Drought crisis: 3 provinces declared national disasters

Johannesburg - The national disaster management centre has called on organs of state to implement contingency measures to enable the national executive to deal with the drought in parts of South Africa.

In a statement released in the government gazette on Tuesday, Disaster head Dr Mmaphaka Tau Tau said, after re-assessing the magnitude and severity of the ongoing drought occurring in at least three provinces, disaster management reclassified the drought as a national disaster.

The Northern Cape, Western Cape and Eastern Cape have already been declared provincial disasters.

READ: #DayZero pushed back to June, as drought declared a national disaster

"The primary responsibility to coordinate and manage the disaster, in terms of existing legislation and contingency arrangements, is designated to the national executive," Tau said.

Tau added that organs of state were required to prepare and submit reports, required by the disaster management, "to the respective intergovernmental forums as listed therein".

Last Thursday, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Des Van Rooyen said the process of declaration was prescribed in the Disaster Management Act.

The first step in terms of the act, would be to reclassify them national disasters, he said.

The regulations linked to the act might touch on by-laws and guidance on procurement, so the department would move to identify impediments on spending given to all provinces to deal with the situation, Van Rooyen added.

He said it had also become clear that the department might have to look into supply chain issues, which slowed some water initiatives down.

READ MORE: Drought could be declared national disaster by Feb 14

Three weeks ago, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille announced that she had written to President Jacob Zuma asking for the current drought in the province to be declared a national disaster, after the likelihood of Day Zero was confirmed by the City of Cape Town.

"The reason that I think it would be useful to declare a national state of disaster is because then everything is in place for anything that we need to do that may require us to shortcut certain systems," Zille said at the time.

"We don't want to, at the moment that we need to do those things, urgently to have to then start declaring disasters and going through processes. Let's rather get that all organised now, so that [national and provincial disaster management departments] can be working together like [they are]. The minute something has to be done, we can just get on and agree and do it," she said.

Seeking a smart drought disaster management plan

On Tuesday, the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC), which advises the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries also released a statement, saying that it had resolved to bring together a committee of agribusiness, the banking sector, academia, government and other stakeholders to deal with the matter.

The council's chief executive officer Zama Xalisa said the committee's mandate was to come up with a smart drought disaster management plan and focus on interventions that mitigate the anticipated long-term recovery from the disaster.

Xalisa added that the drought threatened the achievement and goals of the national development plan.

The Western Cape, and parts of Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Free State and North West are currently faced with drought.

The City of Cape Town's Day Zero has been extended to June 4, from May 11.

Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson said the delay in Day Zero was attributed to the continued decline in agricultural usage and the city reducing water usage.

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