VITAL GIFT: Water Shortage South Africa volunteer Andre le Roux with thousands of litres of water donations he stores in his Brackenfell home. Volunteers have collected more than 20 000 litres of water for areas with severe water restrictions in South Africa. Picture: PANDO JIKELO

Nicolette Dirk

WESTERN Cape residents are rallying to donate tens of thousands of litres of water to fellow South Africans in other parts of the country who are battling to cope with a devastating drought.

Watershortage South Africa said volunteers in Brackenfell had distributed thousands of litres of water since last month. And another 22 000 litres were waiting to be transported to drought-stricken regions. Volunteer Hendriette Wielick said water donations have been streaming in, and on Wednesday alone they had managed to collect 4 700 litres.

“So far we have sent water to areas like Bloemfontein and the Northern Cape, where the drought situation is really bad,” she said.

The tragedy had brought out the best in the community, she added. She said a random volunteer on his way to Gauteng took 20 litres of water to donate and offered to transport 400 extra litres from the organisation.

They also received a donation of a truck that was then used to transport 35 000 litres of water to Bloemfontein.

While the donations were widely welcomed, finding transport was a challenge.

“In my garage, I have about 3 000 litres of water. We are working hard to make sure all this water gets to where it is needed,” she said

Watershortage South Africa volunteers in George are working overtime to reach their target of collecting 27 000 litres of water.

Group co-ordinator Sue Wolmarans said reading the stories of the plight of people in drought-stricken areas had spurred her on to get involved.

“It is amazing to see how readily the community had opened their hearts,” she said.

At first, most of the donations also ended in her garage, but drop-off points for bottled water had now been set up at the town’s Sasol garage, Engen Eco Stop and Eden Caltex.

Wolmarans said during the festive season they encouraged people to donate empty bottles, which volunteers washed and refilled with water.

Watershortage South Africa founder Caroline van Saasen said she could not have imagined that the initiative would snowball to such an extent.

Supermarkets such as Shoprite/Checkers had contacted her to get involved, and at the weekend had transported 30 000 litres of water to Senekal in Free State.

Boere in Nood Groep also stepped in to help farmers in drought-stricken areas with animal feed.

Group director Nico Gerber said areas like Bloemfontein and the central Free State had been particularly hard hit.

“Last year this time these areas had grass. All you see now is dust.

“Farmers in Namaqualand and Kalahari have had to feed potatoes to their cattle to keep them alive. Other farmers have had to kill their animals because they cannot afford to feed them.

“It is heartbreaking to see a calf look for shade in which to die because its mother has starved to death,” said Gerber.

Through the group, 2 000 bales of hay have been collected and transported to feed these starving animals.

Operation Hydrate is also one of the many organisations established to transport water to the affected areas. It hopes to deliver over 1 million litres of drinking water to drought-stricken areas by the end of next week.

Operation Hydrate co-ordinator Yaseen Theba said: “We cannot sit idly by and watch our fellow South Africans die of thirst. As civil society we have the power to make a difference and help those in need when we unite around a common cause such as this.”

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