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The city of Cape Town is a huge expansive area that stretches from the tip of the peninsula to the Overstrand on the one side and along the West coast on the other. The natural beauty is awesome and in great demand.

The area contains both the wealthiest and the poorest of communities in our country. This is demonstrated by the extravagant lifestyles of people living in the shadow of Table Mountain, while on the Cape Flats you see the most abject instances of poverty, leading to the rise of gangs and drug abuse that tear apart the fabric of society.

It is a city that has the dubious distinction of being the most unequal in South Africa, and perhaps the world. The possibilities for social cohesion are undone by deepening levels of inequality, while the threat of greater social strife is increasing.

The very notion of servant leadership that is a legacy of our founding father, Madiba, is no longer striven towards by many of the present political leadership who operate in the city.

The kind of city that working class communities would like to see is one that promotes integration of the diverse groupings, as well as advancement and opportunity, and adequate delivery of all social services in an effective public sector. The measure of our success must be what we have done for the poor and most marginalised of our communities, not what we have done for the wealthy.

The present circumstances in Cape Town show a dismal picture of life for the majority of Capetonians in respect of key social indicators.

We would like to see a city where there is full employment, and if there are workers who we as a society are unable to provide job opportunities for, a social security income that serves as a transition until there are the requisite job opportunities. Effectively, a basic income grant that ensures that at least a minimal income goes into each household so the poverty that tears families apart is undone in the short term.

The old apartheid race divisions that existed in race-based townships will continue unless deliberate action is taken by the state. These divisions continue to split communities along race lines as they see themselves competing for scarce resources.

The only normalisation of society along race lines has taken place among the wealthy sectors of society, where the new black elite has become cosy, as they have been assimilated into the lifestyles of the old white elite. The cohesion that is being established here is an important indication of what is possible, if we worked towards integration at all levels in a more meaningful way.

The new divide is taking place along class lines, but the working class is hopelessly divided along race lines in its scramble to get the crumbs, so it is not acting together to demand a more equalised society. A united front against poverty and for equality should be an organisational feature of the city and should lead a constant drive to realising the kind of society promised by the Freedom Charter.

The central feature of the development state that the president talks about at a national level, must be a strong and effective public service. One political principle underlying public service is that of community solidarity. It is the practical expression, in a social context, of the principles of fairness and justice, the way in which human beings express material support for each other.

A further related principle is that of general risk-pooling, risk-sharing and protection of all against the hazards of ill-health, unemployment, homelessness. The role of the state in public services is to accept and carry all these risks, and redistribute the burden of them through public finance mechanisms.

Following are some of the areas the public service should urgently intervene in to provide for the most marginalised, and undo the legacy of the user-payer model, when people have no jobs and no money as a result of the high unemployment rate.
  • Housing: The 350,000 backlog, which is increasing by 25,000 every year, while we are only building on average 13,000 homes a year, presents a growing crisis. This crisis sees people placed on waiting list for 20 years and more, so undoing the prospects for an environment that is conducive to building the family structure that is an essential requirement for greater social cohesion. We need to ensure that we change the focus of housing to respond more rapidly to providing housing opportunities for all.

  • Education sees the perpetuation of privileged access of wealthy children to all the resources of a modern education, like computers, smaller class sizes, extramural activities and homes that have access to the internet. The opportunities that accrue to poorer learners place them, on aggregate, at a distinct disadvantage to richer kids when they have to compete for jobs or tertiary educational access.

    The ministers, mayors and premiers have their children in schools that cost on average R24,000 a year in school fees and extra-curricular activities. This R24,000 represents the total annual income of most parents in poorer communities. We need to urgently develop equally resourced educational opportunities in the city that realise the Freedom Charter promise of "The Doors of Learning and Culture are open to all".

  • Public transport is in a dismal state with no effective public transport after 7pm, thus confining poor communities to their townships in the evenings. Public transport takes workers to work in desperately overcrowded circumstances, with dilapidated buses and trains or unsafe taxis. We need to set in place an integrated transport system that sees an upgraded and expanded public transport system that is more effective and more efficient. This would focus on spending more resources on the upgrade, and not only the expansion of the road system at the cost of billions of rands, in the interest of relatively wealthier road users.

  • Public policing: This sector is also seeing a relative decline in resources as a result of cost-cutting and synergy weaknesses. Public policing is the under-funded service that goes to poor communities while the wealthy communities use private security service providers. How, in this context, are the police able to defend poor communities from spiralling acts of criminality, when the criminals are better resourced that the police? We need to expand police resources and ensure that the service both responds to crime and is more effective in preventing it through increased visibility.

  • Health care: The public health care system continues to deteriorate as a result of cuts in public expenditure that result in longer queues at day hospitals with shortages of medicines. While we agree that we should be moving many of the health care services to the primary local level, this cannot happen by cuts to bigger hospitals that see the waiting list for urgent medical procedures expand. At present, 70% of the money spent on health care in SA is spent on private services for 20% of the population, while 30% of the entire health care spend is used for 80% of the population. We need to spend more money and improve public services to be able to cope with the health care needs of working families.

As Cosatu, we would like to see the expansion of public services in Cape Town to cater for all communities, with a quality public service. We pay our taxes for public services. Why are we compelled by the government to pay for extra private services, that only the wealthy can afford?

Public servants do an excellent job with minimal resources and low salaries, while the government perpetuates the apartheid wage gap by giving senior government officials exorbitant salaries.

We would declare Cape Town a union province, where labour standards are complied with, so that every employer knows that the days of exploiting workers by not complying with labour standards, to fund their latest Mercedes and fancy holidays abroad, are over. We should put in place measures that promote greater equality and end the disproportionate profiteering of some sectors at the cost of the productive economy. An example of profiteering is where an estate agent earns more for putting up a board on a Sunday afternoon than all the labourers who spent a year building the house, just because apartheid practices were never changed. The private sector initiatives that we see are driving the privatisation of many of the public services. Privatisation is also promoted because many of the political elite are using those private services for themselves and their children, or have shares in them.

We have to develop a real socio-economic and industrial strategy that ensures sustainable development of all of the economic sectors in the city-wide economy. This means that the city should urgently bring together all of the roleplayers to develop and support a strategy that will achieve the social outcomes of improved employment and reduced poverty.

Some of the promises that are made to people by the government in respect of the path to addressing their problems, have turned into gimmicks that enrich a few and spawn instances of corruption. The arms deal was meant to lead to job opportunities that would flow from counter trade deals. This has been minimal, with the irony being that there have been huge job losses in Denel, the SA arms manufacturing company, instead.

The 2010 World Cup also promises to lead to huge job creation opportunities and development for the poorer communities. While the World Cup may be nice to have, something we should now all rally around, it is not going to be the great deliverer to poor communities. It will provide some jobs in the construction sector and that is always to be welcomed, and no doubt there will be more jobs for workers in the bedrooms and kitchens of the new hotels. It just seems that this type of development keeps black workers in situations of paid slavery, serving the master and negating the development of a more egalitarian society.

The political contest that is under way between the city and the province is a key impediment to progress. The battles have seen the focus shift from service delivery as the measurement of a good politician, to who is the best spin doctor. These battles have seen the City of Cape Town often emerge victorious, and this has created the impression that things have improved. Truth be told, very few new things have been done by this new administration in the delivery of key social services since they took office.

What is required is an institutionalised structure that promotes intergovernmental co-operation, and joint planning that leads to co-ordinated delivery and a sustainable development programme that ensures that the communities we are meant to serve are the greatest beneficiaries.

The political leadership at all levels, whether in the city or the province, is not committed to real integration in the city. The DA would like to maintain the status quo of separation of rich and poor, while the ANC would like to use government land in the city bowl, that could drive integration, to promote BEE projects at the cost of the poor. As a society we get one chance to let the state use its resources to promote the kind of Cape Town where the needs of the poor top the agenda. When the government sells off the crown jewels, the possibility of poor communities moving into the city bowl are undermined into perpetuity. So too are the interests of poor communities confined to the Cape Flats under the guise of economic apartheid, the new divider.

This city should work for all and be a home for all, but that is only possible if we have leadership that is committed to realising the ideals of the Freedom Charter, and that measures success against its stated outcomes.

Tony Ehrenreich is the provincial secretary of Cosatu {jcomments on}