Cape Town is bracing for a humanitarian crisis with fewer than 80 days to go before it becomes the first city in the world to run out of water.
Western Cape Premier Helen Zille met with the army, the police, National Disaster Management the State Security Agency, among others, at the Provincial Disaster Management Centre, at Tygerberg Hospital, on Monday, to discuss contingency plans.
She has also written to President Jacob Zuma, warning the drought had gone “from a threat to an imminent crisis” and urging him to declare a national disaster.
Meanwhile, work has started on the 200 collection points across the city where Capetonians will go for their daily 25-litre water ration, under armed guard, after the taps run dry.
Last week, council voted to ratchet up water restrictions to Level 6B from February 1, only a month after Level 6 restrictions started on January 1. Level 6B rations residents to 50 litres a day or 6 000 litres a household a month.
A planned drought levy was scrapped in favour of punitive tariffs with exponentially higher rates for those using more than 6 000 litres.
A household bill will jump from R28.44 to R145.98 at the
6 000-litre mark.
A household using 50 000 litres will pay thousands of rand more: R2 888.81 to R20 619.57.
In a sternly worded statement last week, Mayor Patricia de Lille warned the city had “reached a point of no return” and that Day Zero was now “very likely” to happen on April 21 because 60% of Capetonians were still “callously” using more than 87 litres a day.
Then on Monday, Day Zero jumped to Thursday April 12.
Karen Davis, chairman of the Greater Table Action Forum (GTAF), said money would have to come from somewhere to fund the City’s water projects because the national government was not “fulfilling its role” and aiding the Western Cape in its hour of need.
Kenneth Brookes, chairman of the Richwood Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association (RRRA) said they wanted to know how the collection points would work.
“Day Zero is fast approaching, and the residents of Richwood are preparing for the worst. Rumours and stories circulating in the media around having to pay for your water at collection points, producing your water bill or municipal bill and ID, have not helped curb the anxiety. What about people who do not have a municipal account? Our questions to the City about collection point locations, have gone unanswered.”
The association has several other questions it wants answers to:
* How does the City know who lives in and around the collection points?
* Where will the water distributed at the collection points come from?
* How will security will be run at the collection points?
* How will the elderly, vulnerable and those without transport collect their water?
The association is working on plans to help people. These plans, said Mr Brookes, included hiring trailers to haul water for the elderly and sourcing 25-litre containers at cost.
“We will have a community meeting in the next few weeks to come, to discuss our concerns, myths, rumours and action plans”.
On Sunday, Table View resident Schulla Pronk posted pictures on social media of people washing cars on the side of the road in Joe Slovo.
Ms Pronk said some had criticised her for doing so, saying the car washers were only trying to make a living.
“I understand everyone needs to make a living. I have no problem with that, but I do have a problem with them using fresh drinking water.
“Why not use grey water or borehole water? In three months time, that water they are wasting now could be used to save a life,” she said.
Vaphiswa Ngebulana, the deputy chairperson of the EFF’s Ward 4 branch, said many people still didn’t grasp the severity of the water crisis facing Cape Town.
“I think a lot of people, not only in Joe Slovo, lack education behind saving water. They don’t think of the consequences because they are oblivious about what is happening. I appeal to council for awareness drives to make people aware to save water,” she said.