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Cape Town puts the brakes on new developments

Cape Town is putting puts the brakes on new developments in more than 144 areas because the city sewerage system cannot deal with the extra burden and needs upgrading – a process it says will take years.

That was the essence of a media release directed at the Mother City’s builders, developers, architects, quantity surveyors, and (although not mentioned) the thousands of workers who would otherwise be employed in building projects.

The message was issued in the names of Alderman Xanthea Limberg, the Mayoral Committee Member for Water and Waste, and the Mayoral Committee Member for Spatial Planning and Environment, Alderman Marian Nieuwoudt. In other words, it was signed off by the heads of the two departments that should have seen this bottleneck coming.

It did not announce a much-needed speeding up of the regulatory process that governs the building industry. Instead, it promised even more delays.

“Developments to connect to the sewerage system will be aligned to the completion of major capacity upgrades at the Potsdam, Zandvliet, and Macassar Waste Water Treatment Works. To ensure sustainable development, it is necessary that these plants operate within existing capacity while major upgrades are underway”.

This officialise can be translated as: It has now dawned on the Council that expanding cities need to plan and build water and sewerage works that can deal with increasing numbers.

Meanwhile, all plans for new construction in the more than 144 designated areas will have to wait for permission to lay a brick. That’s around 12 dozen individually listed areas plus all suburbs in Gordon’s Bay, Sir Lowry’s Pass Village, Strand, Somerset West, Firgrove, Croydon, Faure, Macassar, and surrounding rural areas.

However, “During the next three years, almost 50% of the City’s R25 billion capital expenditure plan will be invested in water and sanitation infrastructure. The City is further projecting a minimum R8bn investment for major Waste Water Treatment Works upgrades over (sic) the next 10 years”.

In simple language, the City is planning to spend a lot of money on the problem in the next ten years.

This nice try at virtue-signalling would be better received had it been made ten years ago. Then it would have proved that there were people on the Council payroll who could think further into the future than the end of the month.

The City describes itself in the announcement, “As an accountable and responsible local government…committed to doing everything possible to enable sustainable economic growth and development, while meeting Municipal Planning By-law … obligations to take into account the capacity of services infrastructure when applications for new developments are submitted for approval”.


Did no one in the Council up until now figure out that the sewerage system would soon not be able to keep up with developments? Do those in the various departments in the Byzantine recesses of the City bureaucracy speak to each other? It would appear not.

Boasting about the number of plans passed is one thing the council servants are good at. Thinking about the implications for the sewerage system should have followed.

Instead, highly paid officials in Water and Waste appear never to have spoken to their colleagues in the Spatial Planning and Environment department. Did the penny only drop when the sewerage started to flow into rivers? Was it only then that the need for this embarrassing notice was realized? In other words, when it became obvious that both departments had been caught napping?

It would seem so.

This sorry situation raises the suspicion once again that serving the ratepayers and the private sector that pays its rates has been forgotten by many of the Council servants – rhetoric aside, of course.

They are still good at that.

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