Water Crisis: Funds Drought As Levy Is Scrapped

Cape Town’s City officials are in a quandary about how to raise funds for critical water projects after bowing to public pressure and scrapping a proposed drought levy.The council on Friday voted against the levy amid a strong public backlash. It also decided that mayor Patricia de Lille’s powers would be curtailed, so she no longer speaks on the water crisis.

De Lille, who was the public face of the City’s water-saving campaign, responded: “I was never consulted on this matter, even though it affects me they may conflict with statutory powers or other existing delegations.”

Deputy mayor Ian Neilson has been appointed to speak on the City’s ongoing water crisis as Day Zero, now expected in late April, draws closer.

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He said with the levy off the cards, new stringent water tariffs would kick in. Public pressure has mounted against the City, with locals demanding politicians be held accountable for the crisis created by the ongoing drought.

More than 50 organisations have formed a coalition and will lead two mass pickets to the civic centre this month to protest the City’s handling of the crisis.

The first picket, led by Cosatu, takes place tomorrow, while the second demonstration is scheduled for next Sunday.

The City is now unsure how it will raise extra funds needed for water projects such as desalination and drilling abstraction boreholes into the Table Mountain group aquifer.

“We should be able to get money (through water tariffs) but it won’t be the full amount,” said Neilson.

“We have constantly said national government is responsible for providing our water supply.

“Our job (in the City) is the distribution of it. They (national) should be coming to the party in a big way.

“Unfortunately, they are not doing it. They only gave R20million.”

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Neilson said the City needed R6bn annually to provide water and sanitation services. Its new water tariff is meant to be a top-up for additional projects.

He said the City had to put the brakes on several other projects to ensure more funds to deal with the water crisis.

“We have put on hold road projects, parks projects, building projects. We have frozen the filling of vacant posts at the City. We have looked everywhere for money,” said Neilson.

On Friday, the Western Cape ANC branch sent a letter to President Jacob Zuma, asking him to launch an investigation into the Cape’s water crisis.

“Mr President, we would like to officially request a commission of inquiry into who is responsible for this looming disaster that is going to cost the lives, livestock, the economy (especially agriculture) and will destroy the Western Cape economy, which heavily relies on tourism,” it reads.

“There have to be punitive measures so that such consequential negligence and failure to perform governance duties does not go unpunished.”

Neilson said the council had heard residents’ concerns but would go ahead with punitive tariffs from February 1.

He said the City was still racing towards Day Zero, slated for April 21, when the dams would run dry if water consumption did not change.

“This is an economic signal telling people wasting water is a costly thing to do. We have to cover the full cost of what it it’s costing to produce this water,” said Neilson.

Households using 6000 litres of water a month would pay R145.98 a month instead of the current R28.44. And anyone using 50000 litres of water a month would pay R20619.57 instead of R2888.81.

Poor households would still receive 6000 litres of water per month at no cost, but would be charged if they used more.

Neilson said: “We anticipate there will be a Day Zero. If over the next three months people can reduce their consumption we can stretch it out to a later date. If we can get it down to the whole city only using 450million litres of water a day then we can stretch it into winter.

Turning to De Lille, Western Cape DA leader Bonginkosi Madikizela said the mayor needed to focus on her hearings with the party’s federal executive. The party is probing a string of allegations against her, including having undermined the executive.

“Patricia remains the mayor. That hasn’t changed,” said Madikizela. “Given the fact that this (water) is the biggest crisis in Cape Town, we need someone who is focused on it alone. She (De Lille) would be distracted with the hearings of the federal executive.”


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