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Cape Town can still avoid Day Zero‚ says water minister

Day Zero can still be avoided in Cape Town‚ Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane insisted on Sunday.
Day Zero can still be avoided in Cape Town‚ Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane insisted on Sunday.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

Day Zero can still be avoided in Cape Town‚ Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane insisted on Sunday.

Speaking to the Cape Town Press Club‚ Mokonyane said the city council should not have even introduced the countdown to the day taps would run dry — currently slated for April 12.

That issue would be debated with the city council‚ she said‚ but in the meantime she begged Capetonians to conserve water and not to panic.

Trevor Balzer‚ deputy director-general in Mokonyane’s department‚ said he was “shattered” by the suggestion from a member of the audience “that you must move out of Cape Town before you have armageddon”.

“It’s really disappointing that one gets the sense that we’re doing nothing‚” he said. “We are not planning for the system to fail.”

Mokonyane and Balzer both appealed for the technical experts battling to stave off Day Zero — who they said were among the best in the world — to be given the space to do their work without dealing with “clutter and side noise”.

And the minister said she refused to utter the words “African National Congress” or “Democratic Alliance” while addressing the drought in the Western Cape.

“Fellow South Africans living in Cape Town‚ we care about you‚” she said‚ repeatedly calling on Premier Helen Zille — who was in the audience — and others in opposition parties not to politicise the drought.

But Zille told Mokonyane: “We cannot do this without money. And none of the augmentation measures will be ready before this winter apart from what Cape Town is doing itself.”

Mokonyane denied Zille’s claim and media reports that her department was not prepared to spend money on easing the crisis.

She said Balzer was a member of the City of Cape Town water resilience task team and there were numerous collaborations between the three tiers of government on how to tackle the crisis.

“We will give support and agree on finances based on all of us agreeing on the priorities‚” she said. “We will do everything we can to collaborate and optimise resources‚ all in the best interests of end users of water.

“But Day Zero is avoidable if we each do the little we are asked to do to save water. Our enemy is failure to manage water and that is what we must tackle together.”

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