Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane said interventions such as the bulk infrastructure projects and daily monitoring of dam levels could see “Day Zero” pushed back this year.
“It could be pushed back this year as the department has interventions in place, which include six projects around bulk infrastructure in the Western Cape and the daily monitoring of the dam levels,” said Minister Mokonyane.
The Minister made these remarks at a joint meeting with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation on Wednesday.
The Committee was also briefed by the Western Cape Provincial Department of Local Government, Planning and Environment, National Disaster Management Centre, Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, Eastern Cape Provincial Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.
Some of the municipalities affected by the drought that briefed the Committee included the City of Cape Town, Kouga Municipality and Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.
Civil society organisations such as AgriSA, African Farmers Association and the South African Institute of Civil Engineering also made representations.
Minister Mokonyane also told the Committee that Day Zero is a phenomenon in Cape Town which has not been declared by the National Disaster Management Centre.
The Minister informed the Committee that the drought is not only prevalent in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape but in other areas of the country as well. She added that there are some areas in the North West which have not had water in three years.
Following the collection of data from all nine provinces on the drought, the department said it could be declared a national disaster by 14 February this year.
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Des van Rooyen informed the Committee that the Disaster Relief Fund which was allocated to the Western Cape Province in August last year, was only used at 24% by end of December. As of Tuesday, funds spent improved to 40%.
“This was concerning as inefficiencies and maladministration of funds are not to be tolerated,” said Committee Chairperson Mlungisi Johnson.
The Committee said it will look at policy to review the issue of water licenses and the ownership of dams through a proposed legislation.
“Currently, the Department of Water and Sanitation owns and manages about 330 out of the 5 000 dams in South Africa. It concerns the Committee that 65% of water goes to agriculture whilst 23% is used for domestic consumption.
“As recent as yesterday, water was released by farmers which was viewed ‘as a gift’ to the people when in fact water is a natural resource which must be freely enjoyed by all. The government must look at expropriating the land where the dams are, so that they become national assets,” said the Committee’s Chairperson.
The Chairperson urged the Western Cape Provincial Government, the Minister of Water and Sanitation and the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to meet and communicate to the people of South Africa the extent of the drought and the interventions put in place.
“With climate change we need to do more with less. It is hoped that the discussions at this meeting would be solution-based as the development of desalination plants has come up quite often. The government needs to look at plants such as the one in Ballito in KwaZulu-Natal.
“This plant turns waste water into drinking water. This plant feeds the affluent Zimbali Estate, at a fraction of what a desalination plant costs and must be looked into,” said the Chairperson.