Opinion: Cape Town water crisis…business reaction

African Brand Link attended a business meeting hosted by the DA, on the water crisis, in Cape Town yesterday evening. 

Confidence in the management of the water crisis remains low and nothing at the meeting instilled confidence in the management of the crisis. While DA asked that we refrain from blame, it seems that DA is still putting blame where it does not belong.  How and why would your elected party continue to blame the complying citizens for the water usage of the non-complying citizens?  Better yet why are the complying citizens so happy to take ownership of the blame of the non-complying citizens?

The citizen outcry about the water levy, which forced the DA to stop the process, was mentioned as well as the new tariffs everyone will be paying from the 1st of February. Punitive charges for water usage was mentioned, what most do not understand is that extra charges start the minute you take a drop of water from the system with the biggest increase in tariffs for the under 50l per day users. It seems that making the citizens and businesses pay for the terrible management of this situation is to be the way forward for the city.

Businesses at the meeting implored DA to engage them to assist in the crisis, we heard business people offer financial assistance, expert assistance, right down to an offer of a desalination plant that could be put up within 6 months and with no cost for the city. 

What we do understand from this meeting is the City have very limited funds, that after repeated requests for national government to assist, the City has received a mere R20 million to date for the water crisis.  We do know that the City, with their limited budget, are busy with various ground water projects and with small scale desalination plants and that they hope to have water feeding into the system by May 2018. As far as I can understand, even with this new water coming into the system, we will all remain on the 50l or under usage for the very long term unless we get good rain or national government assistance.

While DA mentioned the day zero plan, it seemed vague, with no clarification offered to businesses at all. Averting day zero was the theme for the evening, mentioned in the meeting by one business person is that if Cape Town came to a standstill because of the water crisis catastrophe the cost to South Africa would far exceed the cost of any expensive water solution, so we do hope that a city shutdown would be averted by all means, at all levels. 

Where this all leaves businesses in Cape Town right now? Absolutely no clarity on the situation, it is basically help yourself if you have the funds, put in boreholes or water solutions for your company, or pay punitive fees for the water you need. The agricultural sector feeding off the dams will start seeing this source being shut down according to DA, this will leave more water for the citizens but would be a huge knock to the agricultural sector. Tourism has already taken a knock with the water crisis news on international media and DA had no reassurance for them either.

With day zero looming, Minister for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Jeff Radebe has said that water system infrastructure maintenance in Cape Town will be a key priority for government and he committed the national government to assist local government and the province in dealing with the crisis.

Lacia Gess: Director African Brand Link

African Brand Link (Pty) Ltd  assists businesses to do business in South Africa, Africa and abroad, through membership, marketing of product, research and trade assistance.