Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Des van Rooyen has just announced that the management of the drought currently gripping Cape Town and other provinces will become the responsibility of the national government.
“Currently, efforts are underway to classify the drought as a national disaster. This process will be finalised on or before 14 February 2018. This will legally assign the responsibility to the national executive to coordinate the disaster. . .,” said van Rooyen at a press briefing in Parliament on Thursday.
The announcement potentially puts the ANC-led national government on a collision course with the Democratic Alliance-led Western Cape government, with the opposition leader Mmusi Maimane recently placing himself at the helm of coordinating efforts to stave off ‘Day Zero’, the date taps in Cape Town are expected to run dry.
The national drought, although felt most acutely in the Western Cape, has also gripped the Northern and Eastern Cape and parts of KwaZulu-Natal.
Minister of Water and Sanitation Nomvula Mokonyane again reiterated her opposition to the ‘Day Zero’ approach, a phrase that has become synonymous with the Cape Town water crisis.
“A day zero approach is what we do not want as a country and should be avoided,” she said.
It was not acceptable for people to pay R8 000 water bills, simply because they are able to, Mokonyane added.
Van Rooyen said the Western Cape had already been handed R74.8-million to deal with the drought in August 2017, but that the province struggled to disburse the funds.
He said the response to the drought would require significant financial input in a year where there is less revenue as a result of the disaster.
“We’ll have to do more with less to address this particular problem,” said van Rooyen.
Mokonyane revealed that South Africa had 5 125 dams, of which nearly 80% are in the hands of the agricultural sector.
The department of water and sanitation is looking into ways to utilise these resources which Mokonyane insists should not be commodified.
“There are communities who’ve been there before the dam was built yet they don’t have access to it,” she said.