None of us can ignore the reality that it will never again be business as usual – as far as the availability of water in Cape Town and the region is concerned – and that we have a new normal. Should it not make sense, then, that the existing policies, tender processes, and legacy roles are really not going to help? The Water Leapathon initiative which is now gaining momentum.
The discussion of the participants of the Water Leapathon steering committee led me to consider what the role of the three spheres of government and the private sector should be in mitigating this crisis, with a long-term view.
Although I do not know much about the internal workings of policy formulation, one of the first observations I have is that government should consider reviewing their policies about the way they engage with the private sector so that a truly enabling environment exists.
Existing policies, legacy roles and tender processes have had an unintended consequence and helped to shape the disastrous predicament in which we find ourselves.
In fact, I suspect there must be a policy vacuum – as the reflection of the new normal is not something anyone had anticipated, and therefore the policies to address it don’t really exist yet. How we fill this policy vacuum is extremely important.
I cannot shake the sense that the municipality in Cape Town still feels they need to control and manage the water supply. In actual fact, most specialists are saying that technology (new and adapted technologies) will really be the foundation of any credible long-term solution. Yet the people who most understand how we should tackle this crisis are not being given proper influence and a greater voice at the table.
It is clear to me that we cannot leave the management of this crisis to politicians, to scientists, or to technical experts. We must ensure that many voices together start to speak a language that drives us to solutions. Investors are looking for great ideas. The capital is there. We need to move quickly, and I am convinced that the private sector must take its rightful place, and take the lead in getting us to the solutions.
Viola Manuel is CEO of the Water Leapathon.