South Africa: Unpacked - Who's Blaming Who for Cape Town's Water Crisis Woes

Finger pointing and blaming over the drought crisis gripping Cape Town has picked up this week, with behind-the-scenes fighting between DA leaders being revealed.

This despite calls for full focus to be on the crisis, instead of apportioning blame.

On Wednesday, Democratic Alliance Western Cape leader Bonginkosi Madikizela said embattled Mayor Patricia De Lille had played a role in creating public panic around the water crisis.

He also accused her of delaying budget decisions and withholding information.

De Lille, News24 revealed on Tuesday, pointed the finger at senior project managers tasked with tackling the drought crisis. She said they never managed to get an overall plan off the ground.

The team, which she requested be set up in May - the water resilience task team - was effectively closed down this week.

De Lille has been at the centre of intense infighting within the City of Cape Town's leadership.

The DA on Wednesday said that its federal executive had authorised a motion of no confidence in De Lille, who earlier this month was removed from directing drought crisis plans.

Premier Helen Zille on Wednesday announced ramped up plans to try and tackle the crisis.

Zille requests urgent resolution from national government

She said she had written to Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane and called for "an urgent resolution to national government's role in funding bulk water supply interventions in Cape Town".

"The letter follows the minister's visit to Cape Town on the weekend, during which it was revealed that bulk water supply funding would not be forthcoming from national government, and that the Berg River Voëlvlei scheme to augment Cape Town's water supply would only come online by 2021," Zille said.

"National government has the mandate for bulk water supply, local government is responsible for reticulation, and provinces have oversight, support, monitoring and disaster management powers."

She called for a joint task team, from national, provincial and local government, to deal with the drought.

Zille is expected to meet Mokonyane next week.

'Put politics aside'

"I wish to confirm my agreement with you that all three spheres of government should refrain from politicising, or further politicising, the crisis," she said in the letter to Mokonyane.

"No purpose is served by pointing fingers and attributing blame, politically or otherwise. We share a constitutional duty to safeguard our citizens' fundamental rights, which must inform any action that we take."

However, the drought crisis has resulted in finger pointing.

On Wednesday, Madikizela was scathing when referring to De Lille's handling of the water crisis.

He said she was removed from directing the City's responses to the matter.

'De Lille withheld info, interfered with projects'

"She actively withheld information, misdirected officials, delayed budget decisions, interfered with project plans and undermined the rollout of augmentation projects as a result," Madikizela charged.

"Her failure to manage this correctly and to communicate accurate information has played a material role in the current public panic and negatively impeded the City's response to the current crisis."

He said she had not pushed national government to fulfill its legal responsibilities in terms of helping to prevent the crisis.

This, Madikizela said, posed a risk to Cape Town residents.

De Lille's version of how the drought crisis has been handled by her colleagues is contained in a submission, dated January 5 this year, addressed to DA federal executive chairperson James Selfe.

In the submission, she said the water resilience task team had undertaken to ensure that augmented water supplies were available in August last year.

But, by October, this plan was still not on track.

"At some of the very first meetings, it was astounding to hear feedback from project managers who, when asked for updates on the plans to get additional water, instead spent a great deal of time talking about furniture for the 'war room' for the water resilience team," De Lille said in her submission.

"Instead of receiving substantial feedback on the actual delivery of water and commencement of projects, senior project managers spoke about desks and other office furniture needed for the war room and the costs to set it up."

De Lille said she had twice previously applied to national government to declare Cape Town a local disaster area, but her requests had been turned down.

High-level meeting

Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation Mlungisi Johnson said a meeting, including representatives from the national water department, the Western Cape local government department, and the City was expected to be held next Tuesday.

The aim of the meeting was to try and align various responses to the water crisis.

Source: News24

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