Cape Town’s Water Crisis and the State of the Nation in South Africa
The ongoing water crisis in Cape Town, characterised by scientists and the media as the first major city to experience the direct effects of climate change, mirrors the extended political crisis that has gripped South Africa over the last few years. Though ostensibly unrelated, in fact there is a greater connection between the water crisis and the dismal conditions of governance in the country than perhaps first meets the eye. As recently as 2014, Cape Town’s water reservoirs were near full capacity, but neither the elected DA officials running the city nor the ANC presiding over national government (and its budget) used the opportunity to devise a long term plan for managing what they both knew were scarce water resources. The all-consuming politics surrounding President Jacob Zuma and the deepening allegations of corruption made such cooperation well-nigh impossible.
Despite the fact that Capetonians have been let down by politicians, the spectacle of #DayZero – the date that Cape Town will run dry – is installing a new sense of activism across the city and nationally. The campaign to reduce water usage from one billion litres a day to just over 500 million litres a day is already having positive effects in pushing #DayZero two months later. Moreover, the inauguration of Cyril Ramaphosa, a pragmatist who negotiated the post-apartheid constitutional settlement in the early 1990s, to replace Zuma means that there is a leader at the helm who is willing to work in tandem the DA to solve the crisis. Seeing how South Africans mobilise to address this complex problem is sobering for all of us as we face a future where climate change is a daily reality.