Budget Advocacy in Action: Social Justice Coalition Campaign to Improve Sanitation Results in 3,000 Submissions to the City of Cape Town’s Budget

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Safe, clean, and adequate sanitation services are essential to basic quality of life. The provision of such sanitation services by the City of Cape Town in South Africa has long been a huge concern for residents of Khayelitsha and other informal settlements surrounding the city. Most families in these informal settlements do not have access to flush toilets and indoor plumbing. Instead, they must rely on temporary sanitation facilities, such as portable or container toilets. Residents are forced to walk long distances at night to reach the toilets, which are few and far between, posing a significant safety concern, particularly for women and children. The facilities are shared among many families and are often cleaned infrequently, exposing residents to disease and other health risks.

The Social Justice Coalition (SJC) and Ndifuna Ukwazi (NU) used budget analysis to rally residents to tackle the issue of inadequate sanitation facilities through the City of Cape Town’s budget process. After the draft budget is released the City of Cape Town provides residents the opportunity to make submissions on whether their needs and concerns have been addressed in the draft budget and calls on the government to account for such omissions in the final budget. SJC and NU used the submission process to give residents of Khayelitsha a voice in addressing the City’s persistently poor performance in providing water and sanitation infrastructure. Their efforts in 2016 achieved phenomenal success, yielding 3,000 individual submissions to the City’s 2016/17 draft budget from residents of Khayelitsha and other informal settlements. Their successful budget advocacy campaign involved educating residents on how the City manages water and sanitation services, analyzing the budget, and a layered training of trainers, which allowed the campaign to extend the reach of its limited resources.

Educating Residents to Take Action

In 2015 SJC and NU made a concerted effort to support a large number of Khayelitsha residents to learn how to read, understand, and use the numbers in the budget to build an argument for how the City could and should improve how it provides sanitation services to ensure residents have adequate access to clean, safe sanitation facilities. After careful analysis of both the sanitation budget and the cost-effectiveness of installing and maintaining permanent versus temporary toilets, SJC and NU conducted a training of trainers, who were then sent to engage with and educate residents and gather submissions. This effort resulted in 502 individual submissions to the City of Cape Town’s 2015/16 draft budget — a huge increase from the 37 submissions the City had receive on the previous year’s budget. Many submissions were written and handed in by Khayelitsha residents themselves and outlined their struggles in relying on toilet facilities that were few and far between, and the risks involved in using them.

Expanding the Campaign

Earlier this year, SJC redoubled their efforts to bring attention to poor sanitation services and the lack of sustainable sanitation infrastructure in Cape Town’s informal settlements, gathering 3,000 individual submissions to the City’s 2016/2017 draft budget. The submission gathering process took just over a week, though it was preceded by several months of diligent preparation. IBP helped train a core group of 10 SJC staff members to understand and engage with an analysis of the City’s water and sanitation budget. Many members of the core group had participated in the training for the 2015 campaign and helped train new members. The core group then trained a larger group of 15 facilitators.

When the 2016/2017 draft budget was tabled at the end of March, IBP worked with SJC to update the numbers and findings in the analysis and training materials. The core group and the new facilitators then trained 60 SJC members at a weekend budget camp, and this group collected the 3,000 individual submissions, marking the first time the City of Cape Town received thousands of direct budget submissions from poor and working class citizens.

This is an amazing feat, especially considering that prior to SJC’s 2015 campaign, the City seldom received more than 30 submissions in any given year. Progress was also made in the way the City recorded the submissions: in 2015 all 500 submissions were grouped together and recorded officially as only one submission. This year, all 3,000 were recorded as individual submissions.

Campaign Results and Next Steps

Khayelitsha residents and SJC members marched to Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille’s office on 29 April 2016 to hand deliver the 3,000 submissions, along with a petition signed by over 5,000 Khaylitsha residents demanding “safe‚ clean, and dignified sanitation services.” The campaign and response from Mayor de Lille garnered substantial media attention, including an op-ed by IBP’s Albert van Zyl and Jessica Taylor. In addition, the mayor dedicated a significant portion of her speech at the Budget Council Meeting to the submissions and the sanitation issue in Khayelitsha.

Despite SJC’s powerful evidence-based advocacy, the City of Cape Town’s sanitation budget for informal settlements remains unchanged. However, these campaigns often play out over several years and their 2015 and 2016 education and public participation campaigns have laid the foundation for sustaining and building the campaign. And, they have clearly demonstrated the power of engaging the public in the budget process to hold governments accountable to their promises.

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