Politicians fight or absent as drought forgotten

Like us all, I am deeply concerned that the current DA in-fighting in the Cape – which has manifested itself in the controversy over security enhancements to the Mayor’s private residence – has come at a bad time.

The Cape Messenger has recently published some photos from the air by Linden Birns of the Theewaterskloof Dam, showing how much water levels have dropped. If you don’t believe there is a crisis, just look at the evidence.

Through our Water Leapathon initiative, we aim to make a difference – to help to catalyse the dialogue between government and business, to raise awareness and to raise the determination to not just put a finger in the dyke, but to secure long-lasting solutions.

I am just a bit worried about the near-invisibility of one key stakeholder – the National Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane.

The Minister has been in hot water with the Auditor General over high levels of irregular expenditure in her department, and she has been criticised for a poor attendance record before the parliamentary committee which monitors her.

However, what is of more immediate concern to us is her apparent lack of urgency over our water crisis.

The city of Cape Town has its challenges, but there is evidence everywhere that local politicians and officials are aware of the crisis, and working hard to respond to it.

The scale of that response is something which needs to be debated, but what is crucially important is that, when they are not at one another’s throats, our local politicians are doing their job.
What about the Minister, then? Well, she met the Mayor Patricia de Lille and local government minister Anton Bredell this week, to discuss the water crisis.

The news release which followed contained all the right language, lots of words of support. But where is the extra CASH? The city has had to issue bonds to fund the first phase of its crisis measures, but is that really how this should work? Of course, there are areas where the city is directly responsible – I would expect these to include introducing water use restrictions, maintenance of pipes and treatment plants.

But isn’t the provision of adequate, clean water a Constitutional right, and is that not the primary responsibility of national government and the national minister? The Cape Town water crisis is not just some local storm in a teacup. It is a national challenge.

While it is vital that all tiers of government work together in dealing with this climate-led disaster, isn’t there a tier which is mostly missing?

We in the media, and our MPs in Parliament, have a job to do in keeping the minister on her toes.
The Western Cape may not be an ANC stronghold, and there may be political temptations to turn the screw on our local leaders a bit too much, to create an impression that they are not trying hard enough.

However, when the Finance Minister delivers his mini-budget later this month, we will be looking closely for some of the extra cash which Cape Town needs for its water crisis. The Minister needs to prove her commitment by showing that she is fighting for that funding, to demonstrate good faith to our city and to our country.

She cannot do so from the shadows.

Martin Humphries is chief executive officer of The Cape Messenger

1 Comment on "Politicians fight or absent as drought forgotten"

  1. Its not a cut and dried problem this, however, Questions of accountability need to be raised…As much as the water crisis is a national problem and the problem is apportioned to climate change theres some snippets of data that indicate that the problem is one of management- not climate change and adaptability.
    Fiorstly is the question of interpreting the data- UCT has data that shows that rainfall patterns in the western cape have not changed significantly over the last 60 years. In fact the mean rainfall is much the same….Secondly, City council data shows a graph plotting water consumption against population growth and interestingly enough the water consumption of Cape Town has more or less plateaued for the past 17 years despite the continued expansion of its population. Thirdly, Why has the M.A.R.S (Managed Aquifer Replenishment System) which has been operating successfully near Atlantis for 40 years not been expanded on? If we point fingers at provincial or even local government and they in turn point fingers at National government then how does become a citizens problem?? Ergo… Government, at whatever level, is not being taken to task on the Constitutional right and mandate to provide adequate water to sustain growth in the province- Another notch in the Governments coffin.

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