Cape Town – The water crisis that has been gripping multiple provinces in South Africa, including the Western Cape, has been declared a national disaster by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize on Tuesday.
“As the minister responsible for disaster management, I have recognised that special circumstances exist, and have decided to declare the drought as a national state of disaster in terms of Section 27 of the Disaster Management Act,” Mkhize said.
The drought, which threatened to leave the City of Cape Town without water, was previously elevated to a “national disaster” by Government on February 8. However, this was different to a declaration. Following Mkhize’s announcement, the government can now finally access special funds through Treasury reserved for national disasters.
Mkhize addressed the media in parliament on behalf of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team on water. He stated that his decision to declare a national disaster was gazetted at 10:00 on Tuesday morning.
“The process to calculate how much will be released has begun and the figure will be announced at a later date,” Mkhize said, who added that South Africa is a water scarce country and that all citizens should continue to save water and change their behaviour.
In his statement, Mkhize mentioned actions that will be taken by the government to ensure heightened drought interventions across the country. This includes the “War on Leaks” programme where communities report all the water leaks and municipalities must act by repairing the leaking pipes.
Mkhize also referred to the budget speech, where it was mentioned that a provisional allocation of R6 billion has been set aside in the 2018/19 financial year for several purposes, including drought relief and to augment public infrastructure investment.
“To provide short-term assistance, the budget includes disaster relief grants for provinces and municipalities worth R501.2 million in 2018/19,” Mkhize said.
He further explained how the western parts of South Africa are expected to become drier and the eastern parts of the country may become wetter, alluding to climate change.
“Despite this, we are rated among the highest levels of daily domestic water consumption levels per person in the world,” said Mkhize.
The national disaster declaration comes after the City of Cape Town has moved Day Zero to 2019.