Western Cape Premier Helen Zille says the dismissal by the Department of Water and Sanitation to calls for the City of Cape Town to be drought disaster area is unfortunate.
Zille was responding to oral questions in the Provincial Legislature on Thursday regarding comments made by the department’s regional director, Rashid Khan who stated that it was still too early to declare the municipality a disaster area.
This after the City’s Mayor, Patricia de Lille indicated earlier in the week that she would write to the MEC for Environmental Affairs, Anton Bredelle to put in a request for the municipality to be declared a disaster area. But Rashid said there was still time turn the situation around with interventions adding that the municipality was only trying to get capital fund water-generating projects.
“I think that it is unfortunate that Mr Khan made these statements, we are having to follow a two-fold strategy, one is to save water by all means and the others is to try and generate new sources of water and I don’t know why it should be scandalous for us to get resources to develop new water sources like desalting dams and canals so that we can get the water,” she says.
This as the province is looking into desalination where single 450 mega-litre plant comes with R15 billion price tag, excluding VAT.
“If the Department of Water and Sanitation stands for anything, they should be helping us do that and not hindering our progress,” adds Zille.
“While Mr Khan is a pleasant enough person, his job is to help this province in its strategy to conserve water and source new resources to generate water from different means.
“But we are used to the fact that government institutions don’t fulfil their mandates and we think it is very sad that the consciousness we have raised around the need to save water is now being dissipated by a national minister who tried to minimise the crisis that we are facing.”
DA MPL, Masixole Mnqasela said drought was a reality for the province and should not be a used for politics.
“Drought is no longer a political matter, when you debate this issue it should be beyond party politics. The request we are making here, a request we should all be making is that the Western Cape be declared a drought disaster area,” he added.
“The Kannaland and Hessequa [Municipalities] have requested that there be a disaster declaration and that is beyond the five other regions that have been declared. I think if we don’t take this seriously we will wake up and there will be no water in our taps, we should encourage the efforts done by the government of this province to save water and the campaigns that encourage citizens to save water.”
But ANC MPL Cameron Dugmore hit out at the provincial government saying they should rather take responsibility for failure to manage the water crisis facing the City of Cape Town.
“It is highly irregular that the standing committee met to discuss this issue [on Wednesday], and effectively accepted an apology from City of Cape Town not to be present to actually begin to explain their contribution towards this crisis and what we need to establish from the chair of the committee is whether the City of Cape was encouraged not to attend or whether they was a valid reason,” he argued.
“What is clear is that the City under the leadership of resigned DA provincial leader, Mayor Patricia de Lille has threatened to expose the biggest wasters of water but it is clear that the mayor and her staff do not know what they are doing.”