Has the water crisis turned you into a monster?

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Credit: iStock
Credit: iStock

The other day I stumbled upon a post on social media that showed a photo of a guy shopping at Pick ‘n Pay.

The photo shows that he has a shopping trolley filled with water and in the original post, it’s claimed that a woman approached him and asked if he wouldn’t consider giving one bottle of water away so she could buy one herself.

He apparently said no.

In another post I saw on FB, there’s a picture of a shopping mall that had to enforce a limit per customer as one woman literally bought up to 50 litres of water, with no regard for anyone else.

With #DayZero looming around the corner, the panic is understandable. In fact, anyone who is blasé about the issue and is not taking extra measures to save as much as they can is only making this nightmare that much worse for us.

READ MORE: #DayZero: here are a few water-saving beauty tips

The thing about disasters though, or preparing for a crisis that should have been declared a national disaster a long time ago, is that it often brings out both the best or worst in us. Sometimes both at the same time.

I’ve seen plenty of heart-warming stories where people unite in the midst of tragedy and disaster – stories where people raise funds for relief efforts, where celebrities step in and help when the government fails (I’m reminded of that incident when rapper Pitbull sent his own private plane to Puerto Rico to fly cancer patients to the US for treatment following Hurricane Maria) and where the spirit of community comes out in full force to rally around those in need.

Unfortunately, while I’ve seen some stories that have restored my faith in humanity just a little, I’ve also seen the worst come out in people.

READ MORE: #DayZero: What do women have to fear most during a water crisis?

And you know who I feel are the biggest culprits? Those who have always enjoyed the privilege of  unlimited access to water.

These are the people who rush to the shops, purchase all the water they can without a thought for the next person because they have the luxury to be able to do so and refuse to understand the concept of rations.

They have never learnt to share water resources nor have they learnt to deal with a crisis that many poor people have lived with for all of their lives.

They are also the folk that think that because they’re being billed for water, it means they automatically reserve the right to all the resources available to the public.

READ MORE: Running dry: the 100 litre water challenge

I can understand and empathise with the panic.

In fact between being bombarded with so many water saving tips and opinion pieces on what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong (oh hello irony, I thought I recognised you!), it’s impossible not to feel overwrought, exhausted and overwhelmed by the news and implications of what we are in for.

But, here’s the thing – in trying to survive this crisis, the one thing we need to hold on to is our humanity.

WATCH: Capetonians share their feelings about Day Zero

South Africans have such great capacity to share, to come through for each other and to help others in need that this selfish stockpiling is becoming a symptom of a society that has already convinced itself that we’re now living in a dystopian world.

And while we’re at it, can we please get Helen Zille to not add to the ugliness by accusing people in Johannesburg of gloating at our misfortune? Or to be grateful for colonial water pipe systems.

We really don’t need or want more division.

Let’s be a little kinder and more considerate when we shop for water.

Panic buying may help you in the short term, but won’t win you any friends for the long run.  And in times of crisis, when resources are scarce, we are exactly what we need to help each other.

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