Short-termist ANC, arrogant DA to blame for water crisis


South Africa is beginning to feel the harsh effects of climate change – and Nomvula Mokonyane is our minister of water and sanitation? God help us.

If Cape Town is going to experience a Day Zero, we would have to have a judicial session on the matter later this year like we’re now seeing regarding the Life Esidimeni scandal.

Mokonyane and Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille will, like Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and her officials, have to deny, lie and eventually cry and confess that they had caused the people of Cape Town and South Africa serious harm.

The water crisis, the Life Esidimeni scandal, the sad state of rural and township schools and the collapse of several state-owned enterprises point to the diseases that, together with corruption, are responsible for the current mess in the country: a total lack of accountability, criminal short-termism and pathetic management.

Virtually every department on national, provincial and local level suffer from these diseases. If we can’t fix that quickly and properly, even the so-called Cyril Spring won’t last long.

For a long time, South Africans have talked about climate change as if it was something that only affects the industrialised countries in the northern hemisphere.

The unusually severe droughts that have affected different parts of southern Africa the last few years and several examples of extreme weather events tell us it is our problem too.

Nelson Mandela Bay and many towns like Beaufort West are in the same position as Cape Town, all facing dry taps if it doesn’t start raining a lot and soon.

Not too long ago Greater Johannesburg was saved from a water crisis by a few days of hard rain.

And we entrust this threat to the politician who, after the dismissal of Pravin Gordhan and the shocks that reverberated through the economy, said: let the rand drop, we’ll pick it up later. (Ironically, it has now been “picked up” by her political enemy, Cyril Ramaphosa, exactly because he opposes Mokonyane and her ilk’s style of politics.)

Her department has been characterised by scandal and mismanagement throughout her term. You would never imagine that if you hear her mouthing off.

South Africa needs a grand national plan on climate change and water and a war room to implement it. We cannot limp from crisis to crisis any longer.

All South Africans should now be forced to use less than 150 litres or so of water per day, whether it rains or not, whether the dams are overflowing or not. No more water-needy sprawling lawns and an end to more golf estates.

The surprise in this whole Cape water drama was the spectacular failure of the DA to plan ahead, to manage and to communicate – a failure that didn’t even once make a dent in the party’s legendary self-righteousness and arrogance.

The crisis saw De Lille, her city council team and the DA leaders freeze like a rabbit in a hunter’s spotlight.

They were fast asleep when 50 000 or so Capetonians continued to use water as if there was an abundance, making a joke of all the rest of us Capetonians’ efforts to use well less than 100 litres a day. The city had the technology to enforce its restrictions, but it only started using it when the problem had turned into a severe crisis.

Reports abound of water engineers and desalination experts given a cold shoulder when they approached the city with offers of help over the last year or more. Instead they simply blamed the ANC.

The drought wasn’t caused by Mokonyane or De Lille. But the delay in building desalination and purification plants for grey water as well as drilling boreholes into the abundant Cape aquifers were criminal.

The last few years the DA told black and "brown" voters: we know you think we’re still mainly a white liberal party, but give us a chance, at least we know how to govern effectively; at least we can deliver proper services.

Well, that old argument won’t work any longer. The DA’s chances to break through the 30 percent mark in next year’s general election now look like a mirage.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane’s dramatic yet hollow announcement that he was taking charge confirmed to many of his critics that he is a political lightweight with little vision.

He could not even control Premier Helen Zille, who has started tweeting about the positives of colonialism again and engaged in silly battles with her critics and the ANC. And yet, many of us here in the Cape still believe that at least she has a track record of delivering and will make sure that if Day Zero does happen, it will be well managed. What can I say, we’re desperate.

Here’s a question, though. Are most of us, black and white, not setting higher standards for the DA than for the ANC? I think we do.

I have told my neighbours in Cape Town on more than one occasion: however useless we think the DA council is, thank the gods we don’t have an ANC council.

But doesn’t that amount to "the soft bigotry of lowered expectations"?

The fog around which level of government is responsible for exactly what in this crisis was made more impenetrable by the fact that the ANC runs the national and its main opposition the Western Province and the City of Cape Town.

The ANC could not contain its sense of schadenfreude: just look at the holier-than-thou DA making a mess! We witnessed very little of the Constitution’s concept of cooperative governance.

It’s no wonder that so many Capetonians, including DA supporters, are now begging Ramaphosa to come and do what has to be done and avoid a catastrophe.

And a catastrophe it will be, perhaps even worse than even the pessimists suspect.

Cape Town and South Africa simply cannot afford Day Zero.

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.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.