How we turned around Cape Town - Zille

DA leader says City's story could be South Africa's Story

Election 2011: The Cape Town Story could be South Africa's Story

Note to editors: this statement accompanies a press conference that was held today at Johannesburg's Carlton Centre, where DA leader Helen Zille, DA Cape Town Mayoral candidate, Patricia de Lille, National Spokesperson Lindiwe Mazibuko, Federal Chairperson Wilmot James and Johannesburg Mayoral Candidate Mmusi Maimane presented to the media the Cape Town Story. The document can be downloaded here. More information about the Cape Town Story and other DA delivery records can be found on our election blog.

On Saturday, the DA launched its 2011 local election campaign. We made it clear that this election will not be a racial contest. This election offers voters a choice between two political parties, each with a different track record in government.

On 18 May, we want every South African to be clear about their choice at the ballot box. And so the thrust of our election campaign is to show South Africa what the DA has achieved where it governs.

The booklet we are releasing today documents how the DA-led coalition government managed to arrest the decline of the City of the Cape Town after narrowly securing a majority of councillors in the 2006 local government election. The Cape Town Story shows how, in five years, we managed to turn South Africa's worst-performing metro into the best.

The people of Cape Town already know much of the Cape Town Story. They know the difference that DA government has made in their lives. That is why they gave us an outright majority in the 2009 provincial election. 

And so this is why we chose Johannesburg as the location for the launch of this booklet.

In this election, we want voters to know what the DA can do if we are given a chance to govern where they live. We want to repeat the Cape Town Story all over South Africa.  In this way, step by step, we can improve the lives of more and more people.

Cape Town is today recognised as the best performing metro in the country. Last year, the ratings agency Moody's rated Cape Town "at the high end of the five metropolitan municipalities." The BEE ratings agency Empowerdex concluded that "Cape Town is clearly the best city in the country for service delivery."

But it wasn't always this way.

What the DA inherited

In April 2006, the DA-led coalition government inherited a city that was failing. In the previous financial year, Cape Town had spent only 60% of its capital budget, the worst performance of any metro in South Africa.

Revenue collection had collapsed with over R4 billion in unpaid rates outstanding. Essential services such as fire, policing and health were understaffed and inadequately equipped. Morale in the administration was low.

In 2005, the Department of Water Affairs found that Cape Town failed to meet national standards for sewage effluent 25% of the time. A study by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation observed "evidence of a systemic failure of the water treatment/sewerage system in Cape Town." Between 2002 and 2006, only 7 kilometres of old water pipe had been replaced against an estimated minimum requirement of 160km.

Corruption in the City was rife. One senior official was known as "Mr Ten Percent" because of the "facilitation fee" he reputedly charged service providers. A series of high profile corruption scandals dogged the city.

Staff reporting lines were a mess and performance monitoring was ineffective. Cadre deployment had destroyed the capacity of the administration, particularly at senior levels. The Chief Engineer held a qualification in human resource management. He had no engineering qualification at all.

What the DA did

The DA-led coalition started by overhauling the administrative systems, appointing the right people in the right places and re-prioritising expenditure. By 2007, the organisation had been restructured and 1,800 new qualified staff members, mostly technical personnel, had been appointed. Performance targets were set for all staff, including the City Manager.

Emergency budget allocations were used to rescue ailing departments. R57 million was allocated to fund critical posts, particularly for nurses, fire-fighters and police services. Another R31-million was allocated for capital expenditure in the Metro Police and Traffic and Licensing Department.

The new administration started getting a grip on its finances. Within a year of taking over the City, it had cut debt by nearly R1 billion and written off debt for the very poor. It began a relentless drive to collect revenue from ratepayers with the means to pay. By 2010, the City had increased its revenue collection rate to 96%.

At the same time, the DA increased subsidies and rebates for the poor. The DA's indigent policy doubled the qualifying income threshold to R3 000 per month so that many more poor people benefited. Those eligible received a 100% rates rebate, free refuse collection, 10 500 litres of free water and 50 kilowatt hours of free electricity per month.

To clean up government the DA established a Standing Committee on Public Accounts, chaired by a councillor from an opposition party, to scrutinise all spending of public money. All Council meetings and Mayoral Committee meetings were opened to the public. The City's Bid Adjudication Tender Award Committee was also opened up, putting an end to the era of "Mr Ten Percent" and other tender manipulators.

Increased revenue, increased efficiency and clean government meant there was more money for service delivery and infrastructure development.

The City increased spending on infrastructure, rising from R950m in 2004/2005 to R3.5 billion in 2010/2011. And it tripled expenditure on repairs and maintenance to R1.6 billion per year. While only 7 km of old water pipe had been replaced in the four years before 2006, the new administration replaced 40 km of pipe per year.

Between 2006 and 2010, spending on free water, electricity and housing doubled from R385 million to R776 million. As a result, more Cape Town residents, particularly the poor, have access to basic services than anywhere else in the country.

-- In 2009, data providers IHS Global Insight, ranked Cape Town the top metro in terms of household access to water, sanitation, refuse removal and electricity.

-- In 2010, the Support Programme for Accelerated Infrastructure Development under the auspices of the Department of Co-operative Government ranked Cape Town number one in South Africa for access to services.

-- In 2010, the national government's Universal Household Access to Basic Services or UHABS index found that Cape Town delivered more basic services to the poor than any other district or metropolitan municipality in the country. The UHABS study found that 94% of poor households in Cape Town have access to sanitation; 95% have access to electricity; 98% have access to refuse removal and 100% have access to water.

The Cape Town Story documents all of this and much more besides.

It details how we cut crime through expanding the metro police, installing CCTV cameras and investing in social infrastructure.

It shows how we accelerated housing delivery from 2 000 units in 2003 to 9 000 in 2010 and made the allocation of houses fairer and more transparent.

And it demonstrates how the DA has improved public healthcare, cutting the infant mortality rate from 25.2 in 2003 to 20.8 in 2009 and achieving an 80% TB cure rate, the highest in the country.

The Cape Town Story is far from over. In fact, we have only reached the end of the first chapter.   It was possible to arrest decline and turn it around in a relatively short time, because aspects of the City's administration were still functional.  In a context of total collapse, recovery is always much more difficult.

There is a still a long way to go in Cape Town and across South Africa. Too many people still live in poverty. There is still a huge divide between the rich and the poor. There are still people living without access to basic services. There is still much we can do to improve their lives.

And we are not perfect. We make mistakes. But when we do, we do our best to fix them.

As the Cape Town Story shows, we are moving in the right direction. Our goal at this election is to put other towns and cities on the same path as Cape Town. We think every citizen in South Africa deserves the same level of service delivery where they live.

Statement issued by DA leader Helen Zille, March 28 2011

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