(This article was first published on 27 January 2018 in the Weekend Argus, a weekly regional newspaper distributed in the Western Cape, South Africa.)
Written by Yazeed Kamaldien
While the City of Cape Town is desperately seeking funds for its water projects, the national water and sanitation department yesterday said it would not offer a single cent towards the drought crisis.
Department spokesman Sputnik Ratau yesterday said the City of Cape Town was solely responsible for raising funds for its additional water projects.
“Funding should come from local revenue. It is a municipal issue. In any way that we might be able to support, then that’s where we come in,” said Ratau.
Deputy mayor Ian Neilson last week told Weekend Argus that after the city council dropped the proposed drought levy it would need to seek funds elsewhere. He said the city would approach the national government.
The city’s dams are running low as it is racing towards Day Zero – April 12 – when taps run dry.
Western Cape premier Helen Zille even went as far as asking President Jacob Zuma to declare the water shortage in the province a national disaster. But nothing has come of this.
Ratau said if the water crisis were declared a national disaster then the national disaster management centre “would need to help”.
Water and sanitation minister Nomvula Mokonyane is currently in Cape Town where she was visiting water projects and meeting officials, said Ratau.
“The minister has been involved in the Western Cape. The minister is assisting and she has engaged with the mayor (Patricia de Lille) throughout last year,” he said.
Discussions were underway at the department’s Bellville offices yesterday to unpack the national water and sanitation master plan.
Among revelations were that South Africans use 237 litres of water per person per day, higher than in any other country. Water levels are also decreasing countrywide.
And while funding for water projects such as desalination remain elusive, the Democratic Alliance (DA) has similarly been haphazard about stabilising leadership on the water crisis.
Last Friday the party’s city council stripped De Lille of her powers to speak on the water crisis. Her deputy Neilson and Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for water, were then dispatched as the city’s talking heads.
But then within the same week premier Helen Zille was appointed as the party’s official on the water crisis.
What started feeling like a circus did not end there. National party leader Mmusi Maimane was this week flown to Cape Town to take the reigns.
After much fanfare in Athlone, Maimane then scored what some called an own goal the next day. He posted on his Twitter account photos of himself handing out water buckets to locals who were wasting water – and could afford to buy their own water buckets.
Western Cape DA leader Bonginkosi Madikizela yesterday defended the party’s decision to make Maimane the poster boy for the water crisis.
“It shows that the DA is taking charge to make sure that our government doesn’t disappoint the people who put faith in us. That is what a leader does,” he said.
“If Cape Town runs out of water, the DA will take accountability for that. People will blame the DA.”
He said Limberg and Neilson would still be “dealing with the administration of this” water crisis.
“Mmusi is taking charge as the political leader of the DA. You don’t have to live in Cape Town to know what is happening in the city. Mmusi is the national leader and it is his responsibility to know what is happening in all DA governments.”
Asked why Maimane handed out water buckets to locals who could afford it, Madikizela said it was a “symbolic”.
“People miss the context. Mmusi was saying you can afford to buy buckets but you are still wasting water. It was a symbolic act to say use these buckets,” he said.
Zille faced another dilemma yesterday afternoon when the South African Weather Service (SAWS) said she was “disingenuous and extremely opportunistic coming as it does in the midst of a water crisis”.
This was in response to the London-based website The South African which reported that Zille said the weather services “have said to me their models don’t work anymore, in an era of climate change”.
The website misquoted Zille though, referring to her comments on the TV show BBC Newsnight on Thursday.
Zille had in fact said that climate change was affecting weather predictions. She took to Twitter last night to defend herself with visual evidence the weather services had given her.
“This is one of the worrying slides the SA Weather Service showed us in an open and honest briefing about what rainfall to expect in the run-up to Day Zero,” said Zille.
“Where the map is white, they cannot predict. They said: Climate change has destroyed predictability of old forecasting models.”
Zille told Weekend Argus last night: “It is no negative reflection on them that they can’t predict. That is what climate change is doing to the science of forecasting.
“It is a reflection on climate change not SAWS. Pity I was misreported and pity they reacted.”
She would not comment on some of her more controversial tweets that seem insensitive towards people without access to water (see picture).
Madikizela responded though, after seeing Zille’s tweets: “I’ve read this several times, which part is a problem for you?”