‘Stop the politics of water’

Igshaan Johannes, says politics should be kept out of service delivery.

Premier Helen Zille has been told bluntly by the Mitchell’s Plain United Residents’ Forum (MURA) that all three spheres of government – local provincial and national – should stop politicking and sit around the table to manage the water crisis in Cape Town.

Mura deputy chairperson, Michael Jacobs, told Ms Zille at a public meeting at Northwood community hall in New Woodlands, on Friday February 23: “Stop the politics of water. Cut it that out and resolve the issue.”

Mr Jacobs said there had been no consultation with the community since the City of Cape Town’s institution of Level 1 water restrictions in 2015 up until Level 6B water restrictions, which came into effect on Thursday February 1.

He said senior citizens were forking out the bulk of their pension to cover the cost of their water bills.

Speaking about Day Zero, now projected for Monday July 9, which would see people having to queue for water at collection points, Mr Jacobs said according to the World Health Organisation, water sources had to be within 1km of the home and the collection time should not exceed 30 minutes. He said in light of this recommendation, 200 water collection points are not enough, let alone two for Mitchell’s Plain.

““Local, provincial and national government must sort it out with our community,” he said.

Mr Jacobs also highlighted initiatives by schools to have pupils take bottles of grey water to school to limit their use of clean water.

He said it was not enough that Ms Zille pointed to the failure of the national Department of Water and Sanitation to ensure and maintain bulk water supply.

“Residents are using more than a third of their income to pay for water,” he said. “You have a war of water on your hands. Stop this infighting and instability. Sort your problems out. Stop treating the coloured community as if they are disposable nappies,.”

Ms Zille was invited by Joan Woodman, councillor for Ward 75 (Colorado Park, Morgen’s Village, Westgate,Wildwood, Rondevlei Park, Woodlands, New Woodlands, Philippi, Highlands Village, Hyde Park and Weltevreden Valley (east of Jakes Gerwel Drive) – and flanked by Mitchell’s Plain ward councillors, all from the DA. They wore the same T-shirts with a “#defeat Day Zero” slogan on it.

Mura is part of the Ward 75 Ward Committee.

Nigel Williams from Tafelsig thanked the councillors who voted in full council for Mayor Patricia de Lille to remain in her seat but rebuked them for agreeing to the institution of water restrictions, causing residents to spend more money on water, a “basic human right”.

While New Woodlands resident Igshaan Johannes said he did not want to talk about politics, he said he felt Ms De Lille should stay in council.

Ms Zille agreed with Mr Jacobs that all tiers of government should sit at the same table but said each sphere had its own role as set out by the constitution.

She said that her role, in province, was to play an oversight role and say “who is not doing their job”.

“The constitution says who must be doing what. You are right – national, provincial and local government must sort it out,” she said.

Ms Zille said the City is responsible for services such as getting water to the residents and that provincial government has a role to play in disaster management.

During her speech Ms Zille acknowledged that the day taps run dry, would “disrupt everybody’s lives completely”, which is why they are advocating for Capetonians to continue saving water.

She thanked those residents who are saving water. She said about 18 months ago residential water use was at 1 200 megalitres (Ml) of water and today it was at 4.5Ml. A megalitre is equal to
1 million litres.

“That is at a third of the water we used in the past,” she said.

Ms Zille said nowhere in the world has a city in crisis been able to save as much water as Cape Town.

“We have to use less than
50 litres of water per day,” she said.

According to the City, the last 10% of a dam’s water is difficult to use, the usable water in the dam is approximately 10% less than the dam level.

She said the last bit of clean water is being squeezed out at some dams.

Ms Zille said a project which aimed to double the capacity of the Clanwilliam Dam in the Western Cape, which should have been completed by now,, had not even started because there were apparently no funds.

She said the project, for which R2 billion had been budgeted as far back as 2013/2014, would not be able to continue because the national Department of Water and Sanitation had run out of money.

She also criticised the Department of Water and Sanitation for delays in the Berg River-Voelvlei augmentation scheme, initially intended to be complete in time for the winter rain.

“This would have meant an additional supply of 230 billion litres of water per year for greater Cape Town’s supply scheme going into summer. It would have given us far greater water security,” she said.

She said even if the project was completed it would be too late to help Cape Town through its crisis.

Yasheemah Williams, a Master’s degree student from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology who lives in New Woodlands, asked Ms Zille, what opportunities there are for local students to have their work published and used to help in the conservation of water.

Ms Zille said provincial government was working with lecturers at universities to address the management of the water crisis.

Karrimah Jacobs, chairperson of Mitchell’s Plain Educare Forum, asked for help in managing the water situation at early childhood development centres (ECDs). “It is not enough. I cannot use grey water to wash floors and the toys. The children are on the floor and they put toys in their mouths,” she said.

Ms Zille said she would send someone to visit and analyse Ms Jacobs’s ECD centre to see how they could help.

Ms Zille said as part of the disaster risk management cluster plan, the DHL couriers’ disaster response team will also be on hand to assist. The team is part of an internationally acclaimed team of disaster risk managers who dealt with other disasters namely Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005, and the Bangladesh cyclone and flooding in Mexico in 2007 and Ecuador and Bolivia in 2008.

Ms Zille said they would be able to organise the water collection points overnight.

She said she also spoke to South African Breweries (SAB) and Peninsula Beverages, manufacturers of Coke, about assisting with the distribution of water. She said they would be delivering to supermarkets, cafes and other shops, thus multiplying the collection points at which people can get water.