On the 16th of March 2021, the Western Cape Finance MEC David Maynier delivered his budget speech outlining the Western Cape’s planning for a possible COVID-19 third wave. Maynier termed this budget a budget of hope. While the budget details the plan in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the province, it failed to locate one of the key super-spreaders in the province: informal settlements. In September 2020 for instance, over 8000 people were confirmed to have tested positive for COVID-19 in Khayelitsha alone, amounting to approximately 10 % of the city of Cape Town’s total cases during that time.
The numbers of infections are not a representation of recklessness from residents of Khayelitsha, but they tell a story of the geopolitics of the area. Khayelitsha has one of the highest concentrations of informal settlements in South Africa, many of which do not get adequate and regular services. As a result, residents in Khayelitsha’s informal settlements, and many others across the province, are at risk of contracting the virus due to their living conditions. In his speech’s closing, one of Maynier’s rallying points to residents in the province is to play their part by wearing masks, sanitising regularly and social distancing. However, how does social distancing look like for people whose daily lives are marked by overcrowding? How does sanitising regularly look like for people who have severe water insecurity on a daily basis?
A meaningful plan to adequately prepare for a possible third wave should be one that also centralises the upgrading of informal settlements in order to protect some of the most vulnerable members of our province.
The goals for the budget are to support job creation, build safer communities and deliver well-being for communities in these uncertain times as the nation fights Covid-19. The pandemic has deepened existing inequalities in South Africa; vulnerable populations such as people living in informal settlements and low income earning informal traders have been most affected by the loss of income. It is disappointing that the Western Cape budget does not directly speak to providing a recovery plan for the informal business sector. The private sector is not the sole contributor to economic growth and job creation. The informal sector acts as a safety net for the formal economy, this allows the unemployed to find work or start their own businesses, which boosts income and alleviates poverty.
The SJC notes that the R2.35 Billion has been allocated for ‘safety’ in the medium term on improving safety in the Western Cape. The SJC welcomes this allocation as the recent crime statistics report showed an increase of 6.6 % in murders nationally and in particular, the Western Cape had an increase of 11.2% in murders and a 22.5% increase in attempted murder cases. Furthermore, the Western Cape has seen a sharp increase in hijackings where car jacking’s increased by 14.9%, truck hijackings rose by 103% and cash-in-transit robberies increased by 166.7%. This is alarming as the allocation of adequate police resources in high crime areas within the Western Cape was called for in the Khayelitsha Commission Inquiry and recommendations were made to this effect as far back as 2014.
The SJC cannot help but question whether the MEC’s budget allocation would seek to address claims over concerns over the latest crime statistics when communities such as Makhaza are still waiting for a police station to be built. Working-class and poor black communities cannot be expected to report crimes and enjoy safety and security when there is no clear plan of action and allocation of adequate police resources.