President Cyril Ramaphosa must take drastic steps to cope with a worsening drought that has gripped large parts of the country, opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Thursday.
“Failure to recognise the severity of the drought that has gripped all nine of our provinces and any further delays in putting in place measures to mitigate the impact of this threat will have catastrophic consequences for our nation,” DA leader John Steenhuisen said.
According to him, it is estimated that over 37 per cent of rural communities in South Africa are affected by the drought.
“A recent study by farmer association Agri SA shows that at the beginning of 2019 around 30,000 farmworkers had already lost their jobs due to the drought.
“This is the stark reality that the government can no longer ignore,’’ Steenhuisen said.
Three years of crippling drought brought the Western Cape, and the City of Cape Town in particular, right to the edge of what is called Day Zero, the day when the taps would run dry.
It was only through a massive effort that involved both local and provincial governments, as well as business, civil society and, above all, ordinary residents, that this day was avoided.
According to the DA, currently, the Northern Cape may be the worst hit.
However, the Eastern Cape, the North West, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces are all facing their own versions of Day Zero, whether in residential areas or in sustaining livestock and crops on farms.
“It is extremely worrying that none of the other provinces affected by this drought seem to share this sense of urgency and concern,’’ Steenhuisen said.
Ramaphosa is currently in the Northern Cape, and he will be addressing a national audience on Saturday.
“I appeal to him to use the opportunity to recognize the urgency of the situation, and to prioritize an adequate response,’’ the DA leader said.
The most important action is to direct funds towards drought relief measures.
According to Steenhuisen, each province has its own unique challenges brought about by the drought, but common to all is a shortage of funds to implement meaningful mitigation plans.
He reiterated a call for the government to declare the drought a national disaster.
“The national government has a duty to step in where provincial and local governments do not have sufficient capacity or funds to look after citizens in times of hardship,” Steenhuisen said.