Democratic Alliance (DA) leader, Mmusi Maimane, announced that he has taken the “unprecedented step of taking political control” of local and provincial government’s responses to the drought crisis.
He made this statement at a media briefing where he launched the #DefeatDayZero campaign at the Joseph Stone Auditorium in Athlone today (Wednesday January 24). Day Zero has been forwarded to Thursday April 12, when it is expected that taps will run dry.
Mr Maimane said: “I am very aware that there is a lot of public unhappiness, concern, and confusion as to how the DA-run City of Cape Town is responding to the situation. I understand what risk it poses for business, for communities, the fear and paralysis driven by a lack of information. These are extraordinary and unprecedented times. As leader of the DA, all DA governments are accountable to me through the federal executive. I am not fully satisfied with the way the City has responded to the drought crisis, its communication, in particular, has fallen short. This lack of clarity is not what citizens should expect from any DA government. It’s time for decisive action.”
Part of this action involves his instruction that the management of the drought crisis at the City of Cape Town, be transferred to deputy mayor Ian Neilson and mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services; and energy, Xanthea Limberg.
Others in the Drought Crisis Team he established, include Premier Helen Zille, whom he said would “make sure that the province leads and directs the disaster management response in the event that Day Zero does arrive”. Provincial DA leader Bonginkosi Madikizela and MEC for Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Anton Bredell, will form a core part of directing and implementing the strategy of this team, he said.
Mr Maimane reiterated that the only way Day Zero could be avoided, was if all residents and businesses made every effort to use less water.
“Unless we act clearly, decisively and immediately, it may arrive sooner than is currently projected. Our mission is clear. We must defeat Day Zero. I happen to believe it is possible and I will give my all and they (the team) will too. Now is not the time for politicking and finger-pointing. We do not have the luxury of time. We need to unite behind this common mission to defeat Day Zero. Together with the citizens of Cape Town, we can defeat day zero.”
The dam levels are currently at 27.2%, with 17.2% usable water left.
Mr Maimane also pointed out that the bulk supply of water was the responsibility of national government.
“I want to make something very clear on the bulk supply of water. There is a misconception that this is the role of a city and it is a local government responsibility. Let me be very, very clear. It is not. It is the constitutional mandate of national government to deliver water to all municipalities.
“The City purchases bulk water, in much the same way that it purchases bulk electricity from Eskom. Therefore the funding for any additional water supply falls within national government. Local governments simply don’t have those kinds of funds or the mandate for bulk water provision. The Western Cape as a whole needs the national government to play its legally mandated role to ensure greater water security. And I will be taking the fight to national government to make sure that it fulfills this role. Indeed, both the City and Province are currently considering legal action to compel national government to act. This is not a finger pointing exercise, it is about ensuring that the Constitution is given effect to and that the rights of citizens and ratepayers are fought for and protected.”
He added that desalination was expensive and complex, and large-scale facilities could cost up to R15 billion – which is a third of the City of Cape Town’s annual budget and thus unaffordable.
He continued: “However, as part of our immediate augmentation plans, we are bringing on board three smaller-scale desalination plants which I visited this week. These are located at Strandfontein, Monwabisi, and the Waterfront. Our primary focus is on bringing the Atlantis and Cape Flats Aquifers on line.
“This is because aquifers provide a much more immediate and cost-effective water source than desalination. In total, the City plans to bring 120 megalitres on line by May as a result of these augmentation efforts. To further aid in our efforts to bring demand to 450 megalitres per day, we are also going to be throttling water supply through pressure reduction. This may see many parts of the City without water for a period of time, never exceeding 12 hours. In the event that despite all these efforts, we are unable to avoid Day Zero, then I wish to assure you that a massive amount of preparation is going in to ensure that residents have access to 25 litres of safe, clean water every day. The provincial government will work closely with the City to ensure that residents are able to access a daily amount of 25 litres a day, per resident of the City.”