The Water Crisis : Prompt Response in Cape Town and Silence in Other Parts of South Africa


One of South Africa’s affluent cities, Cape Town, is experiencing a severe drought which has resulted in water shortage. This is despite efforts made to reduce water usage. Dam levels are critically low and Cape Town is preparing for “day zero” in May 2018 when Cape Town will be the first major city in the world to run out of water.BackgroundThe water shortage in Cape Town dates back to 2015, when there was a drought caused by climate changes. This included dry winters which reduced dam levels by almost 50%. There has been a drastic decrease in rainfall, resulting in a decreased supply by the Theewaterskloof river, which supplies half the water in Cape Town.  Furthermore, population has increased by almost 79% from 1995 and dam storage by only 15%. This depicts that consumption has increased in a way that is not aligned to capacity of water provision in Cape Town.Government interventionIn light of this crisis, one of the South African government's key priorities will be infrastructure maintenance. This was cited as one of the reasons for the water crisis in the Western Cape Province by Jeff Radebe the Minister in the Presidency: Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation.Misappropriation of effortsHowever, the water crisis is a tip of a much bigger iceberg in South Africa’s water shortage spectrum. The same efforts appropriated to the Cape Town water crisis are needed in other parts of South Africa where infrastructural efforts can be appropriated to link water to remote areas, for adequate access.This basic need, as enshrined in section 27(2) of the Constitution of South Africa, 1996, which serves as the supreme law of the Republic of South Africa, calls for robust involvement by the arm of government responsible for the provision of infrastructure in order to make sure this right is realised.  According to a report released by Statistics South Africa between 2005-2015, the Western Cape, where Cape Town is situated bares 99.4% of households with safe and clean drinking water whereas less affluent provinces such as the Eastern Cape sit on just 75.7% of households with access to safe drinking water facilities. Furthermore, access to sanitation facilities by households in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape sit below the 60%, whereas the Western Cape has improved by 90%.Could this crisis be a blatant reflection of the misappropriated efforts by government to prioritise the less privileged yet again but quick to respond to more affluent metropolitan areas? Is this a crack in the democratic system in meeting the needs of the less privileged? A prompt response to a crisis through measures meant to meet basic needs as provided for by the Bill of rights, as found in our Constitution.

Featured image | Capetown water graph January 2018 | wikimedia commonsThe views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.Do you find this topic interesting? Why not contribute to our blog?