Home / Observatory / News / National Government Gets Blamed For The #watercrisis In The Western Cape


Westen Cape Premier, Helen Zille, has used her weekly online column to accuse the national government of not doing enough, timeously to take the water crises that the province finds itself in, seriously. 

In an opinion piece written for the Daily Maverick, Zille responded to questions raised about the response to the drought in the Western Cape, and to the main question of whether or not Cape Town's taps will run dry. Zille wrote: "In the past weeks I have been inundated with questions about the water crisis in Cape Town and the Western Cape. Here is a summary of the answers to the most frequently asked questions on the topic."

She said that the city will not run out of the water if the residents kept within or below the daily use limit of 87 litres of water per person. 

She said people could meet this target by using water in the following ways:

  • A shower to the maximum of 2 minutes (20 litres);
  • Drinking water (2 litres);
  • Daily hygiene – brushing teeth, washing hands etc. (4 litres);
  • Doing the dishes and laundry (23 litres);
  • Three toilet flushes (27 litres).

Zille highlighted that the average rainfall was below average, which is the main reason the province found itself in crisis, but also said the City of Cape Town and the provincial government was not to blame for the tardiness of the response to the drought. 

Hellen Zille wrote that "In November 2015, when dams were still 75% full (and despite the predictions of a wetter-than-normal winter season in 2016), we applied to the national government to declare the Western Cape a drought disaster area." 

This application was turned down. "The National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) turned down our application for a province-wide disaster declaration. In January 2016, we got the go-ahead for disaster declarations in five Western Cape local municipalities: West Coast District; Central Karoo; Witzenberg; Oudtshoorn; and Prince Albert.

"Arising out of this declaration, the Provincial government was supposed to receive R8-million from the national Department of Water and Sanitation, and another R27-million from the national Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. This money has still not arrived, despite numerous follow-ups.

"In the Province, we diverted R25-million from other projects for water augmentation schemes – drilling and equipping of boreholes, and water demand management campaigns. The provincial Department of Agriculture spent an additional R32-million on fodder relief. In the worst-affected areas, our interventions have been crucial in preventing taps from running dry," Zille wrote. 

Zille went on to point fingers at the national department of water and sanitation. Its regional director, Rashid Khan, had rejected a February 2017, request to have Cape Town declared a local disaster area, she wrote.

"Khan was also reported as accusing the City of requesting a disaster declaration merely to acquire funds from the national fiscus for water generation projects. His view was that demand management – rather than supply augmentation – would see the City through. 
The next day, in the provincial parliament, I sharply criticised Mr Khan and the national minister for this response," Zille wrote.

"Mr Khan’s statements are significant for two reasons – first, they reflect his dismissiveness of the scale of the problem we faced, and second, he acknowledged that funds for major capital infrastructure are the responsibility of national government – as in 2010 when the national department provided capital for two desalination plants in Mossel Bay and Sedgefield."

She said the national department of water and sanitation was broke. 

"We soon learnt why the department was so determined to avoid another situation in which they might have to fork out money for capital infrastructure. They had none. By that stage, the Department of Water Affairs was already R4.3-billion in the red, with R2.5-billion of irregular expenditure and R87-million in fruitless and wasteful expenditure. Controversial projects (such as the Giyani Emergency Project in Limpopo) had ballooned from initial estimates of R500-million to over R3-billion. The national Treasury had refused the department any further bailouts."

The city of Cape Town is in serious danger and it is expected from the consumers to stay within the daily water limit.

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