Minister of Water and Sanitation Nomvula Mokonyane says “Day Zero” is a phenomenon in drought-stricken Cape Town, which will "not happen".
The minister made her remarks on Thursday during a meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Water and Sanitation, her department and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.
A consultant agreed with Mokonyane that “Day Zero” will not happen. "It could be pushed back this year as the department has interventions in place, which included six projects around bulk infrastructure in the Western Cape and the daily monitoring of the dam levels," said the consultant.
The minister said the drought was not only prevalent in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape, but in other areas of the country as well. She said there were some areas in the North West which have not had water in three years.
The Department of Water and Sanitation owns and manages about 330 out of the 5 000 dams in South Africa.
However, the Committee said it was concerned that 65% of water goes to agriculture, while only 23% is used for domestic consumption.
"As recent as yesterday, water was released by farmers which was viewed 'as a gift' to the people when in fact water is a natural resource which must be freely enjoyed by all. The government must look at expropriating the land where the dams are so that they become national assets," the Committee said.
Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Des van Rooyen revealed that the Disaster Relief Fund which was allocated to the Western Cape Province in August last year, was only used at 24% by end of December. As of yesterday, funds spent improved to 40%.
The Committee called on the Department of Water and Sanitation to devise the Water Marshall Plan and urged both departments to find each other to institute the "War on Leaks" programme.
“With climate change we need to do more with less. It is hoped that the discussions at this meeting would be solution-based as the development of desalination plants has come up quite often,” said portfolio chairperson Mlungisi Johnson.
"The government needs to look at plants such as the one in Ballito in KwaZulu-Natal. This plant turns waste water into drinking water. This plant feeds the affluent Zimbali Estate, at a fraction of what a desalination plant costs and must be looked into."
There were also briefings on the dire situation from the Western Cape Provincial Department of Local Government, Planning and Environment, City of Cape Town, Kouga Municipality, Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, National Disaster Management Centre, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Eastern Cape Provincial Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, AgriSA, African Farmers Association and the South African Institute of Civil Engineering.
Mokonyane said the drought will be declared a national disaster after information from all nine provinces is collected and this could take place next week on 14 February.