visited on Sunday, their water use was between 19 000 and 48 000 litres per month for the past six months.
We will continue to roll out these devices at high consumption household at a rate of 2 000 or more per week because we cannot allow the abuse of water to continue in this time of severe water scarcity.
It is unfair on those residents who are doing so much to save water for others to continue their high use.
We are setting the devices at 350 litres per day, but where there are more than four people residing on a property these residents can apply for a quota increase by submitting documentation to the City.
The City will investigate each case and set the device at the appropriate level so that each person has their 87 litres for the day.
Mr Speaker, at this critical time of the drought, we need to make tough decisions for the sake of our city and its residents.
In order to ensure water supply, today before Council is the proposed drought charge.
This is a necessary consideration to help us avoid the dreadful Day Zero scenario.
I am proposing to Council today that the City introduce a temporary drought charge as of 1 February 2018.
The reason for this is simple: our survival. We all simply need water to survive.
Our teams are working around the clock to secure new sources of water and to ensure that our existing supply of water goes further.
We are already producing more water from the Atlantis-Silwerstroom Aquifer, drilling of abstraction boreholes into the Table Mountain Group Aquifer to supply the Steenbras catchment area, and feeding additional water into our supply system from the Oranjezicht Springs.
These and other projects make up the water augmentation projects that are estimated to bring sufficient additional water on stream to avoid Day Zero.
Additional water augmentation projects include desalination, groundwater abstraction, and water recycling that are in the advanced stages of implementation.
A dramatic reduction in demand is critical to managing the drought, but it has also resulted in a dramatic reduction in the City’s revenue.
Based on consumption figures for October 2017, the Water and Sanitation Department has calculated that the projected water budget will suffer a deficit in the region of R1,7 billion for 2017/2018.
Without this critical income, we will be unable to fund not only all of the proposed water augmentation programmes, but also the basic operations required to provide water and sanitation services to the people of Cape Town.
For this reason, I am proposing a drought charge to help pay for these vital projects for 2018.
The drought charge will be a temporary additional charge based on existing property valuations that will assist with the City’s budget shortfall.
The proposed drought charge, should Council agree today, is also subject to the Minister of Finance, Malusi Gigaba’s, approval.
An extensive communication campaign will commence in the next few days to obtain input from residents and businesses on the drought charge. This process will commence in the coming days and run until 12 January 2018.
The funds will mainly be used for the day-to-day provision of drinking water and also to ensure that there is sufficient budget available to spend on emergency water augmentation projects if we need them.
It must be emphasised that the drought charge is not intended to be punitive as it relates to residents’ water savings.
But as the City has to continue its operations in service provision, the drought charge is necessary to ensure water supply for all residents as acute water shortages will have dire implications for all residents and the local economy.
If the drought charge is approved in the January 2018 adjustment budget, it will raise approximately R420 million in the 2017/18 financial year and approximately R1 billion per year for the next three years.
A charge based on property valuations has been deemed the most progressive of the options, while being the most equitable and fair to poor households.
For this reason, the drought charge will only be applied to residential properties with a valuation of R400 000 and above, and to all commercial properties with a valuation of R50 000 and above.
As an example, the proposed drought charge will work as follows: for a residential property with a valuation of R800 000, this household could pay a drought charge of R45 and for a property with a valuation of R1 million, the proposed drought charge would be R60.
The drought charge is only expected to be in place until the end of the 2020/21 financial year (three years).
The City administration has already diverted a total of R473 million away from other departments to fund these new water augmentation projects and assist with their immediate operating needs, but it is not enough.
The increased unpredictability and randomness of rainfall is a feature of climate change and one that we need to prepare for.
Combatting this drought requires a partnership with the City and its residents, whose help is vital to enable the City to bring additional water supply online.
The drought charge, along with residents’ water savings, is the effort needed to beat this drought.
I am appealing to councillors and residents to work with the City and see this as a necessary step to keep the water in the pipes and, as far as possible, avoid the disastrous implications of Day Zero and the introduction of water collection points.
Mr Speaker, this past month our teams and contractors have been hard at work to ensure that we can bring the additional supply projects online.
I visited the Steenbras catchment area where we are drilling boreholes into the Table Mountain Group Aquifer.
Last Sunday we also saw the helicopter and the electromagnetic disc which has been conducting aerial surveys of the Atlantis and Cape Flats Aquifers to determine the prime sites for where the most water can be abstracted.
Residents have seen the helicopter and the underslung wheel attached to it flying around Atlantis, Mitchells Plain and Khayelitsha.
Mr Speaker, in closing while we are also getting on with the work of building additional water capacity, we are also continuing our work of service delivery and bringing parity of services in other areas of our work.
Two weeks ago, we celebrated with 86 claimant families who are set to return to the land they were forcibly removed from in Bishop’s Court.
These families were removed between 1966 and 1969 under the atrocious Group Areas Act and were moved to areas such as Lotus River, Steenbras and Grassy Park, among other areas.
While we could celebrate with the families, these occasions are also sad as many claimants have passed away while waiting to return home as the rightful owners of the land.
The claimants of the prime land in Bishop’s Court, known as the Protea Village Action Committee, lodged their claim for the land in 1995.
In 2006, the National Government, the City and claimant community signed a Memorandum of Agreement in which the City agreed to transfer 8,5 hectares of the land to the claimants at no cost. Today this land is valued at approximately R100 million.
The National Department of Public Works also agreed to transfer 3,7 hectares of land that was in its ownership to the claimants at no cost.
This is only right as claimants cannot buy back their own land.
This restitution process was delayed when a legal battle ensued in which some local residents who deemed themselves as ‘interest and affected parties’ took the claimants to court, essentially asking that this land remain public open space.
Thankfully, in 2011 the court ruled in favour of the claimants and the processes to return to their land could recommence.
The City assisted with all planning and legislative tasks related to the resettlement of the claimant community, such as the sub-division process which has been concluded.
The claimants are finalising their plans for the land to build 86 residential properties for the claimant families, an education facility, sports grounds and residential units for the open market that will cross-subsidise the cost of the claimants’ homes.
With this and many other cases, we will continue acting on our commitment to do all we can to ensure that the rightful owners are returned to their land that was so cruelly taken away from them.
Finally, I want to wish all councillors, City staff, their families and all residents a safe and enjoyable festive season. While you refresh and relax, please don’t relax your water-saving efforts. We must push harder to save even more.
Thank you for all your hard work over the past year. Let’s come back in the new year ready to take our work to the next level.
Thank you, baie dankie, enkosi, shukran. God bless.