As the government struggles to provide adequate electricity, public transport and other basic services, the country’s main tourist hub is increasingly on the move.
Cape Town, which has been run by the opposition DA since 2006 , drives forward plans to secure its own energy supply. It is also exploring the possibility of taking over the city’s commuter rail network, currently run by a state-owned company, and playing a role in making the port more efficient. And it has hired more than 1,000 security officers of its own to supplement the work of the police, which they accuse of doing a grim job of fighting gang violence and other crime.
The national government, led by the According to Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis, the ANC has largely supported the city’s efforts.
“To be honest, I would have expected a lot more resistance, but we didn’t see any. he said in an interview at Bloomberg’s offices in Cape Town on Tuesday.
“The only really aggressive resistance we’re getting is in the area of policing, where we’re so actively filling the gap that by the slow collapse of the SA Police Service.”
Eskom, the utility that supplies most of the country’s electricity, has subjected the country to a series of power outages since 2008 because its old and poorly maintained facilities can no longer keep up with demand.
In February, Cape Town led the process to procure 300 megawatts of generation capacity from private producers, expected to be primarily solar, with contracts to be awarded by the end of the year and the Plants are expected to be connected to the grid by 2026.
The city intends to commission an additional 300 megawatts of capacity from large storage or other power sources that are available when needed to power residents and businesses en from most electricity rationing, Geordin Hill-Lewis said. While the new facilities will need to deliver electricity at prices equal to or below Eskom’s, the stored energy would likely pay a premium.
“The long-term goal is to reduce dependence on Eskom,” said the mayor. Although the city has not conducted a study into the cost of the blackouts, “I have no doubt that it would cost billions of rand,” he said.
Cape Town’s proposal to take over railway lines from the Passenger Rail Agency of SA are less advanced as the National Treasury recently approved a feasibility study that will begin next month. Prasa has been plagued by mismanagement and vandalism and currently only operates about 153 train journeys on an average weekday – down from 444 in mid-2020.
Until a few years ago, the passenger rail system was “simple and a real belt-and-clip surgery, but it worked,” Hill-Lewis said. “It’s really hard to express how this organization has fallen apart, especially in the last ten years, to the extent that there is absolutely no capacity left to run a train system.”
The ideal scenario of the Mayor’s would be for the city to take over Prasa’s assets and infrastructure and then appoint a private operator to modernize and operate it and recoup costs through ticket sales over 15 to 20 years. Several companies have expressed interest in the deal, and it would be ambitious but feasible for the system to be operational by 2026, he said.
Besides the challenges of inadequate electricity supply and a poor public transport system, Cape Town also had to coping with the aftermath of the coronavirus and related lockdown, which has devastated the tourism industry, one of its main sources of income and employment. Before the pandemic, millions of tourists flocked to the city every year, attracted by the sandy beaches, famous Table Mountain and scenic winelands.
“We had some sort of elastic recovery, so we’re back to about 85% now in passenger numbers, so very close to pre-Covid levels,” said Hill-Lewis. “What’s really exciting is the number of airlines that are flocking to Cape Town right now,” with 27 new weekly flights added since the pandemic subsided, he said.
Hill-Lewis took over the post of Mayor in November last year and at 35 is the youngest-ever appointment to the post. He was previously a Member of Parliament and Finance Spokesman for the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
- Cape Town’s finances are in good shape, with low levels of debt and a capable civil service.
- The city has not invested enough in infrastructure to keep up with population growth and is trying to improve the situation, but has limited capacity to implement complex projects.
- Homelessness is a big problem and the city is investing in new shelters and other shelters to get people off the streets.
For more stories like this, visit bloomberg.com< /em>