A taste of Day Zero - Queues and traffic congestion at Newlands spring.
Cape Town - While the City of Cape Town is desperately seeking funds for water projects as Day Zero nears, the national Water and Sanitation Department said on Friday that it would not offer a single cent towards the drought crisis schemes of the Mother City.

Department spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said the City was solely responsible for raising funds for its additional water projects.

“Funding should come from local revenue. It is a municipal issue. In any way that we might be able to support, then that’s where we come in,” said Ratau.

Deputy mayor Ian Neilson last week told Weekend Argus that with the city council having dropped the proposed drought levy, it would need to seek funds elsewhere. He said the City would approach the national government.

The city’s dams are running low as it is racing towards Day Zero - April 12 - when taps run dry.

Read: #WaterCrisis: Cape Town's 'water economy' booms

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille even went as far as calling on President Jacob Zuma to declare the water shortage in the province a national disaster. But nothing has come of this.

Ratau said if the water crisis was declared a national disaster, then the national disaster management centre “would need to help”.

Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane is in Cape Town visiting water projects and meeting officials.

“The minister has been involved in the Western Cape. The minister is assisting and she engaged with the mayor (Patricia de Lille) throughout last year,” Ratau said.

Discussions were under way at the department’s Bellville offices on Friday to unpack the national water and sanitation master plan.

Read more: #WaterCrisis: Save water like your life depends on it, urges Zille

The department disclosed that South Africans used 237 litres of water a person a day, higher than any other country. Worryingly, water levels are also decreasing countrywide.

And while funding for water projects such as desalination remains unclear, the DA has seemingly been juggling leadership on the crisis.

Last Friday, the DA-led city council stripped De Lille of her powers to speak on the water crisis. Her deputy, Neilson and Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for water, were then dispatched as the city’s talking heads.

But then within days Premier Helen Zille took the reins, speaking out on the need to prepare for Day Zero.

Then party leader Mmusi Maimane rolled into town and attracted some criticism after he weighed-in on the crisis.

Western Cape DA leader Bonginkosi Madikizela on Friday defended the party’s decision to seek Maimane’s help.

“It shows that the DA is taking charge to make sure our government doesn’t disappoint the people who put faith in us. That is what a leader does,” he said.

“If Cape Town runs out of water, the DA will take accountability. People will blame the DA.”

He said Limberg and Neilson would still be “dealing with the administration of this” crisis.

“Mmusi is taking charge as the political leader of the DA.

“You don’t have to live in Cape Town to know what is happening in the city. Mmusi is the national leader and it is his responsibility to know what is happening in all DA governments.”

Asked why Maimane had handed out water buckets to locals who could afford to buy their own, Madikizela said this was “symbolic”.

“People miss the context. Mmusi was saying you can afford to buy buckets but you are still wasting water. It was a symbolic act to say use these buckets,” he said.

Zille faced another dilemma Friday afternoon when the South African Weather Service (SAWS) claimed she had been “disingenuous and extremely opportunistic” in her comments about weather predictions.

This was in response to the London-based website The South African which had reported that Zille had said the weather services “have said to me their models don’t work anymore, in an era of climate change”.

In fact, the website had misquoted Zille’s comments made on the TV show, BBC Newsnight.

Zille had, in fact, said climate change was affecting weather predictions.

She took to Twitter last night to defend herself with visual evidence the weather services had given her.

“This is one of the worrying slides the SA Weather Service showed us in an open and honest briefing about what rainfall to expect in the run-up to Day Zero,” said Zille.

“Where the map is white, they cannot predict. They said: Climate change has destroyed predictability of old forecasting models.”

Zille told Weekend Argus on Friday night: “It is no negative reflection on them that they can’t predict. That is what climate change is doing to the science of forecasting.

“It is a reflection on climate change, not SAWS. Pity I was misreported and pity they reacted.”

She would not comment on some of her water tweets that were criticised for being insensitive towards people without access to water (see page 5).

Madikizela responded, though, after seeing Zille’s tweets: “I’ve read this several times, which part is a problem for you?”

Weekend Argus