Will this cri­sis blow the DA out of the pond?

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

SOME years ago, my part­ner and

I were walk­ing the dog along the Lies­beek and were greatly sur­prised to come across a per­son of re­duced cir­cum­stances defe­cat­ing un­der a tree.

He did not seem at all con­cerned that we should find him thus com­pro­mised and smiled at us rather cheer­fully. His ap­par­ent good na­ture filled me with un­ease. Dear God, I thought, he prob­a­bly wants to have a chat as well; maybe tell us about the strange noises he some­times hears…

You should un­der­stand that there’s a psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal nearby. Out­pa­tients roam the neigh­bour­hood like ex­tras in a zom­bie movie. Many do not take their med­i­ca­tion. Over time we have learnt it is best to avoid eye con­tact and un­der no cir­cum­stances en­gage in con­ver­sa­tion.

Now, if there’s any­thing in what we’ve been hear­ing at the Ma­hogany Ridge these past few days, it is likely that come mid-April we shall all be do­ing our busi­ness down at the river.

The chat­ter here has been es­pe­cially dire. The staff de­light in re­mind­ing us the drought will be a great lev­eller; that we are shortly to ex­pe­ri­ence life as it is in the in­for­mal set­tle­ments.

It will be truly aw­ful. Those, if I may put it this way, of a more plumberly bent have been glee­fully ex­plain­ing what will hap­pen to the city’s sew­er­age sys­tems when the wa­ter runs out. They do so at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity and with­out hes­i­ta­tion or in­vi­ta­tion.

What should be fluid one-way traf­fic, they say, will be stopped in its tracks, the now dry pipes will heat up and be­come home to all sorts of bac­te­rial mu­ta­tions, and we risk per­sonal in­va­sion by nasty gog­gas and en­ti­ties so un­speak­able that only bi­ol­ogy pro­fes­sors will look at them.

There could even be pow­er­ful ex­plo­sions in our bath­rooms as a re­sult of the meth­ane build-up. One spark could set off a vi­o­lent chain re­ac­tion re­duc­ing ev­ery bog in the street to rub­ble. For­tu­nately – at least for the priv­i­leged who live close by – there will al­ways be the Lies­beek.

More noi­some, how­ever, is the per­sis­tent need by the great un­washed to find a scape­goat for the cri­sis. Right now, the DA is get­ting it fat in the neck; smelly folk are al­ready warn­ing that, come the elec­tions next year, the ANC shall re­take the city af­ter a cam­paign largely based on the fail­ure to plan for the drought.

It may be op­por­tunis­tic, but it does ap­pear to be a win­ning strat­egy, doesn’t it? It was, af­ter all, mayor Pa­tri­cia de Lille who last year dis­missed con­cerns about fall­ing dam lev­els with blithe guff about well-run cities not run­ning out of wa­ter.

This, mind you, af­ter lead­ing an in­ter­faith ser­vice on Ta­ble Moun­tain to pray for rain. Such un­seemly hokum is never good; the pan­theons in­vari­ably don’t lis­ten and the jeer­ing af­ter­wards is es­pe­cially cruel.

But now that sup­pli­ca­tion has failed, Patty is blam­ing the cit­i­zenry. This week she told a news con­fer­ence, “De­spite our urg­ing for months‚ 60% of Capeto­ni­ans are cal­lously us­ing more than the 87 litres per day.

“It is quite un­be­liev­able that a ma­jor­ity of peo­ple do not seem to care and are send­ing all of us head­long to­wards Day Zero.”

This, in turn, was fol­lowed by a meet­ing in Athlone in which DA leader Mmusi Maimane and Pre­mier He­len Zille laid the blame on Wa­ter and San­i­ta­tion Min­is­ter Nomvula Mokonyane.

As Maimane put it, “I want to make some­thing very clear on the bulk sup­ply of wa­ter. There is a mis­con­cep­tion that this is the role of a city and it is a lo­cal gov­ern­ment re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“Let me be very clear. It is not. It is the con­sti­tu­tional man­date of na­tional gov­ern­ment to de­liver wa­ter to all mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.”

Not that any­one was re­sort­ing to cheap pol­i­tick­ing here. As Zille help­fully ex­plained, “There is a dif­fer­ence be­tween finger point­ing and point­ing out who is re­spon­si­ble in these sit­u­a­tions.”

As far as you and I are con­cerned, that dif­fer­ence may be wafer-thin. But it was good of the pre­mier to re­mind her au­di­ence that it is bad man­nered to point at oth­ers, even if they’re wrong.

It is a lit­tle pre­ma­ture to sug­gest the drought will cost the DA the city. How dry does it have to be for us to for­get that the ANC is the party that gave us Ja­cob Zuma and then pig­head­edly in­sisted on keep­ing him in the top job de­spite such rolling catas­tro­phes as the Gup­tas and state cap­ture, the Marikana and Life Esidi­meni tragedies, the melt­down of the paras­tatals and the uni­ver­si­ties – and, of course, mis­han­dling the na­tional wa­ter cri­sis?

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