It is a shame that inequality has become sharper during our constitutional democracy than during apartheid.
More sun than clouds. Mild.
Water and sanitation minister Nomvula Mokonyane addresses the Cape Town Press Club on #DayZero. (Paul Herman, News24)
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primitive and instinctive has triggered inside us as a response
to the impending water disaster. Our safety and lives now
feel threatened. Water is life. We die without it. Human nature
is kicking in with very powerful signals.
When faced with
the prospect of having no water, our most powerful instinct is to survive –
whatever it takes. It screams at us to fight or escape. Heart beats
faster, brain in overdrive, senses sharpened.
It is happening
now, in different degrees, to every citizen facing the incomprehensible truth
that the society we have foolishly taken for granted, and our place in it,
are facing catastrophe.
have long since become used to mediocrity in government. Obstructive
and confrontational two-party politics has been the normal discourse
since the opposition won the Cape Town metro in 2006 and the Western
Cape in 2009. Inter-governmental relations have worsened every year since.
But this time
is very different. This time the clash of egos and power-plays are
threatening the welfare our children, our vulnerable, the economy and our
entire society. This time, they have all gone too far.
deeply resent that we even have to seriously contemplate
the fear and uncertainty of what a Day Zero practically means. The
consequences have still not yet been fully articulated. I resent that children
now have to be afraid of not having water. Our little 'water
warriors' are far more aware of saving water, they do not deserve this.
guarantees the human right of every citizen to drinking water. Even
in a war torn city like Damascus, Syria, the citizens have water. How
this Cape Town crisis happened is now secondary to what the
hard consequences are for every single citizen having to pay the price of
ourselves the worst case is impossible. We reassure ourselves that our
government has a plan. We lie to ourselves that it will last only a few
days. Denial is a temporary comfort. How can it be avoided if it doesn't
rain enough in the next few weeks to significantly lift the dams? An
empty dam is an empty dam.
The human mind
is an incredible organ, messages we were not conditioned to process
suddenly become very relevant, urgent and overwhelming.
Visions of army
on the streets. Riots, burning government buildings, United Nations tents,
helicopters overhead, screaming, looting, blackouts. State of Emergency.
Foreign warships evacuating citizens. Automatic gunfire. Disease, cholera,
typhoid. Terrified families, mobs ransacking houses searching for
bottles of water. Mass evacuations.
Will you fight
to defend your small stock of drinking water? Will you fight to steal
precious drinking water for your children to survive? The thin veneer of
civilisation crumbles when matters of life or death face us.
At first we
dismiss such thoughts as being silly or inspired by watching too many disaster
movies. It's madness, calm down. We're being over dramatic.
It is called panic.
At first it manifests as mere irritation as we discover bottled water is
running short at the supermarkets. It heightens to doubt over whether we have
done enough. We fear that others are better prepared. What else can we do to
At first I was
intrigued by the spectacle of the ping-pong of political blame. Now I
just don't give a damn. An entire 3-tier multi-trillion
rand system of government has failed in a truly devastating and historic
way. A bumbling, incoherent, uncoordinated mess of excuses and
hindsight. If they cannot keep water in the taps they have lost any
credibility to even govern.
Let us never
again be insulted by slogans like "Better Life for All" or "Best Run City" or "Best Run Province". Who the hell were they kidding? We have been cheated and
have every right to feel badly betrayed.
The DA based an
entire strategy on convincing us how utterly useless the ANC government is. The
ANC has proven it time and time again. Thus, by definition, there was
never much hope of salvation from national government. If the Western Cape
knew this, why didn't they take action themselves years ago?
Why wait, like
a startled rabbit in the car headlights, to get flattened? It was a self-fulfilling
prophecy. The currency of the DA was the promise that they were more
efficient. They were not.
It is true that
millions of our compatriots live on 25 litres a day or much less, and have been
doing so for all their lives. But it doesn't soften the blow, nor lessen
the anxiety, for those who have been fortunate enough never to
have experienced it.
And yet, in the
final minutes before we fall into the abyss of the unknown, we see frantic
efforts by the architects of this catastrophe to extricate their sorry careers
from the mess they have created.
of Water and Sanitation Nomvula Mokonyane cheerfully pops down to Cape
Town to inspect the efforts of Capetonians to save water. Why does it take a
media briefing for a premier and a minister to exchange views on a crisis? Do
they not have mobile phones? Whatsapp each other if you can't be adult enough
to meet up.
The executive mayor,
who has been spearheading efforts for the last two years, is stripped of her
powers by a deputy mayor who cannot answer a single question on Day
Zero. A political party leader jumps in to take
charge, eclipsing his premier only three days after she took
We see the
bow-tie wearing director general of water affairs, like some kind of
'Chemical Ali' during the Iraq invasion, explaining that the battle is being
won even as bombs explode all around him.
are tolerant. Cape Town and its people are warm and caring people with a sense
of humour to match, but we are now in real danger of experiencing a
disaster which will damage the City, and its people, for many years to
When this is
all over, citizens must take action together to seek redress, compensation and
even court action to bring those responsible to book.
It is time
all our leaders are held personally accountable for the terrible
price, human and otherwise, of their failures.
- Grindrod is the former deputy leader of the Independent Democrats. He writes in his personal capacity.
Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
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