The following speech was delivered by the DA Shadow Minister of Water and Sanitation, Leon Basson MP, in Parliament today.


For the purpose of this debate it is important to first establish who is responsible to guarantee bulk water to Local Government, Farmers, Water Boards and other users.

The Water Act in Chapter 4 read with Chapter 11 determines the following and I quote:

“The Water Act is founded on the principle that National Government has overall responsibility for and authority over water resource management, including the equitable allocation and beneficial use of water in the public interest.

The Act gives the Minister the power to establish and operate government waterworks that include water storage dams, water transfer schemes in the public interest out of funds allocated by Parliament or from other sources.”

Chairperson, in short, the Minister of Water and Sanitation on behalf of National Government, must take full responsibility to guarantee water to the City of Cape Town and all water authorities in the Country.

The drought that’s hit Cape Town and surrounding areas, officially the worst in recorded history, has assisted in:

  • Creating public awareness of the reality of the effect of climate change;
  • And a new kind of thinking has also put the spotlight on the need for wastewater recycling.

City of Cape Town will be joining other major cities in making this part of the new norm for re-use of water.

Chairperson, since 1995 the City of Cape Town’s population has grown by 79%, from 2.4 million to an expected 4.3 million in this year.  Over the same period dam storage has increased by only 15%.

The Berg River Dam, which began storing water in 2007, has been City of Cape Town’s only significant addition to water storage since 1995.

Had it not been for good water consumption management by the City of Cape Town, the current crisis could have hit much earlier.

Chairperson, the Western Cape Government and the City of Cape Town – went above and beyond what was required to prepare for the drought, however, the system failed, at the level of National Government.

In 2007, the Department of Water and Sanitation issued a warning about Cape Town’s water supply, saying the city would need new water sources by 2015.

What did Government do on their own warning to increase water storage capacity. NOTHING ! – however the City took the warning seriously.

It implemented a water demand management strategy:

  • involving water meter replacements;
  • pressure management;
  • leak detection and;
  • free plumbing repairs for indigent households.

The strategy was so effective that the city met its 2015 water saving target three years earlier. The City of Cape Town shows some of the best water saving levels on leaks in the world, currently at 14% with the country’s average at 38%

Chairperson, in response to low winter rainfalls in 2015, the Western Cape Government took pre-emptive action and applied to National Government for R35 million to increase water supplies by drilling boreholes and recycling water. The result – National Government rejected the request.

Had systems in National Government been running smoothly, the City of Cape Town’s water crisis could have been mitigated. If urgent responses to disaster declarations and water augmentation were met, new infrastructure could have been up and running already.

While the City of Cape Town’s water crisis has been dominating headlines, some of the Eastern Cape’s key dam levels quietly dropped towards a disaster, rapidly overtaking their still-fuller cousins in the Western Cape. Therefore, the drought is spread over more provinces in the country.

Western Cape agriculture have recorded R14 billion in losses so far, as a result of the crippling drought in the province with an estimated 50,000 people that could be out of work soon.

The Western Cape Government is doing everything possible to assist emerging and commercial farmers in the region but despite all efforts to increase water storage, like the Clanwilliam Dam, the previous Minister,

Nomvula Mokonyane, stopped the project and removed the departments’ construction unit in order to create tenders for pals. To this day no tenders have been awarded and there is no funding available for the project and thus delaying the project by a further 2 years. This placed water security at a risk in the region.

The DA will like to request Minister Nkwinti to urgently reinstate the Departments Construction Unit to proceed with construction on the Clanwilliam Dam.

While this debate focuses on the Western Cape and the city of Cape Town drought crisis, we must not lose sight of the fact that national government is failing to respond to water disasters all around the country. We need to use this debate as an opportunity to mandate national government to start acting with urgency to assist in resolving this crises.

Chairperson, it is clear that National Government dropped the ball in their constitutional mandate in this drought:

  • There is still no water master plan;
  • No funding was made available for more dams;
  • No assistance and support or making funds available for new water sources to support the drought areas in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape.

In conclusion the ANC Government is failing South Africa with millions of people struggling without water, not because of drought, but because of poor infrastructure, corruption and the mismanagement of our water resources.

by Leon Basson MP – DA Shadow Minister of Water and Sanitation