TEAM MAN: Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Cape Town - "We’re facing a real, total disaster in Cape Town which is going to affect more than four million people.”

With this message of urgency to the rest of the world broadcast on international network CNN, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has taken charge of the calamity facing Cape Town.

“And I’m going back home and I’m going to corral as many people as possible to put our heads together and see exactly what we should be doing, not only in the immediate term, but also in the long term.

“But in the immediate term, we’ve got to make sure that we bring water to the people of Cape Town without fail.”

Ramaphosa was speaking at the end of his trip to the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, where he was wooing big business to invest in the country.

At the same time, DA leader Mmusi Maimane on Monday asked Ramaphosa, in his capacity as leader of government business in Parliament, to urgently step in and help with the water crisis.

Tyrone Seale, Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, said although it has not been clear, the water crisis will dominate the cabinet meeting this week.

“At this stage I am not in a position to comment, but we expect that the water crisis in the Cape will be top of the agenda,” he said.

“Climate change is a reality,” Ramaphosa said in the interview with CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour last Thursday.

“If people around the world, specifically South Africa, ever thought that climate change is just a fable or a fiction, we in South Africa as regards Cape Town are now seeing the real effects of climate change.

In a letter to Ramaphosa, Maimane requested an urgent meeting to tackle the drought crisis in the Eastern and Western Cape.

“I welcome the deputy president’s intentions, and I am willing to work with anyone who is committed to avoiding Day Zero - regardless of political affiliation. It is no secret that the drought crisis in the City of Cape Town is unprecedented. I have assembled a Disaster Response Team, comprising of members of our respective governments, to effectively respond to the situation and to lead our efforts to defeat Day Zero,” he said.

Maimane said Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba and Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane’s involvement was also important.

It has also been disclosed that the ANC-led national government wanted to help with the city’s water crisis, but mayor Patricia de Lille had asked the government to delay building a desalination plant while it explored access to the available groundwater.

De Lille confirmed that she wrote the letter to Mokonyane following advice received from water specialist Neil MacLeod, the City’s executive director for water and sanitation, Gisela Kaiser and the City’s director for water and sanitation, Peter Flower.

Meanwhile, credit ratings agency Moody’s said the water crisis in Cape Town is credit negative and has placed the City on review for a ratings downgrade.

Moody’s noted that two of Cape Town’s main industries - tourism and agriculture - are likely to decline, reducing employment, gross value added and tax income.

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Cape Argus