South Africa: So Madam Minister, Where Is the Water? - Asks Cape Town Deputy Mayor

Four-year-old Caleb Slabbert attended the protest.

"So madam minister, where is the water?"

This is the question Cape Town's deputy mayor Ian Neilson put to Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane on Sunday, as the City seeks clarity on what national government will do to help Cape Town through its water crisis.

Neilson said he received a letter from Mokonyane, in which the City was allegedly told that Mokonyane had instructed the Umgeni Water Board to send down desalination equipment that will produce 10 megalitres (ML) a day.

About 4000 square metres in space near the V&A Waterfront was allegedly requested for this, but apart from those details, the City is still in the dark about this plan by the national department.

Neilson said they do not know whether they are "just getting a box" with a desalination plant, or whether there will be somebody to install it, along with the pipes that are necessary to connect it to the City's water reticulation system.

'Political airwall'

The City of Cape Town already has its own desalination plant being built at the V&A, he said. "We welcome the offer - 10ML is not a great number, but 10 is more than zero," he said.

"We would want to engage the department of water and sanitation about this on what it is really offering."

He said the relationship with the department was "very very good" at an operation level, with daily interaction over the impending crisis, and updates on how much water is being released from dams.

However, the "political airwall" is raising concerns.

"If the minister keeps saying correctly that the national department is responsible for water supply: so, madam minister, where is the water?" asked Neilson.

'We need to adapt'

Mokonyane said at a Cape Town Press Club event on Sunday that throwing money at the looming crisis is not the answer, but rather Capetonians need to adapt to the situation.

Anxious citizens in the audience, which included Premier Helen Zille, listened to the pair as they explained the national department's role in curbing the crisis, due to hit the City in under three months.

"We must allay the fears of South Africans," Mokonyane said.

"Day Zero can be avoided if all of us become positive and move beyond politics and appreciate that the realities of climate change are upon us.

"It's not in throwing in money that the solutions will be found. We need to adapt, we need to prioritise, but most importantly, we need to adapt."

Mokonyane said the department will be offering financial support for some of the projects to undergo in the City, once a full plan has been tabled.

Neilson said at the City's press conference, that it wants to see its budget allocation for the crisis now and is happy to implement it.

"We would just like to see some budget allocation, that's all. "For this crisis period now, certainly for this summer, it's unlikely anything that they implement is going to help us.

'Capetonians pay a great deal of tax'

"But we don't know what the rainfall is going to be for the next few winters.

"I hope we can see in a very short period significant effort from their side, in terms of significant action in improving the bulk water supply here in the Western Cape."

A proposal for a drought levy put forward by Mayor Patricia De Lille was scrapped and she was removed from her role in water crisis management.

"Capetonians pay a great deal of tax. There is far more tax paid to the national government than is paid to the City by Capetonians.

"The general tax that goes out of Cape Town is probably in the order of R150 billion. Whereas what comes to the City, you know, our budget is only R40bn. Very little... So we believe we are due that [from the national government]... [and] they do that [help fund crisis mitigation].

"But because they are not stepping up to the plate and they are not doing what they should be doing, we are not going to allow the City to collapse.

"Unfortunately at this stage, it [the money] has to come from our citizens."

Source: News24

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