South Africa: In Drought-Ravaged Northern Cape, Government Assistance May Be Too Little, Too Late


January 2020 saw the Northern Cape finally declared a disaster area, with R300-million set aside by the government for emergency drought relief. But farmers say this assistance is nowhere near sufficient, with provincial agriculture already decimated by a drought spanning eight years.

"We are facing a tragedy. This is far beyond a disaster." Sutherland resident Sybil Visagie doesn't mince her words. She can't afford to.

"Where I stand now, if I look out of my window, it is black, black, black. No green. There's nothing."

You can only truly understand the effects of the Northern Cape's eight-year drought by seeing the landscape for yourself. When Daily Maverick drove through the province, we found just one river in over 1,000km, which maintained a trickle of water. The environmental palette contains only dull greys, browns and reds.

A dried-up river along the Karoo National Park in Northern Cape. (Photo: Ayanda Mthethwa)

Where vanishingly rare patches of green grass are to be found, animals cluster, ribs protruding through emaciated bellies. From the road, one sees the bones of beasts who have succumbed to thirst, or hunger picked dry.

This is what eight years of drought looks like.

When it rained for a...

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