Declaring national drought disaster not a quick fix - minister

2016-10-20 20:15
Drought in Kruger Park. (News24)

Drought in Kruger Park. (News24)

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Cape Town - Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane does not have sole authority to declare the drought, which is plaguing eight provinces, a national disaster.

"I have no authority to declare a disaster. Once the relative authorities, including Treasury and the department of co-operative governance agree collectively, then we can declare a disaster," Mokonyane told Parliament's portfolio committee on water and sanitation on Thursday.

Her office was briefing MPs on its 2015/16 annual report.

DA MP Tarnia Baker asked her if the current crisis was enough to be declared a national disaster, which would release much-needed funds.

"For now, we are putting up stringent measures like we have done in Gauteng of giving municipalities 15% less water reserved for the month of October," Mokonyane replied.

Declaring a national disaster was not a quick fix either, as it did not guarantee a release of all the requisite funds, she said. The department would still face the problem of having to reallocate money from another programme.

Gauteng failing to save water

Mokonyane said no municipalities in Gauteng, apart from Mogale City, had managed to cut their water usage down by the required 15%.

"We have said that Gauteng will get their water back when they behave. We believe we can arrest the situation. But there must be a possibility of saving. So we are asking the municipalities there rather stop doing many other things: save water."

People need to change their behaviour, especially with the prospect of an even hotter 2017 summer approaching.

Another reason why Gauteng was suffering was the low level of the Vaal Dam, she said. It was at 28% capacity. Scientists recommended keeping the Vaal Dam's volume low, as its design resulted in greater evaporation than other dams.

It would not go below 25%, she affirmed. If Gauteng could save enough water, the dam would return to normal levels within one or two years.

Restrictions not being enforced

Mokonyane said all spheres of government, local, provincial and national had to resolve the crisis.

"The water restrictions have not been that effective. We've now taken a stance that tells provinces, like Gauteng, that they must make do with 85%, and enforce your by-laws."

She said R1.3bn of the department’s R1.7bn irregular expenditure incurred over the last financial year was due to hiring a contractor to address a crisis last October.

Normal processes were not followed, hence the Auditor-General declared it irregular, she said, adding that irregular expenditure was not the same as wasteful spending.

"The projects made an impact in the lives of South Africans against the drought.”

Everyone, including the portfolio committee, needed to work together to solve the problem. She cited an example in Richards Bay, where six rivers ran dry, but the municipality still managed to save enough water.


Read more on:    nomvula mokonyane  |  johannesburg  |  weather  |  drought  |  parliament 2016

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