Budget tackles social and human priorities

Housing and the delivery of basic services to formal and informal settlements are placing an extraordinary pressure on the City of Ekurhuleni. MMC for Finance Moses Makwakwa listed the increasing demand for housing within limited available space as one of the biggest challenges that the metro faces.

“The Freedom Charter tells us that our people shall be decently housed in order to bring up their families in comfort and regain their dignity. In this regard, a total budget of R579-million has been allocated for human settlement development and urban renewal,” he said in his budget speech.

The scope of services provided to general and indigent households is quite broad. The collection of revenue is obviously crucial to delivering these services, and Makwakwa said that the city’s e-Siyakhokha online system was a demonstration of how it was trying to make it easier to monitor and pay bills.

“Since the introduction of e-Siyakhokha we have been experiencing a growing number of payments via the online system. Currently we have over 170 000 registered accounts, a 107% increase from the 82 000 we had in the 2013/2014 financial year.”

The increases in general rates and taxes — averaging out at little more than 10% — meant that Ekurhuleni “remains the most affordable metro in the country to live in”, he said. Proof of this, he said, was that the average monthly household bill had only increased by R209 since 2011.

Despite these marginal increases, the city has managed to provide a comprehensive social package as a relief to indigent and other households worth R2.5-billion. This includes: 100% rebates on assessment rates, 100kW of free basic electricity, 9kl of free water and an additional 9kl for sanitation, and free refuse removal.

Residents and households benefit further from tariffs remaining unchanged from last year for cemeteries, libraries, recreational halls and the hiring and use of sports and recreational facilities.

Makwakwa said there was a growing demand for housing in Ekurhuleni, but limited available land.

• The R579-million put aside for human settlement development and urban renewal will be allocated as follows:

• R286-million for servicing 16 000 stands to improve the living conditions of people waiting for houses;

• R37-million for the refurbishment of rental houses;

• R35-million for urban renewal in Watville-Actonville, Tembisa and Kathorus; and

• R44-million for social housing in Germiston.

“Furthermore, we welcome the pronouncement by the MEC of Finance in Gauteng (Barbara Creecy) who in her budget speech announced that the province has set aside R983-million for human settlement in the Eastern Corridor,” said Makwakwa.

This money will be used to build housing units in Chief Albert Luthuli, John Dube Extension 2, Tsakane Extension 22, Germiston South, Leeuwpoort, Rietfontein, Claysville Extension 45 and the redevelopment of hostels in Springs (Kwa-Thema) and Tembisa.

This development cannot take place in isolation, with the city committing R1.2-billion for roads and stormwater infrastructure. The bulk of this (R675-million) will be used to develop roads and stormwater, and pedestrian walkways and bridges across the city. Areas that will be targeted in this programme include Duduza, Tsakane, Kwa-Thema, Daveyton/Etwatwa, Wattville, Vosloorus, Katlehong, Tokoza, Tembisa, and commercial and industrial areas.

The remaining R555-million of this budget allocation will be used for the rehabilitation and resurfacing of roads and storm water infrastructure.

An additional R1.4-billion is being directed toward the expansion and provision of a sustainable energy supply and protecting the integrity of the city’s power grid. Makwakwa said this would be used to install street and high mast lighting, upgrading substations, enhancing the network, and electrification and alternative energy sources, especially in informal settlement areas.

The final piece in the infrastructure puzzle is the R825-million that has been allocated for transport infrastructure, including repairs and maintenance. Of this amount, R568-million will be used to build the Integrated Rapid Public Transport Network, R93-million to build four new taxi ranks in Palm Ridge, New Vosloorus, Bluegum and Phutaditshaba, and R40-million for Metro Buses to cover new routes in the East.

Makwakwa said Ekurhuleni was committed to protecting the city’s communities and their properties: “In ensuring that we continue making more serious and meaningful inroads in creating safer communities and improving efficiencies in disaster management, we have allocated R128-million towards the rehabilitation of existing emergency infrastructure and construction of new facilities. These will cover the Germiston, Kwa-Thema and Thokozana fire stations.

“The emergency department will be implementing, among others, a Community Risk Monitoring Project that will focus on the skilling and training of volunteers as Risk Monitors within the areas in which they live, so that they are able to assist with ward-based risk assessments and risk reduction efforts.

“Furthermore, R100-million has been set aside for the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police Department’s infrastructure programme.”