Drought declared a national disaster

14 March 2018

Government has declared a national state of disaster to deal with the country’s drought and water crisis.

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Minister Zweli Mkhize made the announcement on behalf of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team on Drought and Water Scarcity during a media briefing in Cape Town on Tuesday.Minister Mkhize said government stands ready to provide financial assistance where necessary and subject to legal prescripts.During the Budget Speech, it was announced that a provisional allocation of R6 billion has been set aside in the 2018/19 financial year for several purposes, including drought relief and to augment public infrastructure investment.

Minister Mkhize said measures are being put in place to ensure that requests for funding are being considered, as received from the provinces.

Drought reclassified as a national disaster

The reclassification of the drought as a national disaster was done by the Head of the National Disaster Management Centre, under Government Notice 107/2017, published in Government Gazette 41439 on 13 February 2018.

The reclassification of drought as a national disaster designated the primary responsibility for the coordination and management of the disaster to the national executive, who must act in close cooperation with the other spheres of government to deal with the disaster and its consequences. The declaration covers a period of three months.

Minister Mkhize said that three provinces including Western Cape, some parts of the Northern Cape and Eastern Cape are extremely affected, and are not yet showing comforting signs of improvement.

Measures to address underlying factors

Minister Mkhize said government has taken measures to address underlying factors, including amongst others, weak intergovernmental relations arrangements in development planning and implementation, ageing infrastructure, lack of operations and maintenance of infrastructure, and capacity constraints particularly with regard to technical expertise.

SA’s dam levels

According to a report released by the Department of Water and Sanitation last week, South Africa’s dams saw an improvement by a fraction of a percent (0.2%), compared to their levels a week before.

The department indicated that the levels went up from 63.2% to 63.4%.

The report showed that the drought-stricken Western Cape maintains the lowest dam levels in the country at 25.5%, having dropped from 26.1% in the previous week.

Despite the scarcity of rain, Gauteng has the highest dam levels at 92.8%, followed by Mpumalanga at 77.9% and Northern Cape at 67.9%.

Minister Mkhize warned that these levels do not imply that these provinces are out of the woods in terms of drought conditions, as water scarcity remains a common condition of most of the communities. 

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