[imagesource: Kaylynn Palm/EWN]
When the Day Zero panic was at its peak, international news outlets couldn’t get enough of Cape Town’s plight.
Then, just as quickly, the media coverage died down and fears of the taps running dry were no longer front of mind.
We may be sitting pretty in Cape Town (for now – remain water-wise, friends), but other parts of the country haven’t been so lucky, and the world is once again starting to take notice.
The Eastern Cape town of Graaff-Reinet hit headlines last year, with the words ‘Day Zero’ back in the news, and just yesterday we covered the BBC’s short segment on how the people of Free State’s Harrismith are coming together to take matters into their own hands.
In a story over the weekend, the Financial Times (or the FT, to the initiated) also zeroed in on some of the country’s smaller towns, and how they’re rapidly losing faith in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ANC.
It paints a bleak picture of a town falling apart thanks to “absent politicians and broken infrastructure”:
Even as a brownish pool has returned to the dam in the semi-desert Karoo region, its pipes are in disrepair and its walls are crumbling — part of a municipal collapse in one of South Africa’s oldest towns that goes beyond the pressures of a drought that has lasted almost two years in the voter heartland of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ruling African National Congress.
Many of Graaff-Reinet’s residents, faced with dry taps for months, have given up on the cash-strapped local municipality to distribute water and look instead to Gift of the Givers, Ms [Corene] Conradie’s charity, for drilled boreholes and water truck deliveries.
Every day messages for help flood in via WhatsApp. “My phone is going mad — water, water,” Ms Conradie said. A day care. An old people’s home. A traffic cop who needs to wash her uniform.
The residents of towns like Graaff-Reinet feel abandoned by Ramaphosa, who has bigger fish to fry with the likes of Eskom and SAA.
The fall from grace evident in the Eastern Cape town points to a decade of blind eyes and the sort of mismanagement that has sunk the above-mentioned state-owned enterprises:
Graaff-Reinet began Mr Zuma’s rule as 2010’s South African Town of the Year, a mountain-ringed “Gem of the Karoo” with centuries-old houses and monuments. It remains a “beautiful town with all the potential”, in [Hento Davids, head of the Graaff-Reinet chamber of commerce’s] words.
But it fell into decline, including an ill-fated political merger with other towns that left it with large debts and diminished ability to collect revenue to pay for boreholes and infrastructure upkeep. The town’s ANC mayor has rarely been seen during the crisis, residents said. Deon de Vos, who serves as a deputy president of a good-governance association for South African municipalities, was out of town when the Financial Times visited.
These politicians always seem to be around when it’s election time, handing out t-shirts and making grand promises of new dawns, but then the months tick by…
Whilst the drought itself cannot be blamed on poor governance, the town’s inability to handle the situation can, and it stems from the top corridors of the ruling party:
Water supply to taps is a local government responsibility but neglect is entrenched at the national level, the opposition DA and civic activists argue. They have accused [Lindiwe Sisulu, the national water minister] of stuffing her department with ANC cronies in order to advance future ambitions to supplant Mr Ramaphosa as party leader, at the cost of attention to drought-hit areas.
Ms Sisulu declined to be interviewed about the plight of drought-hit towns, citing the need first to table a “master plan” for South Africa’s water security before Mr Ramaphosa’s cabinet. She denies nepotism.
If you think that master plan is going to be anything more than empty words and hollow promises, you’re exactly the sort of person who has helped keep this criminal enterprise masquerading as a political party in power for the past 26 years.
Again, let the above serve as a reminder for us Capetonians to stay water-wise.
You can read the full FT article here.
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