THIRSTY: People queue to collect natural spring water from the Brewery spring in Newlands. But inconsiderate people behaving badly are impacting on residents living nearby. Picture: Athina May.
THIRSTY: People queue to collect natural spring water from the Brewery spring in Newlands. But inconsiderate people behaving badly are impacting on residents living nearby. Picture: Athina May.

#WaterCrisis: Water war begins to rear its head

By Jason Felix and Athina May Time of article published Jan 17, 2018

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Capw Town - Cape Town’s water wars are not only fought in the corridors of the City Council, but also in the streets as residents scramble to fill containers at springs, upsetting others who live nearby.

Mayor Patricia de Lille is already facing an avalanche of resistance from residents over her proposal for a water levy and is fighting resistance in her own party over it. Apart from the water battles, she also faces an investigation by the DA on issues of corruption and her leadership style.

The DA has decided to relieve her of the management of the water crises to focus on other issues of her job as mayor.

As the city edges ever closer to Day Zero - with 95 days of water left - residents are queueing at springs to fill up containers and causing conflict with other residents.

Those living close to the Newlands spring have complained of hooting and screams of frustration that fill the air when people collect their water.

Communicare chief executive Anthea Houston said elderly residents in Creswell are being affected when their driveway is blocked and their visitors' parking is occupied. Communicare has placed signage on the property asking water collectors to be considerate. But the inconsiderate behaviour is continuing unabated.

De Lille’s proposal to introduce a “drought levy” based on property prices was met with fury from thousands of residents. A final decision on the drought levy can be expected on Friday.

“The drought charge is needed to make up the deficit in the City’s revenue, which has come about due to residents’ water savings and thus paying significantly less for water and sanitation.

"The proposed drought charge to the Council last year is not intended to be punitive. The reality is that because of reduced consumption, the City’s water and sanitation department has projected that it will see a deficit in the region of R1.7billion for 2017/18,” De Lille said.

But her own party made a U-turn after the massive outcry, with the City receiving more than 55000 complaints.

The DA's metro executive had a change of heart, after initially approving the levy proposal for public comment during a full Council sitting last month.

James Selfe, the DA's federal executive chairperson, said De Lille cannot be blamed for the drought crisis, but stressed that it required her full attention.

“The water crisis is the priority now The mayor’s full attention should be focused on this and with all the allegations against her and the disciplinary steps against her, we need someone who can focus fully on the crisis,” Selfe said.

Anton Bredell, DA provincial chairperson and Western Cape MEC for Local Government, also stepped into the fray when he lodged a formal objection with former City manager Achmat Ebrahim, who resigned on Monday.

Bredell said the responsibility ultimately falls on the City’s leadership, political and administrative sectors to ensure the best possible outcome in this challenging time.

“It would be unfair to add a water levy with most residents already bearing the brunt of the country’s economic state. We simply cannot expect them to pay more."

Bredell said he hoped that the City would reconsider its decision.

Julius Kleynhans, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) spokesperson on water said: “There appears to be a strong undercurrent of political point-scoring around the Cape Town water issue, which does not serve the public interests."

Janine Myburgh, president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce, said the City could "easily squeeze R1.7billion from its huge budgets".

“This (finding the money) should be a fairly straightforward exercise,” Myburgh pointed out.

The City has also come under fire after the Weekend Argus reported that former DA leader Tony Leon and the party’s former communications director Nick Clelland were being paid to run its water crisis communications campaign.

Tony Ehrenreich, Cosatu's Western Cape secretary, said Leon and an ex-employee of the City of Cape Town were being paid half a million rand to tell Capetonians that it is not raining.

Meanwhile, amid all the political fighting, the average level for dams across the Western Cape for this week, starting on Monday, was a worrying 26.5%.

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Cape Argus

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