By Pinky Khoabane
I see you’ve finally decided to grab the bull by its horns so to speak, and put together a team that you say you can “trust to do whatever is humanly possible to defeat #DayZero” – this in the face of growing discontent among Democratic Alliance (DA) members in the way you and the party have handled the water crisis. Frankly they think you’ve messed up.
It’s been a tough few weeks for you – what with this water crisis spiralling out of control, factional battles in the party and former DA leader Tony Leon endorsing ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa as a “game changer” instead of tackling the business at hand, which was to campaign for one of his colleagues who is contesting the KZN provincial chairperson position. This bit about Cyril must really hurt! You were after all, the one SA had been waiting for – its hope – its Obama of Soweto.
And then being heckled at the launch of #DefeatDayZero where you were presenting plans of how you are going to tackle #DayZero! Capetownians were seemingly not interested in yet another catch phrase. I suppose apart from water, they want to hear how you were improving the shocking response time to water leaks and how to avert the water levy the city intends imposing on rate payers. But we all know the role of those catch phrases in propaganda – just keep throwing them at citizens and they will finally be so confused that they won’t have a clue what you’re saying. Keep it up Mmusi, by 2019 your people won’t know if they had ever had #DayZero let alone if they won or lost the battle.
Mayor Patricia De Lille’s matter must also be painful for you. It was about two weeks ago when you announced a litany of very serious charges including misconduct, maladministration, and corruption against her, and you must have desperately wanted to fire her. But you can’t – she holds the Coloured vote which the DA desperately needs for the 2019 elections and all you were able to do is strip her of her duties in dealing with the water crisis.
This entire spat between De Lille and the mayoral committee has given the DA the opportunity to blame her for the water crisis when in truth this mess stems from twenty years ago or so.
In an article published in the Independent on 6 February 2005 under the headline “We can purify sea water cheaply”, mention is made of “an advanced new water desalination system” developed by local scientists who believed it to be “the answer to Cape Town’s water crisis”.
In 2005, according to this article, the City Of Cape Town was in a “feasibility phase looking at the technology”. The article quotes Waheed Patel, spokesperson for Saleem Mowzer, head of trading services in the city, as saying they were looking at the “viability of desalination as a source of drinking water…..It does form part of the city’s strategy to address the water issue”. He said Cape Town had been looking into desalination for a number of years but had “received a fresh boost from the mayor’s office…prompting a more serious look into its viability as a source of fresh drinking water”.
Guess who was in the mayor’s office a year later? The now Premier Helen Zille herself. According to Wikipedia, the issues on which she challenged the ruling government and her commitments when she came into the mayor’s office included Cape Town’s role as a host city of the 2010 World Cup, drugs and the incorporation of the metro police into the broader police service – an issue which she opposed.
No mention is made of the looming water crisis and yet today, fingers are pointed at De Lille and national government for the mess, and the culprit together with Leon, who was DA’s leader at the time, have been portrayed as the saviours. Leon has earned his company a cool 3-months communications contract at R680,000 to mop us his mess. You praise Zille for the work she’s been doing together with the private sector to address water shortages but in truth the blame must lie at her doorstep. She, conveniently, says finger pointing doesn’t help and we know why.
I hear your people in Cape Town are tripping at the thought of #DayZero – this is when they will be joining the millions of black people who have for years lived without access to water and sanitation. Like everything in this country, water is political. Legally bound to squalor through apartheid laws, Blacks were and continue to be deprived of their basic right to water. In this country, the affluent few have access to more water than the majority of the population. Despite the significant improvements made since the advent of democracy, many Black South Africans continue to walk long distances to fetch water while many others still collect water from springs and rivers. These families live on 20Litres of water for two or three days for all their needs – cooking, drinking and washing. If your peeps have been wondering why they dont see pictures of lush lawns out there among the poor, this is why – no grass is worth the long walk.
I read somewhere that you will try and use only 40Litres a day as your contribution to saving water. Well can you and your lot out there in Cape Town see how lucky you are? Even if #DayZero comes, whenever that is and however you define this day, you still have your 4X4s in which to carry the water containers, unlike the poor who have to balance the 20L containers on their heads or on wheelbarrows.
So, Mmusi, tell your people to stop panicking, for there is bottled water in abundance when that #DayZero comes.