The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), Dr Zweli Mkhize, has confirmed that the national state of disaster that was declared three months ago has lapsed in terms of legislation.
“I have decided not to renew the State of the National Drought Disaster when it lapses on 13 June 2018,” Mkhize said on Wednesday.
This follows the Inter-Ministerial Task Team (IMTT) on Drought and Water Scarcity announcement on 13 March 2018 that government had declared a national state of disaster to deal with the country’s drought crisis.
Mkhize said since the declaration in March, various interventions were initiated or intensified by the respective spheres of government.
“These interventions were executed within the prescribed existing legislation and the respective contingency arrangements developed to deal with the acute phase of the drought,” Mkhize said.
The various spheres of government mobilised and reprioritised resources in their existing allocations. They expedited procurement processes and accessed R433.52 million from the respective disaster grants to implement the augmentation and other immediate relief projects.
Of this amount, Mkhize said, R348.83 million was transferred during the 2017/18 financial year and R84.67 million will be transferred from the Provincial Disaster Grant during 2018/19 financial year.
“The implementation of these immediate relief and augmentation projects are ongoing and has evidently already mitigated the immediate impact of the drought,” the Minister said.
During May 2018, the National Joint Drought Coordinating Committee (NJDCC) conducted assessments which showed that the acute phase of the drought in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape and some smaller pockets in the country is at its end, and is now entering the resilience building phase.
The resilience-building phase of a drought is currently the key focus of dealing with drought as a concern for adaptation to climate change.
This entails, among others, improving the identification, funding, coordination and management of resilience-building projects aimed at reducing vulnerability to drought.
To achieve this, Mkhize said the NDJCC will broaden its focus beyond the continual monitoring of resilience-building projects to include focused projects funded from the allocations of the respective organs of state in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) aimed at the identification and implementation of Disaster Risk Reduction projects.
The projects include:
- Augmenting water supply to levels where future demand can be met without imposing restrictions;
- Mainstreaming water conservation and demand management within communities to reduce consumption per capita to that of international norms;
- Adapting farming practices aimed at mitigating the effects of drought and increasing the resilience of the farming sector;
- Performing research to find implementable adaptable solutions to increase resilience to drought. For example, developing alternative resilient crop seeds that are drought and heat tolerant;
- Re-evaluating and reinforcing drought policies across government by incorporating the lessons learned during the acute phase of the drought;
- Addressing backlogs and fast tracking the implementation of bulk water projects; and
- Strengthening the capacity of municipalities to carry out infrastructure development and maintenance through existing local government recovery plans such as the Back to Basics (B2B) programme, Community Work Programme and the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA).
Mkhize said the existing classification of a national disaster remains in force, implying that the national executive will still be responsible for the coordination of the drought interventions listed above under the aegis of the IMTT on drought and water scarcity.
The IMTT will issue regular updates about the developments in this regard.