Picture: Tasso Evangelinos, CCID CEO (left) ; Geordin Hill-Lewis, Mayor of Cape Town (right)
April 6 2023
The City of Cape Town could not be on its prosperous trajectory without the CCID, says Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis.
Hill-Lewis and the CCID (Cape Town Central City Improvement District) have been working on numerous projects together since he started his tenure on November 18, 2021.
The CCID is a not-for-profit private-public company which operates in a 1.6 km² geographical area in the traditional Central Business District (CBD) of Cape Town.
Its stellar work has made the Cape Town CBD the best-run inner city in the country.
The CCID and the City share common goals for Cape Town, which is why they are enjoying successes in various areas of performance and deliverables; they’re the kind of returns that other metropoles dream of.
“Our CBD is the best performing in the country by a long way. There has been tragic degradation in other CBDs. But we are fortunate to have had the CCID as a wonderful partner that wants Cape Town’s to thrive,” says Hill-Lewis.
He explains that the City is taking crime seriously by being proactive. In August last year, the City assigned 100 dedicated Law Enforcement Officers to patrol the CBD, known to Capetonians a “town”, and there is a CCTV control network in place.
The City and CCID work in tandem to ensure Cape Town and the CBD is an excellent business and property investment node attracting billions of rand in investment.
This is evident in how the mayor recently tabled Cape Town’s “Building Hope” budget for 2023/24 with draft open for public participation until May 5 2024.
The budget centres on a record R10.9bn infrastructure investment budget, which surpasses what was spent during the lead-up to the 2010 Soccer World Cup. Hill-Lewis is focussed on ramping up infrastructure spending in Cape Town, to improve basic services and to keep ahead of population growth pressure. The budget also significantly widens the social safety net in the city for residents who are struggling to make ends meet.
The City’s total social support package is up more than half a billion rand in the budget, from R3.75bn to R4.3bn, including R1.96bn in rates rebates and R2.37bn for free basic services.
Pending rates increases connected to new house valuations by municipalities, have been a large concern for Capetonians. However, Hill-Lewis explains that the budget offers help for homeowners. A large positive is that the budget proposes a 50% rates relief increase for all residential properties of R5m and under, with the first R450 000 of property value now rates-free. More pensioners and social grant recipients will also benefit from rates rebates, by raising the upper qualifying limit from R17 500 to R22 000 total monthly household income.
More than 192 000 properties valued at R450 000 or below or with household income below R7 500 will receive a set of monthly benefits.
There will be a 100% rebate for property rates and refuse removal, 15 kl free water and 10.5 kl free sanitation and up to 60 free units of electricity.
Even though the Cape CBD is making huge strides in becoming a hub for business, the situation is, of course, delicate. Things can change given that most South Africans deal with a plethora of issues every day as the country, still a young democracy, faces ongoing challenges such as electricity and water supply crises, decent housing shortages, and high crime and unemployment rates.
This is why public-private partnerships are so critical in Cape Town. The CCID and the City are in regular communication so that any sudden problem which arises in the CBD can be fixed quickly and thoroughly.
The success of the City and the CCID’s partnership is tangible and commendable. The two groups have managed to improve safety and bring down violent crime markedly in the city centre, thanks to improved security and hands-on city management.
“We are using better camera systems so that we can monitor the inner city better. Our security personnel are vetted well and carefully trained,” says Hill-Lewis.
Mayor Hill-Lewis acknowledges that the CBD must deal with a variety of problems. Paramount among these is homelessness, he says.
The City is doing its utmost to alleviate homelessness across the CBD through a number of strategies.
“Homelessness is the biggest issue we are dealing with now. We want to reintegrate into society these people who have been lost to the fringes through circumstances beyond their control. This is why we deploy a social development unit in the inner city. The unit assesses the needs of each homeless person. It may be a referral for drug or alcohol dependency. They may need ID documents. We also offer alternative accommodation as we try to help these people live with dignity, safely within our city,” says Hill-Lewis.
The CCID’s Social Development Department works with the City on several work-rehabilitation programmes in conjunction with its NGO partners.
The need for safe and accessible streets becomes more important as Cape Town’s night-time economy begins to grow.
The City is proposing its biggest ever safety budget of R5.8bn for its 2023/24 budget, including funds for 85 new Metro Police officers, and R166m to expand its Metro Police training college.
The budget includes an R860m investment in safety technology over three years to make Cape Town safer. This includes CCTV, drones, aerial surveillance, licence-plate recognition, dashcams and bodycams for officers.
“The night-time economy holds many positives for Cape Town. At a simple level, it can create jobs and increase economic activity. However, to get to a point where we have a thriving night economy, we need a higher density of residents. I’m confident that this will come over time,” says Hill-Lewis.
While more offices need to be redeveloped into residential developments in order to get night trade to boom, more late-night office workers are entering the CBD. The business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, which includes call centres, is taking up office space.
These are workers who may be providing backup support, particularly in the information technology field often to offshore companies, at night. In large, highly populated cities, night-time workers can access restaurants, coffee shops, laundromats and other services at night.
Mayor Hill-Lewis says that as Cape Town becomes a multi-cultural, busier city with more commerce at night, more restaurants and services will open.
“Restaurants and entertainment won’t be manufactured overnight but over time. The foot traffic will drive investment,” he says.
The second biggest challenge for the City of Cape Town is loadshedding, the Mayor explains.
“We want to end load-shedding in our city. Cape Town can be powered by a variety of sources. Currently, Eskom can’t provide a certain percentage of our power needs. Their prices are not competitive which may change over time, but if they price themselves out of the market, we have to use alternatives,” says Hill-Lewis.
Cape Town’s R2.3bn end load-shedding plan includes R220m to buy power on the open market, R288m for the Power Heroes voluntary energy savings incentive scheme, R1bn to operate the Steenbras hydro-electric plant, R53m in cash for power payments for solar power from residents and businesses, R640m for City-owned solar plants, and R50m for battery storage technology.
The Power Heroes scheme which was launched in late 2023, involves members of the public being rewarded for reducing their power usage at a given time, so that City-supplied customers are protected from the effects of blackouts. The City is aiming for a reduction in power usage of 60MW through the initiative.
Mayor Hill-Lewis said Cape Town was aiming to protect residents from the first four stages of Eskom’s load-shedding within three years.
Referring to the budget, he says that the City has been able to reduce Eskom’s recent 18.49% tariff increase to 17.6% and offer significantly more protection for lower income customers on the subsidised Lifeline tariff, while still funding plans to end sole reliance on expensive Eskom power as soon as possible.
The City has made changes to the tariff structure for residents who qualify for the subsidised Lifeline electricity tariff. Customers consuming more than 350 units would pay R3.71. But because of the Lifeline shift, those customers will now pay R1.84. They have also raised the property value criteria for Lifeline customers to R500 000, up from R400 000, to compensate for residents’ property value growth, according to the Mayor.
The third problem which Mayor Hill-Lewis wants to solve is to get the Cape Town Station, and the rail system, to operate efficiently again. Once this happens, it can accommodate businesspeople across the CBD, allowing them to travel around their city more quickly and efficiently, clinching more deals and completing more projects. The results of more efficient business include wins for an assortment of stakeholders.
“The station’s collapse is a tragedy. But it can be fixed. We don’t need to build a new train system. We have the infrastructure in place already. Ultimately, passenger rail should be run by the City. Currently, the trains are unreliable. There is one train an hour on the Southern Line which is just not good enough. But if the problems are fixed, commuters will come back. Cape Town Station can become like London’s King’s Cross railway station,” says Hill-Lewis.
The train system will be supported by Cape Town’s MyCiTi Integrated Rapid Transit (IRT) public bus system.
The Mayor is banking on his budget to enhance service delivery across the CBD and greater city. It’s all about “doing the basics better”.
This includes spending R3.2bn in informal settlement upgrades and for basic services, a R100m boost to road maintenance, R659m for new reuse removal trucks and equipment, as well as R230m to be spent over the next three years to operate and expand Safe Space transitional shelters to help more homeless people off the streets.
The City is also serious about rolling out more affordable housing.
“One of the biggest challenges in such an expanding and densifying metropolitan area is the availability of affordable, dignified housing,” said Hill-Lewis.
The City allocated R37.8m for its no-cost transfers of 2 500 rental units per year over the next three years. Over this period, it wants 7500 families to become homeowners for the first time of the homes they’ve lived in sometimes for decades, at no cost to them.
To improve ease of doing business and customer experiences, the City is investing R75m to upgrade its online services, R25m for vehicle licensing improvements, and R125m on digital platforms to report service delivery issues.
Cape Town has a bright future with the support of the CCID and the City.
“Over the next few years, I really want to help to transform Cape Town into a city where public spaces are better maintained and upkept. If the look and feel is improved, Cape Town’s path to becoming a global city where foreigners want to live and invest will be a smooth and prosperous one,” he says.
The City-CCID partnership looks set to make downtown Cape Town a safe, clean and beautiful CBD that encourages entrepreneurship, attracts investment and celebrates its inhabitants’ artistic expression.
Paid for editorial article for the Cape Town Central City Improvement District