Eastern Cape to declare drought a disaster

The drought in the Eastern Cape has led to authorities calling it an official disaster. (iStock)
The drought in the Eastern Cape has led to authorities calling it an official disaster. (iStock)

The Eastern Cape cabinet has resolved to declare the drought a disaster and processes to gazette this are underway, Premier Lubabalo Oscar Mabuyane said on Wednesday.

"One of the issues that delayed the gazetting was that some municipalities were in the process of declaring it a disaster," he added.

"We have the Sarah Baartman, Chris Hani, Amathole, Alfred Nzo, and Nelson Mandela municipalities which have been declared by their councils as disaster areas. We are aware that the Joe Gqabi District and OR Tambo District municipalities have recently declared drought in their municipalities."

The province has experienced varying levels of drought since 2015, with extremely reduced rainfall during the traditional rainy seasons.

This has resulted in reduced access to water in households and farmers struggling to irrigate their crops and look after their livestock.

"To this end, rain water tanks were provided to households to contain millions of litres of water carted by the government to households, millions of bales of lucerne and other animal feeding material to help farmers and livestock owners stave off the effects of this punishing drought," said Mabuyane.

Dr Mmaphaka Tau, the deputy director-general of the National Disaster Management Centre, said in May that over the past three years, South Africa had been battling the effects of the worst recorded drought since 1926.

Declaring the disaster in the Government Gazette would allow the government to set aside resources for drought mitigation programmes, said Mabuyane.

"There will be no new money pumped into this programme, but the government will prioritise from the allocated funds in order to speed up interventions to households and farmers that do not have water as a result of drought."

Mabuyane said he had also received an offer from Vodacom to invest R1m to assist with drilling boreholes.

"We appreciate the intervention by Vodacom and together we will make sure that boreholes are drilled cost-effectively so that we can spread this money to as many other areas affected by the drought. We welcome this investment as a shot-in the-arm for our emergency drought relief programme in the province." 

He said the net effect of the current weather conditions was the reduction of dam levels.

"It is painful that this affects livelihoods and the economy of the province." 

Mabuyane added communities, households and farmers, who were struggling, should contact the relevant government departments to help them with emergency relief support.

"One of the issues that delayed the gazetting was that some municipalities were in the process of declaring it a disaster," he added.

"We have the Sarah Baartman, Chris Hani, Amathole, Alfred Nzo, and Nelson Mandela municipalities which have been declared by their councils as disaster areas. We are aware that the Joe Gqabi District and OR Tambo District municipalities have recently declared drought in their municipalities."

The province has experienced varying levels of drought since 2015, with extremely reduced rainfall during the traditional rainy seasons.

This has resulted in reduced access to water in households and farmers struggling to irrigate their crops and look after their livestock.

"To this end, rain water tanks were provided to households to contain millions of litres of water carted by the government to households, millions of bales of lucerne and other animal feeding material to help farmers and livestock owners stave off the effects of this punishing drought," said Mabuyane.

Dr Mmaphaka Tau, the deputy director-general of the National Disaster Management Centre, said in May that over the past three years, South Africa had been battling the effects of the worst recorded drought since 1926.

Declaring the disaster in the Government Gazette would allow the government to set aside resources for drought mitigation programmes, said Mabuyane.

"There will be no new money pumped into this programme, but the government will prioritise from the allocated funds in order to speed up interventions to households and farmers that do not have water as a result of drought."

Mabuyane said he had also received an offer from Vodacom to invest R1m to assist with drilling boreholes.

"We appreciate the intervention by Vodacom and together we will make sure that boreholes are drilled cost-effectively so that we can spread this money to as many other areas affected by the drought. We welcome this investment as a shot-in the-arm for our emergency drought relief programme in the province." 

He said the net effect of the current weather conditions was the reduction of dam levels.

"It is painful that this affects livelihoods and the economy of the province." 

Mabuyane added communities, households and farmers, who were struggling, should contact the relevant government departments to help them with emergency relief support.

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