Photo: Supplied by SAHRC

Cape Town - The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has been monitoring the water crisis unfolding in the City of Cape Town and has received complaints from various individuals and organisations regarding the issue, the commission said on Saturday.

"The complaints express the concerns which all Capetonians share," The SAHRC said in a statement.

The commission reassured the people of Cape Town that it had, of its own initiative, started monitoring the situation and was engaged in a process of reviewing the plans and state of readiness of the city to implement such plans, the state of readiness of other relevant state institutions to provide support, and clarifying what that support would consist of.

To these ends, the commission met the relevant officials from the City of Cape Town on Friday and had been reassured that the measures being taken by the city were well considered and in the best interests of the people of Cape Town.
 
The commission had fully familiarised itself with the situation on the ground through its own efforts and confirmed that the situation was as dire as stated by the city, but that if all residents of the city committed to using 50 litres of water per person per day, "Day Zero" could be postponed.  

Recognising that the situation changed daily in line with consumption of water and that the city’s plans were as a consequence being amended daily, the city could not responsibly release its plans, the commission said.

"Far from the situation which was reported following the press conference held by [Democratic Alliance leader] Mmusi Maimane in Athlone on Wednesday 24 January 2018, the commission wishes to confirm that the city does indeed have a plan. The main part of that plan, which requires the co-operation of all residents and businesses, is to make the current supply of water last for as long as possible - hence the water restrictions.

"The most important part of the plan, not just at this time but going forward and taking into consideration the unpredictable impact of climate change on the weather and rainfall patterns of the city, is that all residents embrace the new normal of water wise consumption. In this regard, the commission urges all residents of Cape Town to be water warriors and keep to the daily limit (and less) so that the water supply can be made to last until rain brings some relief."

The commission would continue to monitor the process and engage all parties during this time of crisis and would release regular statements regarding the situation, as it had noted with concern the amount of conflicting information available on the issue.

"The commission will accordingly, in the exercise of its constitutional mandate and as guardian of the Bill of Rights, not register complaints received in regard to this issue; but will instead focus on obtaining the information required by the people of Cape Town, providing support to government to ensure its state of readiness should Day Zero be reached," it said.  
 
The commission had noted with concern media reports which appeared to indicate tension between the different spheres of government regarding the water crisis. The commission would engage the parties to bring about greater co-operation and ensure that efforts were directed at the resolution of this crisis. Recriminations and blame-shifting did not inspire confidence in leaders and this confidence would be needed in the coming months.
 
"The commission undertakes to keep the public informed of relevant developments on an ongoing basis. Should Day Zero be reached, the commission will monitor the implementation of water distribution to ensure that it is equitable and that vulnerable groups are catered for.

"The commission will continue to engage communities on their rights and responsibilities in this crisis and urges the responsible and conservative use of this scarce resource. Additional resources are being brought online and the city needs the co-operation of all its citizens to ensure that Day Zero can be postponed indefinitely," the SAHRC said.

African News Agency/ANA