Durban 25-02-2016 Premiar Senzo Mchunu and his wife as he was going to Address the Province in PMB. Picture by: Sibonelo Ngcobo

Durban - KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu has warned residents that the prices of imported basic food will rise sharply as the drought gets worse with most major sources of water having gone dry.

Speaking to the media after his State of the Province Address on Thursday, Mchunu said Zululand, which incorporates Ulundi and Nongoma, was already in a serious crisis as four major rivers and dams had run dry.

The rivers include the White Umfolozi, Black Umfolozi and Mona (which are all near Ulundi) and the Vryheid dam. He said Jozini Dam, whose water level was low, and the Ubiva Dam provided the only water supply for the area.

In his speech, Mchunu said the province was focusing on increasing water storage capacity and was making progress with plans to increase the capacities of Hazelmere Dam, north of Durban, and Smithfield Dam, near Richmond, to preserve more water.

He said the province had already injected R872 million into various municipalities in the current financial year for drought relief projects.

“If today you go to Jozini Dam you will see that the threat is real when you see the level of where water would have been some 15 months ago and where water is right now,” he said.

After the drought crisis declaration, the province got about R300 million from the National Treasury.

“With the money we went to districts to revive water schemes that were no longer functional. Boreholes in particular.

“That was not enough. We then bought tanks that would supply water to people especially where there are no boreholes,” he said.

He added that the whole agriculture industry was “under threat” and a food crisis in the province would soon be a reality.

Mchunu said the provincial government was running a planting scheme in the Makhathini Flats, in Maputaland.

He said in December the government stopped maize planting after weather experts had warned that it would be a huge risk to continue with it as a result of rain shortage in January.

He said importing maize was a reality that the province would not be able to avoid.

“The reality of the world we are getting into now is of importing food. It is a real threat and all of us feel real concerned especially for the poor because the import of maize has an immediate impact on the poor.”

Mchunu also condemned government employees who were found selling water meant for poor communities in Zululand: ”It is the worst form of corruption. You go to thirsty people, people who have no water, and then you exploit their plight.”

He said the matter had been reported to the police.

Highlights of Premier Senzo Mchunu’s State of the Province Address on Thursday included:

* Allocation of R169.6 million to revive co-operatives with an aim of creating more than 7 130 jobs. Since 2014, R25.6 million had been spent training 127 students at the University of Zululand in co-operative management, he said. After their studies they would return to their communities to manage theco-operatives.

* Mchunu announced that the government had finalised the established KZN Maritime Institute. The institute would focus on uplifting the ocean economy to the international level. It would look atincreasing the country’sseafarers.

* In the programme for the development of commercial farmers (new entrant, small-scale and land-reform farmers), there were 3 483 beneficiaries.

* The agricultural sector including forestry and livestock farming, saw an increase in employment, which rose to 134 000 from 110 000 at end of September last year.

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The Mercury