Cape Town - The DA-led city and province’s announcement that Day Zero had been defeated has been met with outrage, with activists saying party politics and electioneering have been put above fact and the interest of Capetonians.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane on Wednesday announced that Day Zero would not occur this year, provided that citizens continue consuming water at current levels, and that there was decent winter rainfall.

However, activists have questioned how the city can go from turning taps off entirely to not turning taps off at all in the space of only two months.

They have accused authorities and the DA of playing with the lives of their 4 million citizens.

Sandra Dickson of the Stop COCT action group, which led the charge in defeating the city’s proposed drought charge, said Day Zero being moved off the radar this year comes as a turnaround strategy of a political party on an unprecedented scale.

“Due to recent acute pressure reduction and Level 6B water restrictions, which were accompanied by a 500% plus increase in water tariffs, the water usage of the city metro decreased to around 520 million litres.

“This happened against a backdrop where the citizens of Cape Town were accused as late as January that 60% of them were not adhering to water restrictions. So, quite frankly, if one has to believe Maimane, a miracle must have happened,” she said.

Dickson believes the announcement was made hastily in light of the nearness of next year’s election.

Maimane said consumption now sat at between 510 million litres and 520 million litres per day - down from almost 1.2 billion litres in February 2015.

The city’s water usage target is 450 million litres.

While the city now projects that if there is no rain, Day Zero will arrive early next year, it will continue to roll out its pressure demand management programme, and install water meters at the homes of high users.

Residents responded magnificently to calls to save water, Maimane said.

“Individuals, families, communities, businesses, private dam owners and many others. Everyone played their part in this city-wide collective effort to keep the taps open.

“I cannot stress enough, that we need to keep at current consumption levels until at least after the winter rainfall. We can, and we must, continue to use less than 50 litres of water per day so that Day Zero can be defeated in its entirety.

“I am confident that residents will not return to previous wasteful water practices,” Maimane said.

The city’s dashboard for this week shows a slight increase in water consumption. And this, according to deputy mayor Ian Neilson, bucks the recent downward trend of the past few weeks.

Overall consumption was measured at 537 million litres per day, up from 516 recorded the previous week. Dam levels have dropped by 0.4% to 23.6%.

“Our water map shows a 5% increase in the number of households that used less than six kilolitres a month in January, as compared with December.

“While we are feeling more confident of avoiding Day Zero this year, we cannot predict the volume of rainfall still to come.

“If winter rainfall this year is as low as last year, or even lower, we are still in danger of reaching Day Zero early next year,” he added.

Shaheed Mahomed of the Water Crisis Coalition saluted the public for their water- saving efforts.

“It is our collective effort that has forced the DA to cancel their ‘Day Zero’. We are vindicated by this in that we always said that the calculation for it was suspect and unscientific. It was a blunt instrument to justify the rapid privatisation of water through mass rollout of water restrictor devices, high tariffs and large-scale desalination,” Mahomed said.

The coalition has demanded that an independent investigation into the tenders of the water restrictor devices, and the immediate lifting of level 6B restrictions.

“The DA leadership need to be criminally charged for the wastage of hundreds of millions spent on preparing for this fake Day Zero.”

The water collection points that the city was preparing to install would cost about R200 million. The city yesterday said it would continue to plan a Day Zero contingency.

[email protected]

Cape Times